President Obama said, ” Between all the safeguards and checks that we put in place within the executive branch, and the federal court oversight that takes place on the program, and congressional oversight, people are still concerned as to whether their emails are being read or their phone calls are being listened to.”
Wrong premise, Mr. President! I am upset because a government program directs that my emails and phone calls be collected and stored somewhere. Whether the government ever reviews them is beside the point. The whole concept of the NSA’s data collection ideology is unconstitutional. For government to collect private communications is a criminal act, one the United States would have forcefully condemned if this had taken place in the former Soviet Union.
Sending emails or placing calls isn’t like putting out the trash. I willingly release my garbage to the public streets. Any passerby can grab it, so I have a diminished expectation of privacy. This isn’t true of my personal communications. My neighbors can’t read every email I send. I do expect that personal communications are not in public view. But even if the government required trash haulers to catalogue and save the contents if my garbage it would be an outrage.
Governments need systems of checks and balances more robust than then the character of those who administer them. The mass collection of domestic communications by or for the NSA already crosses the line, so no safeguards or checks can make it safe or acceptable.