In an opinion column at the New York Times, Andrew Rosenthal discusses “the erosion of civil liberties in the name of safety.”
It’s a security-hawk cliché that if you’ve done nothing wrong, then you have nothing to fear from ever-more aggressive surveillance tactics. When the National Security Agency was caught eavesdropping without a warrant on international communications, the Bush administration assured critics that if the agents scraped up information on innocent Americans, they would delete it. When the F.B.I. announced its Next Generation Identification database—the world’s biggest biometric archive—Thomas E. Bush, the FBI assistant director in 2007, told the BBC that “what we deal with is bad guys … suspected terrorists and criminals,” and that for everyone else it was a non-issue.
That cliché is cold comfort to me and many others concerned about the erosion of civil liberties in the name of safety. But it’s more discomfiting to learn that the Obama administration is no longer paying lip service to the idea that innocents don’t belong in the surveillance dragnet.
On Friday, Charlie Savage reported in the Times that Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. had signed new guidelines for the National Counterterrorism Center that will allow it to collect more information about Americans, regardless of whether they have any connection at all to terrorism, and to keep it much longer. […]
Arguably that change will just allow the center to do its work more quickly. Let’s keep in mind, though, that “work” here means invading peoples’ privacy.