The second installment of PBS’s Frontline documentary report on uninhibited spying by the National Security Agency achieves the dubious distinction of being more alarming and disturbing than last week’s two-hour introduction.
The key point being made in “United States of Secrets: Part 2 – Privacy Lost” is that the NSA, aided and abetted by Silicon Valley Internet technology companies, is vacuuming up everything – everything – you put into the ether. And the phone lines? AT&T rolled over years ago. Watch the show, which aired Tuesday night, via the link.
If anything, NSA was jealous of Google’s ability to scrutinize emails and Internet searches in hot pursuit of peddling tailored advertising pitches to get you to buy stuff. Commercial tracking became a coveted inspiration and opportunity for NSA. The spy agency simply wagged its tail and gobbled up the cookies.
Every word, sound and video is vulnerable to being collected directly from servers. The NSA has been invoking its options based on presidential authorizations that date to the Reagan era, before virtually all the technology was invented.
Now, if federal officials are challenged, they either lie outright, or President Obama stammers for the right words to finesse pointed questions.
Watch the program. This episode should be required viewing for high-school students who blithely accept hyper-connectivity and social media as benign norms. Oh, and Congress might want to take a look.
The implication is that all of this vast amount of data – the word “vast” does not really cover it – is culled, scrutinized and interpreted for intelligence information that protects America.
That is a tough sell. NSA flat missed the 9/11 attack. Now it is hard to accept that remedial bulk-data collection makes us any safer. Scarier yet to imagine what comes next.
Bravo PBS and Frontline, and all the journalists and sources who stepped forward to help tell the story.