The public may be shrugging off the news of being treated like terrorists to be protected from terrorists, but the American Civil Liberties Union and the big guns of the Internet already are bringing legal actions.
Google has asked for government permission to reveal details about the classified requests the technology company receives for the personal information of foreign users.
And the ACLU Tuesday sued to bar the "dragnet" collection of phone records and asked that courts order the already collected information be "purged."
Some believe the ACLU suit, filed in New York, could set up an eventual Supreme Court test and focus attention on the phones disclosure amid the larger surveillance issue disclosed by Edward J. Snowden, 29, a former National Security Agency contractor who on Sunday said he was the source of a series of disclosures by The Guardian and The Washington Post.
ACLU's lawsuit claims the NSA's phone records collection "gives the government a comprehensive record of our associations and public movements, revealing a wealth of detail about our familial, political, professional, religious and intimate associations." The complaint says it "is likely to have a chilling effect on whistle-blowers and others who would otherwise contact" the ACLU for legal assistance.
The ACLU has raised questions before over national security policies, but courts have dismissed cases without any ruling on the legal merits after the government argued that litigation over any classified program would reveal state secrets or that the plaintiffs could not prove they were personally affected and so lacked standing to sue.
This case may be different, according to The New York Times. The government has now declassified the existence of the program on domestic call record "metadata." And the ACLU itself is a customer of Verizon Business Network Services.
Meanwhile, however, a majority of Americans don't seem to care.
A Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll found that 56 percent of Americans consider it "acceptable" that the National Security Agency is using secret court orders to collect telephone call records of millions of Americans. And a 62 percent majority believe it's more important for the government to investigate terrorist threats, even if those investigations intrude on personal privacy. Only 41 percent call the practice "unacceptable."
Support drops when it comes to government monitoring of emails, but even here, the public is fairly evenly split.
Some 45 percent of all Americans say the government should be able to go further than it is, saying that it should be able to monitor everyone's online activity if doing so would prevent terrorist attacks. Another 52 percent say no such broad-based monitoring should be allowed.
Of course, we still don't know if there are any real-world examples of these efforts identifying and thwarting terrorist actions.
We're fearing fear.
Or perhaps another way to put it is that we're trusting our government more than we're trusting the specter of more terrorist attacks.
No matter how we view the question, the answer is distasteful.
Absolutely nothing is private, and the genie won't fit back into the bottle.
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