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Data collection is necessary | Letter to the Editor
This letter is a response to alarmists and conspiracy theorists who claim NSA surveillance programs violate our privacy. Even if that were true, I’d gladly trade my media privacy to foil a Boston Marathon plot, but the NSA does not individually scrutinize communications. They aren’t monitoring our e-mailed jokes, baby pictures or Facebook postings of the last meal we ate.
Twenty-two analysts are authorized to “farm metadata,” accessing the database of telephone calls in espionage and terrorism investigations, conducting 300 queries last year. Analyzing internet activity is not new — during flu season, Google tracked symptom searches and gave the CDC advance warning where outbreaks were headed.
The Edward Snowdens of the world try to mislead and exploit the vulnerable through their rhetoric. They stir up public outrage for their own self-serving purposes — a best-selling book, a movie contract, the creation of drama for political advantage. The question is: Are invasions of privacy justified? Do such programs constitute unreasonable search and seizure? I conclude they do not — that their activity is minimal, insignificant and necessary. I want my government to know who suspected terrorists talk to over the phone. The NSA claims to have disrupted over 50 terrorist plots in the last 12 years (10 required the farming of phone and internet data) with amazing success. They monitored a Yemeni extremist in Kansas, foiling his plot to blow up the New York Stock Exchange. In 2009 an Afghan in Chicago was arrested and pled guilty to planning suicide bombings in the New York subway system. Ensuring our safety and warning other countries of impending danger are compelling goals, an intelligent use of technology and a wise use of tax dollars. We shouldn’t let the paranoia of a few interfere with our government’s ability to protect the public.
— Ann Jacobs