In Debate Over Patriot Act, Lawmakers Weigh Risks vs. Liberty

Jun 02, 2015 · 344 comments
Russell Scott Day (Carrboro, NC)
US Intelligence Services from the OSS onwards have had agendas that were embedded in the institutions. Leadership of these "Intelligence" services was supposed to rest with the Executive, as if the CIA at least was the President's private army.
It has turned out that we do not really know what the CIA and NSA aim to do. "Ask forgiveness if you get caught." has been their operating principle. These are professional liars for god sakes!
I'd be for disbanding the institutions of US Intelligence and Covert action and starting over with a clear and good mission led by new Officers and forever closely held to a mission that defends the nation. -NC US Senatorial Intendor Transcendian, youtube.
Lilli Belisle (Saint Clair Shores, Mi)
Our constitution, sir, was built o the individiual's rights. Thank you
Simon Shieh (Washington D.C.)
The American public's opposition to the Patriot Act reveals a fundamental problem with our idea of freedom. We have expanded freedom to signify everything that is good about the U.S. When we ask for our Fourth Amendment right "to be secure in [our] persons," we do not ask for freedom, we ask for security. By elevating freedom to encapsulate the highest principles of our national doctrine, we have made freedom an end in itself, and fabricated a confrontation between and freedom and security. In light of events in Ferguson, New York, Baltimore, it is no wonder why choose freedom. However, freedom is not what we stand to gain in the USA Freedom Act. Realizing this will do more than correct a conceptual misunderstanding. It will force us to confront the challenging negotiation between individual and national security. It will destabilize the enticing yet misleading narrative of good versus evil -- freedom versus a police state -- that Rand Paul is propagating. Finally, it will reintroduce the necessary complexity inherent in our Constitution -- that which calls for the public defense, justice, domestic tranquility, and the general welfare alongside the "blessings of liberty." Our founding fathers chose those words carefully. To misunderstand them is to misunderstand our national doctrine and American identity.
Simon Shieh:

"..we have made freedom an end in itself"

That's what libertarians do. Americans tend to battle over their "rights", whether legitimate or not. They believe they are entitled to them regardless.
Roy (Concord, MA)
The government, especially the spy and investigative parts, seem to want to know everything about everybody just in case it might be valuable sometime, yet they want themselves and their operations to be totally enshrouded in secrecy. This asymmetry seems unjustified. They should be required to disclose openly (in unclassified forums) their real reasons for needing the information they collect.

I understand the need for secrecy in many areas, but I think that in many more cases it is a matter of "classify everything unless you are forced to make it unclassified". That way your mistakes are never visible, and your motives, whether benign or sinister, can never be ascertained.

I also understand the need to collect some data, and the desire to collect all possible data, but who is to determine what is needed versus what is merely desired. The Constitution would seem to indicate that the courts should make that determination rather than the agency doing the collecting.
Linda (Indiana)
It's my understanding that it's METADATA, not personal info that's being monitored. (I had to research that to understand what it is. Here's some very good info on exactly what it is and what is collected:

One of the changes to the original Patriot Act is that the metadata is no longer collected & held by the government, but by the phone company. The government can request the Metadata (not personal info) through the courts if they can show just cause.
Lilli Belisle (Saint Clair Shores, Mi)
Thats all good and well, i understand it's just meta data that the new "Freedom" act has addressed and revised. But what of all the other ways innocent American citizens have been surveilled perhaps being wrongly placed on a LIST being "profiled" as Snowden warned, " even if you are not doing anything wrong they can look at every conversation you have ever had and cast you as a wrongdoer". The FBI or local police under Homeland Security can have you watched for no other reason than someone, perhaps a neighbor, made a wrong call for instance and then you are placed on list. How do you defend yourself, how do you get off the list? Why don't you have due process?
Linda (Indiana)
Lilli, the FBI said there is a process to get a name off the list, and that 33,000 names were deleted in 2008. They also indicated that 95% of names on the list are NOT U.S. citizens.

