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Most back surveillance to fight terrorism

Former CIA contract employee Edward Snowden recently revealed top-secret information about U.S. surveillance programs. While the majority of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll supports surveillance to combat terrorism, more than 70 percent say such programs should be more transparent.

London’s Guardian newspaper reported last week that the National Security Agency (pictured in photo) is collecting “metadata”—such as telephone numbers and the date and length of calls made, but not their content—from Verizon Business Network Services, a Verizon Communications subsidiary that serves corporate customers.

Slightly more than 50 percent of Snap Poll respondents say they support the NSA’s collection of domestic telephone call metadata to combat terrorism.

Then the Washington Post disclosed the existence of a program, code-named PRISM, under which the NSA and FBI are accessing the central servers of nine top U.S. Internet companies—including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, YouTube and Apple—to identify and analyze foreigners’ audio and video postings, photographs, emails, documents and connection logs.

A two-thirds majority supports the NSA accessing servers of U.S. Internet companies to analyze foreigners’ online activities.

Responding to the disclosures, the administration and a number of lawmakers said the surveillance programs are legal and subject to oversight by all three branches of government. They also said the so-called data mining has prevented specific terrorist plots over the last seven years.

Seventy-one percent of Snap Poll respondents say, however, that the U.S. government surveillance programs should be more transparent and accountable.

Roughly 675 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted June 10 and 11.

Do you support or oppose National Security Agency collection of domestic telephone call “metadata” to combat terrorism?
Support: 53%
Oppose: 47%

Do you support or oppose the NSA accessing servers of U.S. Internet companies to analyze foreigners’ online activities?
Support: 67%
Oppose: 33%

In your view, should U.S. government surveillance programs be more transparent and accountable?
Yes: 71%
No: 29%


Too much transparency gives the terrorist more opportunities to circumvent our efforts. The people that oppose these counterterrorism measures are the same people that will cry the loudest if/when we are ever attacked again, asking “how did the government let this happen?”
—Tom Higgins

I had to answer “oppose” to the first two questions because of the broad-base approach they, and the actual practice, has applied. I have no problem with the NSA, or any other intelligence/security branch, being given proper authority to investigate suspected terrorists. However, what is apparently being done is a broad, dragnet, approach. They are sweeping up everyone into the net and then shifting through to find something. In other words, we are all guilty until they prove us innocent, by not finding something.
—Rev. Keith E. Griswold

A “balance” between individual/community liberty and security is required. A court system with congressional oversight is needed.
—Michael Bleeg, Strategic Results

There is a Constitution in this country that has the Fourth Amendment. That amendment has been abrogated in secret by our federal government. The people no longer have the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.
—George Dounce

It is about time that we started looking for bombers as hard as we look for bombs. Once we identify the bombers, we need to deal with them justly and swiftly. There are going to have to be places like Guantanamo Bay. Bombers must be removed from society.
—Jay Birnbaum

I support efforts to collect data to thwart domestic violence attacks. However, what we are now learning is far more reaching than what any of us understood to be the case, and without any public debate or consensus. The argument is this: Without collecting all the data from all sources, we will not be in position for analyses of the data should we need to look at specific conversations or communications. If this far-reaching data collection is what we collectively agree to—with appropriate safeguards to our private data—then so be it. Absent of this consent, it’s way too much Big Brother. With 850,000 having access to our private information, what assurance do we have that information could not be used inappropriately against our own best interest? What penalties are in place for misguided use of data?
—Randy White

The surveillance is justified as a means of combating terrorism. In the hands of the Obama administration and the inept Congress, it will be used only for political purposes as a means to suppress honest, patriotic citizens and organization that disagree with them. “Government is not the solution, it is the problem.”
—Jim W. Bloomfield

Why bother? The drone above and the satellite beyond that are recording everything anyways.
—Ian Cunningham

I recognize the serious need to protect ourselves from terrorists, and was not overly concerned about the government’s efforts to do so since 9/11. However, with the recent troubles the administration has with telling the truth (Benghazi, IRS, AP and Fox snooping, etc.), and revelations of abuses of power on many fronts (IRS, AP and Fox snooping), I am extremely alarmed about these programs. Perhaps I was naive previously, but for the first time in my life, I do not trust my government and its officials to do the right thing.
—Debbie Gleason

This sort of meddling by government into the private affairs of its citizens is a slippery slope. It’s the sort of thing our Founding Fathers offered up their lives to avoid. I recommend watching the Guardian video interview of Edward Snowden online for better understanding. “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” —Benjamin Franklin
—Gary Bogue, independent consultant

As one of our greatest presidents (Ronald Reagan) said: “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.”
—Doug Lyon, Lyon Capital Management

