When initially reported on by the Guardian and the Washington Post, these stories caused a huge uproar among privacy advocates. Since then the accuracy of these reports has been questioned, especially on the PRISM program where a majority of the tech companies involved have come out and denied involvement and the WaPo has been forced to backtrack a bit on the actual scope of the program.
But if we were to put aside for the sake of discussion the accuracy of these latest reports, has our government in general and President Obama in particular earned the trust that Obama is asking us to give?
- They've instituted illegal warrantless wiretapping programs (under Bush) that were later authorized after it they had come to light that are still ongoing.
- We have a super secret FISA court issuing secret warrants to secret government agencies with little or no oversight.
- Government lawyers are fighting the release of an 86 page court opinion that reportedly found that the government, via the FISA Court, had violated the spirit of federal surveillance laws and engaged in unconstitutional spying.
- And even more suspiciously we have the government issuing National Security Letters to individuals and corporations forcing them to turn over non-content information, such as transactional records, phone numbers dialed or email addresses with a gag order attached so they are unable to even disclose that they received the letter.
Certainly our national security is of the utmost importance but how many freedoms can we give up (many unknowingly) before it becomes worse than the threat we are trying to prevent? And more importantly, given our government's track record, can we really trust them when they say that they are following the law?