I'm also pretty sure that if my neighbor makes a wrong call about you or me, the FBI (or whoever) will look into it before putting either one of us on a list.

If the FBI "looks at every conversation someone has ever had and cast them as a wrongdoer," they probably are.

As to "all the other ways innocent American citizens have been surveilled"....I'd like some concrete examples that actually harm anyone.

You're letting the fear-mongers get the better of you.
Linda (Indiana)
@ Lilli: "even if you are not doing anything wrong they can look at every conversation you have ever had and cast you as a wrongdoer."

I don't think the FBI or Homeland Security is interested in your and my conversations with our neighbors or friends, and if a neighbor makes a "wrong call," I think someone would look into it before placing you or me on any list.

You're letting the fear-mongers get to you.
Mr. Robin P Little (Conway, SC)

The 9/11 Muslim terrorists won. Not only did they destroy the Twin Towers in NYC, and part of the Pentagon, not to mention 4 commercial airliners, and all passengers on board, they gave our military-industrial complex nearly 3000 more reasons to clamp down on U.S. civilians' civil liberties, as well as almost unlimited increases in funding for these activities by Congress, which has been under Republican control since 2009.

We are never going back to having more civil liberties in America, in spite of whatever our leaders tell us. If you doubt this, look at President Obama's support of the Federal government's increased surveillance powers. He is as rational and reasonable a President as we are going to get in the Oval Office. Hillary Clinton may make noises about increasing civil liberties, but it won't happen under her watch even if she serves 2 terms. This quasi-military approach to governing America is with us for the foreseeable future.
Randy Brawley (San Leandro)
Where are the philosophers? The arguments over the efficacy and renewal of NSA bulk data collection fall in line with many ongoing arguments in which we play to emotion rather than valid, rational arguments. I am no philosopher so I invite real philosophers to weigh in, correct me, and offer their analysis of this debate and others. Let’s look at just two fallacies.
The premise of the efficacy of bulk collection is that the NSA bulk program has increased security. The conclusion, therefore, is that without it we will be less secure and open to attack from terrorists. Since the pro-bulk collection camp has yet to actually show that its program has actually prevented attacks, the premise must be false. Even taking the conclusion separately, there is, again, no evidence that a lack of a program will itself lead to attack. Both the premise and conclusion are false; the argument is deductively invalid.
Second, the argument is framed around a false dilemma / bifurcation. The pro-bulk collection camp, and many news reporters, frame the discussion as just two choices. We either have the bulk collection program, or we do not have security. In doing so, we throw out all of the options in which we do legal, smart and targeted collection AND increase security. The torture debate was similarly framed as a false dilemma. We either torture suspected terrorist, or we will be attacked. This threw out the option that smart, more effective interrogation techniques were available.
Jeremy (Indiana)
No need for a professional philosopher. You've done just fine.

I'd just as this: our politicians are more scared of being labeled "the one who let the next 9/11 happen" than they are of sacrificing civil rights, even when the evidence - as you noted - shows the sacrifice gains us nothing of value.
Citizen (RI)
Always err on the side of liberty.
Pat Nixon (PIttsburgh)
WE have wasted the fortunes of an entire generation pumping money down a sewer in the name of national defense. Especially the NSA. Over 70 % of the budgeted funds are private contractor ventures. How exactly has this appalling waste of taxpayer funds and violation of the 4th amendment made our lives better, will someone please answer? Why is any data collection outside of a subpoena proved necessary in front of a court of competent jurisdiction justified?
nola4life (new orleans)
Someone commented that the protections could be covered by the FBI... The cost of Homeland Security Departments in every town and city across the US has cost us billions. This was hastily passed when everyone was reeling from 911. We now need to tweak and employ 2015 technology to fight terrorism.... collecting data on everyone isn't the way. As we say in the Boston horror didn't stop an attack...
West Texas Guy (West Texas)
Does no one remember J Edgar Hoovers illegal spying on civil rights groups, on anti-war groups, on political groups of every stripe? There is persistent rumor of Hoover blackmailing politicians to extend his tenure way beyond mandatory retirement age and for other purposes. Do we not recall the fear that Nixon's enemies' list struck into our hearts? Using the IRS to delve into political activities?

