On the NSA's Monitoring of Personal Data

I continue to believe that the important result of the current NSA data monitoring revelation is the need to make better decisions about the use of our personal information. Over the weekend, there were a few people who commented on various facets of the problem and cover the ground I've been thinking about fairly well.

To wit:

"When the government grabs every single fucking telephone call made from the United States over a period of months and years, it is not a prelude to monitoring anything in particular. [...] When they ask for everything, it is not for specific snooping or violations of civil rights, but rather a data base that is being maintained as an investigative tool."

"For us, now — years into this war-footing and this legal dynamic — to loudly proclaim our indignation at the maintenance of an essential and comprehensive investigative database while at the same time insisting on a proactive response to the inevitable attempts at terrorism is as childish as it is obtuse."


"[B]ecause what I cherish most about America is our open society, and I believe that if there is one more 9/11 — or worse, an attack involving nuclear material — it could lead to the end of the open society as we know it."

"Imagine how many real restrictions to our beautiful open society we would tolerate if there were another attack on the scale of 9/11."


"The danger, it seems to me, is not surveillance per se. We have already decided, most of us, that life on the grid entails a certain amount of intrusion. Nor is the danger secrecy [...] The danger is the absence of rigorous, independent regulation and vigilant oversight to keep potential abuses of power from becoming a real menace to our freedom."