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We don't need anymore NSA revealations, we know the Matrix has us

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 30th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

"The Matrix has you," or thus spoke Morpheus to Neo in the blockbuster movie "The Matrix." A decade ago, that movie was science fiction. Today, it is chilling reality.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In a creepy cross between Hollywood's "The Matrix" and George Orwell's 1984, we now know the NSA is collecting data on Americans from social networks, GPS tracking, and call logs. The agency is free to collect that data without any regard for "foreignness" either.

The latest data dump from the Snowden leak reveals that the NSA is using social networking, GPS, and phone metadata to track individual movements and associations. According to the New York Times, the NSA can tell where you are, who you're with, and often, what you're doing.

Having an extramarital affair? The NSA can determine that with a reasonable degree of accuracy and without bothering to search the specific text or content of your communication.

Are you traveling overseas? The NSA can now calculate where you are and whom you are with.

All of this allows the NSA to locate, follow, and ultimately enable the authorities to apprehend or disrupt terrorist plots.

However, it also treads on questionable constitutional grounds. A memorandum dated January 2011 says that the agency was now authorized to perform "large-scale graph analysis on very large sets of communications metadata without having to check foreignness." Those permissions extended to email addresses, phone numbers, and any other kind of identifier.

This means that despite protestations of the Obama administration to the contrary, the administration lied to us about contacts needing to be foreign or needing at least some taint of foreign connection to be valid for collection. The information can be seized at any time, on any person, for any reason or none at all. Currently, your information is being aggregated and can be freely searched without a warrant.

The New York Times also mentioned that  "The agency can augment the communications data with material from public, commercial and other sources, including bank codes, insurance information, Facebook profiles, passenger manifests, voter registration rolls and GPS location information, as well as property records and unspecified tax data, according to the documents. They do not indicate any restrictions on the use of such 'enrichment' data, and several former senior Obama administration officials said the agency drew on it for both Americans and foreigners."

Nor is the NSA the only agency collecting and using data on individuals. Last month it was learned that the NSA was cooperating with the DEA and forwarding information on suspected drug traffickers to the IRS for use in their cases and the IRS was caught falsifying reports to cover up NSA assistance.

Nobody has any love for drug traffickers, and certainly not terrorists, however it brings to mind the question of who else besides the DEA and IRS is being assisted by the NSA and for what crimes? More importantly, when does all this go too far? While we can abide (for the most part) a program that is used exclusively to hunt terrorists and criminals, what is to prevent its use to hunt you?

The IRS tips, although used to pursue bad people, also represent the slaughter of a sacred cow. The agency has crossed the line. Our elected officials have already been caught lying to us.

A Machiavellian "the ends justify the means" approach to law enforcement can quickly devolve into a police state where virtually anybody can become a suspect. Imagine a not-too distant future where those who oppose Obamacare or the HHS abortion edict suddenly become enemies of the system?

Sound far fetched? Keep in mind that the IRS was recently used to target conservative groups, based on "signals" sent by the Obama administration. Another sacred cow sacrificed, and not at all in the name of law and order.

Also, bear in mind that books like 1984 and movies like "The Matrix" were within the realm of science fiction just a decade ago.

Today, they are for all intents and purposes, reality. The greater stretch of the imagination then, is to think that perhaps these tools won't be abused in the decade to come.

Fair warning.

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