I have on more than one occasion felt the need to rephrase an email or refrain from commenting as I desired because of fear of provoking a visit from our security forces. That it the effect that surveillance in Russia, China, and North Korea has had on their populations. Is this what we our country to become? The use of unconstitutionally collected data by a Washington insider for their own benefit is inevitable as long as this data exists.
Kent Manthie (San Diego, CA)
This overreach by the federal government - one that was supposed to be there to "fight terrorism" has, since, been abused a lot by cops from FBI agents down to city cops, when interrogating suspects, by threatening them w/all kinds of extraordinary abuses of liberties to get them to "talk", etc. and I'm talking here about not terrorist cases, but matters that are completely diffferent: whether it be drug dealing, kidnapping, extortion, even murder; all of which are state crimes (unless interstate trafficking or kidnapping enters into it) and thus, the local cops who use this kind of intimidation -of course, they want the power to be able to continue to either hold these threats over people's heads or to actually use flimsy excuses for warrants for surveillance, searches, etc. Plus: as it's already been admitted that the government (well, supposedly...that is, if you can really believe them) has relatively rarely used these more intrusive, unconstitutional means -and still, whaddya know? We've not had any more huge terrorist attacks in 14 years and we keep reading in the papers, stories about terror plots foiled, etc. - so, obviously, the feds, the CIA, etc. have enough tools to work with -even w/the more ramped up "muscular" defense measures put in place which are less controversial and less abusive of American citizens' constitutional rights.
Anthony N (NY)
During our country's history many things have become "firmly embedded" in our society - some worthwhile, other's less so. Most of those things done in the name of national security, fall intothe latter category. The author rightly uses the word "infrastructure" in this regard. Billions of dollars and thousands of jobs are now invested in that infrastructure. It is a special interest with lobbyists and all the related trappings found in other areas. It's strongest proponents play on fear and a sense of helplessness, but cannot concretely articulate what we have gained or how we have been made safer.
Capturing big data requires sweeps far beyond what the statutes permit. The Obama Administration's approach has alway been to act first and ask permission later. As has been the case with most other of its actions, permission for this metadata capture is now denied.
Gene (Honolulu)
Given the choice between bulk phone data collection by the government vs. bulk data collection and storage by the telecommunication companies? I choose the government, thank you very much.
SuperNaut (The Wezt)
There is a third choice:

3. Do not collect bulk phone data.
Gene (Honolulu)
True, but the likely compromise seems to be having phone companies store this data allowing later access by the feds after they go to court and get a warrant. I don't trust phone companies one bit! Out of the frying pan and into the fire!
Citizen (RI)
Gene that makes no sense. The phone companies have always had the data and still do. And they do not have arrest powers or prisons.

The government does.

The government, I might add, also has a history of abusing the civil rights of its citizens. Not so much the phone companies.

But hey, if you trust the government, that's your gig. Just don't ask the rest of us to do it.
Johnny Warbucks (Atlanta, GA)
Lawmakers weigh risks vs. liberty... What a joke! As if taking the freedom and liberties of the masses weren't the real objective of the Fascist initiative known as The [un]Patriot Act.
Karen (West Chester, PA)
A lot of us knew The Patriot Act went too far. Nobody was listening to any of us, we were considered "against America". The nail clipper ban on airplanes, the library card surveillance, etc. And don't forget Patriot Fries. The Patriot Act reminded me of the East German Stasi. Being vigilant is one thing, spying on all of us is another.
DCBarrister (Washington, DC)
Because of Barack Obama's NSA domestic spy program the greatest threat to personal rights, liberties and our freedom IS the government.

