This is a huge issue for me. That the government has collected such vast amounts of personal information about individuals’ online activities and communication, secretly, worries me a great deal. Secret surveillance and collection practices, “warrants” which are approved by a secret court, and which encompass vast amounts of “incidental” personal information, have terrible potential for the future of our democracy and for the authority of the Constitution, which should protect against such wholesale surveillance practices. I am not convinced that the claimed congressional oversight is stringent enough to protect citizens who are being surveilled without their knowledge. Without public accountability and transparency, I will not be reassured by the government’s claims that these laws are upheld with integrity, and that the warrants are executed justly and within the bounds of the Constitution.
Lastly, I wonder: What happens when the government no longer holds the public’s and its citizens’ safety and security in the highest regard? When all this personal information (i.e., power) is available to the government, how can I rely on individual government officials, legislators, judges, and executives (who are human beings with human failings) to protect their own people? I wonder, how long will the constitutional right to freedom of speech be upheld?
I am concerned for the future of this democracy. I agree with the ALA Washington Office:
“There needs to be effective legal review, judicial oversight permitting transparency and public accountability – not wholesale fishing expeditions – to get personal information on millions of innocent people! Our country needs to find the right balance.”
(Lynne Bradley, director of ALA’s Office of Government Relations)
Read what else Lynne Bradley has to say about the need for “Reforming National Surveillance Laws”