First and foremost, I think it is a complex issue, and one that is not easily boiled down to one simple thread of privacy or national security or any other. I am not exactly sure whether I support it or oppose it without a more full analysis of all of the components involved. There were no "I’m-not-sure" options in the polling questions. However, one major factor in the discussion that I think may be easy to overlook in the question of the right to privacy is that, we as individuals have some responsibility in stewarding our own privacy. I personally do not like the idea of the government tracking my online activities nor tracking my phone calls. I would definitely prefer it not to happen. If it is going to happen, I am definitely interested in more transparency and accountability mechanisms. However, I would also prefer not to live in a world where—all of the various factors coming together as they are—we produce an environment of terrorism and war. So, what I like and dislike is not a complex enough place from which to inform policy decisions as far as I can tell. However, as regards the right of the government, or anybody who has the capacity to do so, to track phone and Internet information, I think the right to privacy needs to be tempered with an individual’s personal accountability for that in which we choose to participate. I think, in this country, we have a tendency to feel that every new technology that is developed is something to which we are entitled, and to which we are entitled in any way we prefer. The Internet is not a private entity. It is about as public as you can get. I think each individual needs to recognize that—whether it is the government, a marketing company, some hacker in a basement in who-knows-where or your co-worker in the next cubicle—when you choose to participate in the Internet in any way, you are giving up certain elements of your right to privacy and you need to recognize that as the cost for this amazing "free" resource and interact with it responsibly. I think we need to take some responsibility for making choices that protect our own privacy and know that there are trade-offs to getting the chance to use all sorts of technologies that utilize community infrastructure. I would say the same thing goes for cell phones. We all love the convenience they provide, but there may be a price of privacy to participate. If your privacy is that important to you, then you may have to choose to participate in good old-fashioned snail mail for communication and libraries for research, like back in the olden days of the ‘90s and before. I recognize, once again, it is not quite as cut and dried as that, but the point still remains, that we as individuals need to take a little bit more accountability for how we choose to tend to our privacy. Even in making this comment, I am consenting to give up a little bit of my right to privacy. Perhaps a lot. Who knows what I am signing myself up for in doing so. I have to be accountable to that choice and be prepared to deal with the potential consequences of taking an action in a public forum. If I don’t want to face those consequences, I need to just keep my thoughts to myself. For better or worse, it looks like participating is worth it to me this time around.
—Julie Cramer

Obama’s strategy is to have so many scandals at once that none of them will be resolved.
—Dom Pullano

To combat terrorism—absolutely! For other reasons, absolutely not.
—Chris Hoffman

The government continues to move in a direction that it cannot be trusted and is not transparent. As soon as this current round of problems with NSA was uncovered, the next move was to have close door meetings with the Congress (not exactly transparent). There is only one way to change the system and that is to vote all who are in out of office and start over. There are so many good citizens who could do a good job or a better job (it wouldn’t be much of a change to do a better job). Prior to last year’s election, one congressman from Kansas even went on record that the government in Washington needs to be voted out, sooner the better. We have a great country a good governmental system, it’s just the people we have elected are not working for our best interest.
—Ken Pamatat, Creative Images

“It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen.” From “Nineteen Eighty-Four” by George Orwell, published in 1949
—Tom Gillett, NYSUT

Our "new" government is in my pockets, in my mailbox, in every room of my home and I’ll soon be beholden to some committee for my health care, and I very simply don’t trust the system or the oversight. The executive and legislative branches care about power, and the judicial has become political for the same reason. The constitution served us very well for all this time. With some nominal tweaking, it can continue to be the foundation on which we thrive and (most of) the world admires. The country lacks real leaders and honest statesmen. Who can I trust?
—Bob Miglioratti, Realtor

Ben Franklin: “Those who give up their Freedom for Security deserve neither.”
—Bill LaBine

OMG! This administration gets scarier and more totalitarian by the day. Can you imagine if Bush had done this stuff under his watch? Hypocrisy is the best word to describe Obama and his group of thugs. Review Obama’s speeches while he was campaigning. This man is a nonstop liar. Pretty soon he will declare his special police force (SS) and they will be going door to door to check people’s papers and make sure they are obeying all of his mandates. God forbid you have glasses larger than 16 ounces or any unhealthy food in the house. You will then be sent for re-education at a special training camp. When is America going to wake up to all his criminal activity!
—P. Caines

There’s too much opportunity for misuse of data from such a wide net. Track the phone activities of known and suspected foreign terrorists. If their calls lead to an American citizen, then there is probable cause to get a warrant for that citizen’s records.
—Keith Robinson, Diamond Packaging

Sooner or later, our citizens will get the message: You cannot have it both ways! SAFETY for 315 million citizens, OR let the TERRORISTS rip us apart!
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield

As Benjamin Franklin once said, "Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither."
—Peter Gregory, Rochester

The idea and now I realize the practice of having every citizen’s phone calls and Internet sites collected and saved in a metadata vault does not seem to me like a free society. It seems more like big brother on a global scale and is more like a type of a Communism practice, except we’re (U.S.A.) doing it and we are the supposed "nice guys." But I fear that (the U.S. being the nice guys) may not always be the case. The idea that if you’re doing nothing wrong then you have nothing to worry about can change especially when the power elites change, policies change, etc. What is not wrong today may be wrong in a future time or generation. The subversives today are fairly universally agreed upon in rooting out however, there may come a time when others not targeted today will be identified as enemies of the state—intellectuals, teachers, artists and any person like this young man who was the NSA whistleblower.
—Leslie Apetz