Just think about that for a second.
Riccardo-Zoran Balmas de Kide (Philadelphia, PA)
"Just one senator voted against the Patriot Act". Yes, ONLY ONE senator, Rand Paul, is brave and shows courage in defending our Freedom!
Mark (Rogers)
Rand Paul wasn't in the Senate back in 2001. Russ Feingold is the Senator who voted against it. It mentions this fact in the article.
THR (Colorado)
It WASN'T Rand Paul. This article is talking about when the law was enacted, after 9/11. Rand Paul wasn't in the Senate then. The Senator who voted against the Patriot Act was Russ Feingold.
dkooistra (New jersey)
Actually... they meant Senator Russ Feingold, who was the only senator to vote against the act when it initially passed in the wake of 9/11. However, it is a relief to see other senators finally following Feingold's lead.
sophia (bangor, maine)
Many Americans say they don't care if the NSA is listening to their phone calls (which they're not, they're getting 'metadata' which can basically be used to write a narrative to your life and which is just as damaging). Many ask what is the difference between a company keeping track of you and your consumerism and the government. Well, it's pretty clear. A company cannot put a person in prison. It does not 'disappear' people, never to be heard from again.

Everything is in place to turn America into a 100% Police State with surveillance like the Stasi in E. Germany. One bad leader and his or her co-horts can 'turn on' the surveillance to truly use it against the people. We who are against this adamantly are trying to stop this before it can take us down from within. Remember J. Edgar Hoover? Oh, wouldn't he have loved this technology! Who would he have blackmailed? Maybe Dennis Hastert for starters?
Jill Abbott (Atlanta)
And your point is?
magicisnotreal (earth)
It, surveillance used to abuse and manipulate people, is already done in "local" level communities all over the nation by private people who work at local ISP's sometimes in collusion with government employees not necessarily for governmental purposes, its just that the People subject to it do not realise it or simply cannot make themselves heard.
DCBarrister (Washington, DC)
The question NOBODY is asking is the answer.

Is allowing Barack Obama to use the U.S. Government to see, hear and watch every single thing every American citizen does anywhere, anytime and all the time the ONLY way to keep us safe from terrorism?

Hint: No.
DCL (Nova Scotia)
Sanity creeps back in to American law making. A note. President George W. Bush and Mr. Obama. As a foreigner, it's easy to see the disrespect the NYT has for its seated president. Little racist, don't you think. If you want to disrespect one of your presidents, don't you think Bush is a better candidate.
DCBarrister (Washington, DC)
If this is about disrespecting Bush, then Barack Obama will do just fine. Obama's been impersonating George W. Bush for most of his presidency.

As they say in Texas, if you want the bull you've gotta take the horns.
DCBarrister (Washington, DC)
In the practice of law we have "least restrictive means" or "narrowly tailored" standards. What it means is we challenge state actions (i.e. actions of the government) to see whether the government could accomplish its objectively stated purpose any other way, or if the way they are using or seek to use is overbroad.

Essentially we argue in court asking whether amputation of a leg is the only way to treat a hangnail on your little toe. If it is, then so be it, but if not, don't do it or stop doing it.

The NSA domestic spying program isn't even supposed to exist. Barack Obama campaigned against it to become President, appeared on Jay Leno's comedy show to claim there was no domestic spy program, and until Edward Snowden blew the whistle, nobody knew what was happening to us, supposedly in our name as Americans.

If this is the only way to keep me safe, then tell me. Don't hide it or lie from the Oval Office or late night comedy couch. Obama is a joke. And a liar.
True, no one obfuscates and when that fails, simply stonewalls, better than this president, but it is not just he who has been aware of these programs. Members of Congress have oversight responsibility.

They, the president and his Cabinet members have been caught with their collective pants down.

Rand Paul has done a decent job explaining why these programs are not in our best interests. The president has barely expended any effort despite the supposed importance he attaches to them. He did not go on one of his "selling tours" to explain to the country why these measures are needed as he did for his Iranian deal, which, itself, was modeled on his Obamacare sales campaign.

