That intelligence agencies monitor our calls and Internet usage shouldn’t come as a surprise

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by Shannon Williams

Maybe I am gullible. Maybe I am unrealistic. Or perhaps I am just plain stupid, but I never thought the government was not viewing our emails or listening to our conversations.

Not once have I thought that when I send an email no one sees that message but me and the recipient. The same applies to the items I look up on computers or even text messages I send – I always figured that the federal government had access to those things.

And guess what?

I am completely OK with that.

I don’t mind that the government listens to my phone conversations or reads my emails. As far as I am concerned, they should be doing those things because it ultimately helps this country and makes America a safer place to live. Believe me, the National Security Agency and any other government surveillance operations are not concerned with our random messages or conversations – even those that we deem highly personal or confidential – unless there are triggers that may cause these entities to dig deeper. That is probably why most of us have never been investigated or reprimanded for the conversations we have, the email and text messages we send, or the material that we search on the Internet. In the grand scheme of things such as national security, our correspondences are fairly insignificant.

I remember during President George W. Bush’s time in office there was an outrage amongst Americans when we learned he initiated surveillance of U.S. citizens and phone companies. But somehow, now, people have forgotten about that. The things currently occurring under the Obama administration are many of the same policies that Bush used.

Even though I am fine with government surveillance, I do think that the government should repost our privacy in terms of not publically releasing our personal information such as emails, text messages, and voice recordings. To my knowledge these rights have not been violated unless a person has been found guilty of some major crimes. And even then, the disseminated information is only partially released to the public.

When one thinks of the Internet and how it is able to transfer information, I don’t understand why government surveillance is such a surprise to anyone. If you understand that physical servers exist as well as those “in the cloud,” you have to know that someone is looking and you have to know that the information is available if someone needs to be further investigated.

There is growing pressure on the intelligence community and the ACLU is suing the government claiming the surveillance measures are an invasion of privacy.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the Constitution and the whole “unreasonable search and seizures” clause, but it is important for us to examine what is unreasonable. In my opinion, the fact that the government has access to the information is not unreasonable, it’s precautionary. What would be unreasonable is if the government publically raided every American’s home without any true justification.

The thing that amazes me about Americans is that we are so up in arms about intelligence that can ultimately make us safer. However, the next time a home-grown terrorist or one from another country attacks the United States, the first thing Americans will want to know is why didn’t the government know this was going to happen – why wasn’t the act thwarted.

We can’t have it both ways, people. In order to get the protection from terrorists that we have in recent years, we must let the federal government do its job. Unfortunately, the world we live in dictates these types of actions and precautionary measures.

As far as Edward Snowden, the guy who leaked the classified intelligence is concerned, he could have handled this entire situation differently… in a way that doesn’t compromise the security of our nation or that of our allies. Snowden needs to be extradited back to the United States. He needs to be extensively interviewed and possibly sent to trial for his actions so that others in the future are deterred from doing the same thing.

You can email comments to Shannon Williams at shannonw@indyrecorder.com.

Shannon Williams is president and general manager of the Indianapolis Recorder.

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