The masters of smoke and mirrors strike again! The NSA, any other government agency or private entity has absolutely no business accessing private information without cause. It is unconstitutional to do so. It’s not technically against the law because the violators passed it as law. Every single one of the jerks running our country took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States against ALL enemies, foreign and domestic! There is a reason it is stated that way. Don’t be duped into thinking "big brother" is protecting you. This stuff was in place prior to Boston, Fort Hood and the election. We were not protected against anything, including the election of a socialist into the White House! If the goal is to protect U.S. citizens against terrorists, specifically Muslim jihadists, the NSA should focus on them. To spy on law-abiding American citizens without cause is a crime. For any reason. Think of all the ramifications of combining all the data you produce by the use of your vehicle (GPS), your phone (land and cell), computer use (me typing this probably raised some flags). If every speaker could be a microphone, if every receiver could be a transmitter, if I could get a video to my TV via phone jack— and had a "big brother" with enough technology to know all of that, would I still be a "free man"? The slow methodical erosion of our rights, freedoms and free will not stop until WE stop it. Just saying’! Wonder when my audit starts …
—Lou Romano

It makes sense to me that the government would be (and has been) using this kind of "metadata" to pick up the "chatter" that we have heard about as preceding some planned or even executed terrorist activities. I have nothing to hide, and although there are many things I do not like about our government, this is a case where I trust there is sufficient oversight and bipartisan support that it is justified.
–Emily Neece

I answer Question No. 2 with a qualified "yes." The media has presented this as if the NSA was free to just romp around in servers harvesting any data they please. This is not the case nor should it be. Each request for data is accompanied by a legal justification, and must target specific information from specific users based on credible suspicion. The data is then copied into a secure server providing only the data asked for. As long as the following are true, this is a workable system: 1) There must be justice department oversight if the data involves a U.S. citizen, whether overseas or in the United States. 2) There must be a court order for more than metadata. This is the equivalent of saying OK if the cop looks through the window of your car and sees a joint lying on the seat he can search your car. But if all he sees is you and the car and no additional suspicious info, then he needs a court order to look for more. So if an NSA agent looks at your cell phone laws and sees 37 calls to throw away phones in Tora Bora, then yeah he has reasonable justification to ask for more info. If not, he needs a court order to prove his case first.
—Lee Drake, OS-Cubed inc.

First of all, this has been going on for decades so find me someone innocent that has been affected. Our metadata is already logged and stored by our ISPs and Telcos anyway and does not require a warrant to obtain, so what is the difference? We’re talking about 1 billion calls a day just for a single carrier, so this has always been about pure pattern analysis here for intelligence gathering. We do however need to ensure laws are in place to prevent any abuse at any level similar to the recent IRS abuse at a different level.
—J. Roberts, PSWC

First of all, I assume they have been doing this all along. Benjamin Franklin is quoted as having said, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." The problem is where do citizens draw the line, if these searches are done in secret? Then there is the issue of how much does all this infrastructure cost, and what is the cost to maintain it? Finally I’d like to know, how much if any successful terrorist interventions have resulted from the culling of data, since clearly the Boston bombing was not prevented, what else are they missing?
—Frank Orienter, Rochester

What is the price of security? I think that is the central question with NSA sweeping up phone and Internet records in what amounts to search without warrant and without probable cause. The individual is unaware of the search and is assumed guilty until they prove themselves innocent. It is a reversal of the US justice system. A reversal that was set in motion by the Patriot Act. What price are we willing to pay for a promise of security?
—Wayne Donner, Rush

Your first question is a leading one, since you assume that is what the government is doing with its unlimited powers to spy on everyone all the time is to combat terrorism. Why do you so easily take their word when they use secret laws with secret rulings from secret judges? No wonder Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” is shooting up the Amazon book charts. This is to the point where every step you take, every call you make, every site you visit and every text you send is being tracked by government. How does that make you safer? It’s almost ludicrous to think that NSA needs to know so much about so many when there are so few who are dangers. One-hundred thousand people die each year from preventable hospital infections. Why isn’t every hospital call recorded, every nurse’s step tracked, every doctor investigated? Thirty thousand people die each year from some sort of gun engagement, but government allows gun shows to sell to almost anyone without any proof. It’s crazy to think that all users of Google and Verizon are potential criminals or terrorists, but every gun show sale is free of tracking. NSA and Homeland Security are in the fear business. Keep people afraid of shadows so they can continue to reap more billions in taxpayer dollars. As Ben Franklin knew 200 years ago, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Americans are going to get neither if this security state continues its assault on private communications.
—Michael Thornton, Rochester

For more comments, go to rbjdaily.com.  To participate in the weekly RBJ Snap Poll, sign up for the Daily Report at staging.rbj.net/dailyreport.

6/14/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.



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