Much has been said about metadata since the revelation this year of a NSA (National Security Agency) program that collects the telephone metadata of every American.
Many in Congress believe that metadata collection is not surveillance because it does not include the content of telephone calls. The truth is that the NSA’s metadata collection programs and subsequent analysis are surveillance. And for ordinary Americans, it may be the greatest invasion of privacy we’ve ever experienced.
Metadata is the set of information that describes something else. For a cell phone call, it includes the name, number, time, duration, and location for both the sender and recipient.
These programs are the digital equivalent of having a government agent follow you your entire life. That agent would never listen in on any of your conversations, but instead would record every person you met, which doctors you saw, which church you attended, and every alcoholics anonymous, NRA, or Tea Party meeting you ever attended. It sounds far fetched, but all that information can be gleamed from just one’s telephone records. Moreover, the NSA isn’t limited to phone records.
According to a New York Times report from Sept 28th, 2013, the NSA taps into bank information, insurance information, Facebook profiles, passenger manifests, voter registration, as well as property records and tax data. This data is combined with communications data to create what the NSA calls ‘pattern-of-life’ profiles of individuals. The report goes on to claim that this analysis was applied to Americans beginning in November 2010.
The government’s authorization for the NSA’s telephone metadata collection stems from a twisted interpretation of the Patriot Act. Referring to the NSA’s surveillance, the original author of the Patriot Act, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI] stated, “I stand by the Patriot Act and support the specific targeting of terrorists by our government. However, in this instance, the proper balance has not been struck between civil rights and American security. “
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) have since introduced bi-partisan legislation called the USA Freedom Act that would stop the surveillance of innocent South Dakotans while still providing the tools needed to protect our country from terrorism.
Every South Dakotan that cares about his or her privacy has an obligation to call or write all three of our representatives in Washington D.C. and urge them to publically support the USA Freedom Act.