EDITOR’S NOTE: Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers
It’s scary: Uncle Sam knows who’s talking to whom
What was thought to be domestic overreach by the George W. Bush administration in the name of national security now appears to be standard practice under the Obama administration. And to the justified shock of many, the spying goes beyond mass surveillance of Verizon telephone consumers — as originally disclosed — to surveillance of Sprint and AT&T customers and on to major Internet providers, among them Google, Apple, Yahoo and Microsoft.
This story broke when London’s Guardian newspaper reported on a secret court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court, itself a secret panel, authorizing the National Security Agency to collect the telephone records of Verizon’s U.S. customers, potentially 121 million subscribers.
The order, permitted through the Patriot Act, covered phone numbers and locations of both parties on the call, its time and duration, and what are called “unique identifiers.”
A former intelligence official revealed to The Associated Press the order applied to other telecommunication companies and all U.S. phone companies. The three-month order was renewed regularly.
The program began at least seven years ago, according to Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, putting its origins in the Bush administration. For a change, it appears key members of Congress were briefed on the program — at least none of them appeared surprised. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the program was necessary for homeland safety, and privacy rights were carefully protected.
Her House counterpart, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said the records thwarted a “significant” terrorist attack on the United States a few years ago, but did not give details. A White House spokesman called the program “a critical tool” in fighting security threats.
The government has collected an immense amount of information, and the temptation to broaden its use might become too great. Why not, someone might ask, use it to detect crimes such as money laundering and financial fraud? Why not use it to track individuals holding suspect political views? That has happened before in our history.
What we find troubling are the attitudes of many Americans, among them some of our top leaders, who seem too easily to have accepted mass government spying on citizens.
Indeed, for the moment, the response of the White House, congressional leaders and NSA spooks is: “Trust us.” That’s scary, but for the moment, we have no choice. We should not forget Jefferson’s admonition: “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”
Evansville Courier & Press, June 11, 2013.
State’s fatalities mean fire caution
The reminder to check the batteries on all of the smoke detectors in the house usually comes when we reset our clocks at the beginning and end of daylight saving time. It’s probably wise to add “right now” to that list, just to make sure.
The Indiana fire marshal reports that deaths due to fires in the state are at 54 so far this year. That’s more than the death toll — 46 — from fires for all of 2012.
The scariest part is that there seems to be no apparent rhyme or reason, other than a mix of carelessness and faulty wiring.
Swift action counts when fires strike. A smoke detector can up the odds of alerting your family when a fire starts. Test those batteries today to make sure the detectors are in working order.
Have a fire escape plan for the house and make sure everyone knows what to do and where to meet if they need to make a quick escape.
Being prepared for structure fires is serious business. The numbers this year bear that out.
For more tips, visit the American Red Cross at www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/home-fire .
Journal & Courier, Lafayette, June 11, 2013.