For Americans, NSA power a 9/11 sacrifice

Republicans are historically more security-minded, in favor of wider surveillance powers.

June 11, 2013 01:15
2 minute read.
US Capitol building in Washington DC.

US Capitol building in Washington DC 390. (photo credit: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

WASHINGTON – On crowded metro platforms in Washington, along the capital’s boulevards and in its halls of power, it seems that people are not using their cellphones with any more apprehension than they were just a week ago. For the average American, with a nine-to-five job and an expensive data plan, the predictable eagerness to text, email and search on the go has continued unfazed despite revelations that the National Security Agency is, in one way or another, tracking those movements with every other click.

That apparent peace of mind has not been reflected in the headlines of papers across the United States, which are trying to settle on a group-think consensus on the significance of the news.

One CNN contributor noted that Edward Snowden, the contractor who leaked details of the programs, might not actually qualify as a whistle-blower since he revealed no illegal actions undertaken by the government – just policies he happened to disagree with.

Major news organizations here are withholding their judgment on that qualification, assuming that the significance of this story won’t be rooted in public outcry so much as it will be in the constitutionality of the federal government’s actions, of which every branch of government – the judiciary, the legislature and the executive – took part.

For years, most Americans have been keenly aware that the information they share via telecommunications platforms is not their property.

Just like photos on Facebook are effectively digital tattoos, phone call logs are the property of Verizon, AT&T or whichever provider one has chosen to use.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Americans on the street said they were disturbed theoretically by metadata collection, yet continue in their routines with their cellphones ready in hand.

As another local broadcaster pointed out in the wake of the scandal: If I have nothing to hide, I have no reason for concern.

This seems to be the general consensus here, conditioned by a broad acceptance of permanently heightened American security standards after the 9/11 attacks nearly 12 years ago.

A New York Times/CBS poll in the wake of the Boston bombings in April showed that a startling 78 percent of Americans favor heavy use of surveillance cameras in public spaces.

The principle behind that support might be cross-applicable to telecommunications metadata, which the government says is only accessed and searched with some form of justifying reasonable cause.

And polls throughout the decade indicate that this problem might not be political in nature for the president: Republicans are historically more security-minded, in favor of wider surveillance powers.

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