The Guardian newspaper of London has reported something vitally important to all U.S. citizens, which U.S. news media somehow failed to observe: the U.S. National Security Agency has collected phone records “indiscriminately and in bulk—regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing,” from some 100 million Verizon customers in the United States for several weeks. According to documents obtained by the Guardian, a secret court order requires the phone company to hand the information over to the NSA on an “ongoing, daily basis.” The order covered international calls in addition to communications inside the United States, and customers were not aware of it—until the Guardian story was published.
This is an astonishingly bold and outrageous action on the part of the U.S. government. The fact that the entire U.S. media were scooped on the story by a British publication is a sad commentary on the cozy relationship between the U.S. press and the Obama administration, a relationship that seems to be holding up despite the recent revelations of federal government monitoring of press conversations, harassment of journalists whose reports embarrass the administration, and other outrages against freedom of the press.
The audacity of monitoring everyone’s phone calls in hopes of catching a small number of terrorists demonstrates the unconstitutionality and self-contradiction at the heart of mass government surveillance. There is no probable cause for which to search any particular individual’s call records, merely a probability that someone, somewhere used a telephone to assist in the planning or commission of a crime. This reasoning nullifies the Fourth Amendment, the very point of which is that government cannot search or seize ‘persons, houses, papers, and effects’ at random.
This revelation by the Guardian should be eye-opening to the many people in the United States who still trust their government. That is no longer a wise course, and has not been so for at least a couple of decades. Now, however, the U.S. government has become so bold as to defy all law and the nation’s constitution, and the Obama administration defends the actions while the U.S. media stand by in willful ignorance. This is a recipe for national disaster.