When a former IT contractor at the National Security Agency gave The Guardian U.S. government surveillance information, he told the paper that his only motivation was to spark a public debate about government surveillance.
"This is something that's not our place to decide," Edward Snowden said. "The public needs to decide whether these programs and policies are right or wrong."
Viewed out of context, recent Washington revelations paint a disturbing portrait of the vast amount of electronic data the nation's spy agencies are collecting. But the blockbuster news stories belie a simple truth: Personal privacy rights have been under sustained assault since well before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. And it's not just government that's vacuuming up information.
If you're a member of Congress and you didn't know about the National Security Agency's phone records program before it was disclosed last week, President Obama has this to say to you: Where have you been?
"When it comes to telephone calls, every member of Congress has been briefed on this program," Obama said to reporters last Friday.
"We're going to use this fund to find the most promising nonprofits in America," he said when announcing the plan. "We'll examine their data and rigorously evaluate their outcomes. We'll invest in those with the best results that are the most likely to provide a good return on our taxpayer dollars."
The runways at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., are busy. This is where the Army tests its military drones, where it trains its drone pilots, and where four Customs and Border Protection drones take off and land.
From here, the CBP drones survey the Arizona-Mexico border — mainly looking for immigrants and drug smugglers.
If you want to observe one of Washington's most delicate balancing acts, look no further than President Obama's effort to assert leadership on immigration legislation without its coming to be identified as a new Obamalaw.
Because they're keenly aware of how nearly any legislative effort that becomes known as the president's baby almost immediately makes his political foes hellbent on stopping it and denying him a victory, Obama and other White House officials have been committed to letting Congress take the lead on major legislation like immigration reform.
Since the events of 9/11, the public has had several glimpses into the government's growing surveillance powers. But as NPR's Martin Kaste reports, the resulting scandals and the losses appear to have done little to roll back that surveillance.
MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: The first real case of surveillance blowback came as early as 2002.
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DANIEL SCHORR: The most far-reaching plan yet for domestic snooping is being researched in the Pentagon. It is called Total Information Awareness, TIA.