The NSA: What Exactly Are We Paying For, Again?
Beyond the intellectually insulting responses from representatives of the Obama administration regarding the NSA communication surveillance programs (including PRISM) which have even included statements from that paragon of truth, Barack Obama himself, such as "no one is listening to your phone calls," the utter failure to make use of the so-called metadata that has already been collected is astonishing.
Billions upon billions of discrete data points have been collected for years in what is arguably a violation of our constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure clearly stated in the 4th Amendment. But regardless of the program's questionable constitutionality, with all that data, why can't they seem to get a handle on where any of the illegal aliens who came to the United States and overstayed their visas are located? According to the administration's spokespersons, that is four million people!
Don't any of these people ever phone home or send their mothers an e-mail on Mother's Day (or whatever they celebrate in Chechnya)? Isn't there anything that the NSA's supercomputers could identify? Do they always communicate in normal, idiomatic American English and never in their native language?
Nor can we seem to locate and arrest the approximately seven million aliens who simply strolled across our border and (after making stops at local government offices for welfare and food stamps) seem to have settled in to await the "Gang of Eight" to legalize their behavior.
So we have a situation where the government demands more and more money, for more and more government employees to secretly spy (there really is no other word that applies) on all 350 million of us, and God alone knows how many others in other nations, which has failed to provide any actionable intelligence that might conceivably be used to protect Americans.
How else could anyone describe a situation where we could not identify the Tsarnaev brothers, even to merely classifying them as "persons of interest"?
How could the reaction of the administration to the fall of the Morsi government in Egypt be surprise (illustrated by their floundering) if this massive NSA/CIA surveillance program produced anything useful? Didn't the Egyptians use social media? Or e-mails?
Was the entirety of this second "Arab Spring" planned and coordinated only by face-to-face conversations between individuals who not only knew the right password, but had a secret decoder ring?
If the NSA metadata-gathering didn't produce even a whiff of warning about the Boston Marathon bombings, what is the point of spending billions upon billions of dollars that we don't actually have to collect all that data? Are they just trying to get into the Guinness Book of Records listings as the most effective busybodies to ever live?
Yet when even the supine and compliant mainstream media asks the gentlest of questions about the program, both the administration and Congress circle the wagons and claim that we absolutely, positively need this program for our national survival. It's a matter of national security. And you'll just have to trust us, because if we told you what we know, we'd have to shoot you.
As the character on Seinfeld used to say: "And yada, yada, yada."
So the self-styled politicians who describe themselves (or have convinced others to describe them) as "leaders" are effectively telling us to sit down, shut up, and trust them. And the subtext is always the same, whether Democrat or Republican, House, Senate, or administration -- "We're patriots, so you can trust us."
To respond to that one has only two choices. One can use the classic line from Samuel Johnson that "[p]atriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" or one can use a more recent colloquialism used by the youth of our own nation: "Yeah, right! Like that's gonna happen."
Personally, while I admire Dr. Johnson's elegant turn of phrase, I think the other is the path we should follow.
Trust is something that is earned and cannot be demanded. And after the scandals that have been exposed over the past several months and years, such as Fast and Furious, Benghazi, and the IRS targeting of conservative groups -- not to mention the incompetence displayed requiring the administration to delay implementing the health care legislation that they themselves demanded -- trust is in short supply. The trust of the American people is going to be rationed, unless you are one of those poor souls who actually can't think, or choose not to think, and buy the propaganda being pumped out by Washingtonian "elites."
Since, in Samuel Johnson's view, such people are scoundrels, they should get very little if any trust.
Jim Yardley is a retired financial controller, Vietnam veteran a frequent contributor to American Thinker. Jim also blogs at http://jimyardley.wordpress.com, and he can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.