Does this mean he's indifferent, merely covering himself in case the country is attacked or simply preoccupied with other constituents (ex., environmentalists) at this point? Hard to know. Likely he's hoping the "hawks" will get the blame, and he'll escape notice.
MG (Tucson)
What we should also be debating is our foreign policies and oversea involvements that create the threats in the first place. If we would stop butting into every country's business and invading countries in the name of US national and economic security interest, perhaps fewer groups would feel angry at the US and the need to attack us.

9/11 in a large part was the result of our policies in the Middle East, which really comes down to protecting our oil interest and defending Israel. ISIS today only exists because we invaded Iraq and broke the country's internal stability.
Jill Abbott (Atlanta)
Two words: national amnesia. Fasten your seat belts, Americans, you are in for a bumpy ride.
Andrew (New York)
After Edward Snowden's leak, which was the first official acknowledgement of such widespread surveillance, the reponse I heard most from others was that "well, you knew this was happening anyway right?" My response to such cynicism is that we actually have no idea what the government is doing in secret, except for the knowledge that they do in face have an entire secret legal system (secret FISA courst, secret legal guidance, secret LAWS [how the heck can laws be secret? You can't follow or break a law that is unkown])
Thus, assurances that the government isn't recording our calls, scooping up all texts and e-mails, or monitoring our financial trasactions simply aren't worth the pixels wasted when written. Fool me once, shame on you...
elmueador (New York City)
Our communications and internet records are searched, archived and combed through and it will stay like that. I am sure the NSA can get all the info they want via some executive order (e.g. the secret 12333. or just illegally (who is going to prove otherwise?). The problem is that more than 1 Mio people have a Top Secret clearance, often contractors! If they have been vetted as well as Snowdon (may he live a long and productive live) it could very well be that some criminal will use his/her knowledge to blackmail people. (Break into your kid's school computer, sell industry secrets...etc.). Now, if Obama were to try and limit (i.e. try and revoke clearances and let them go) the staggering number of that personel, they would just use their knowledge in the private sector, which would be even more dangerous. Well, being pretty poor and unimportant is suddenly more appealing.
NoLawyers (CT)
For the most noble reasons, government could take away any or all of your rights. Out of sheer laziness, we would sacrifice many of those rights in order to be taken care of and protected.
theod (tucson)
If the unConstitutional and illegal overzealous data collection fostered by the Nat'l Security State were such a good thing, then there would have been a provable case of efficacy. There has not been one. All of the supporters are merely feeders at the trough. Look at all of the graduates of HSA and NSA; see how they are now in the private sector, making big bucks. So using their easily bought and paid for legislators, they try to scare us all into compliance.
mabraun (NYC)
One of the risks of allowing a reporter whose career has been covering Washington and it's personalities, is the apparent tendency to take everything that occurs within the District of Columbia as a reflection of events in the real world.
In fact, Americans, no matter what young Mr Baker and telephone surveys may suggest, are not living in terror, with one foot in the home bomb shelter, expecting hordes of camel riding Assassins from over the horizon, riding hell for leather and screaming "AllahuAkbar!"
In fact, fear of terrorism in most places must be elicited from people and then asking them to consider it.
A better reporter for the current televised congressional games over the old P.A.T.R.I.O.T. law would have been Russell Baker who, sadly, is no longer available for comment.
Since Russel Baker isn't available, and it seems clear that that none of our innumerable and very well paid agents, after 15 years, have managed to uncover the plots and conspiracies these laws were designed to ferret out; it seems more than evident that the laws are not, nor ever were, needed. They were an overreaction and a wildly exaggerated error resulting from the extreme fears extant at the time.
It's past time to abandon this "DC fever"- a mental illness which makes most residents of Washington believe that they are all wearing a big 'bull's-eye' on their backs, and that passing phone tapping laws will fix the situation.
Just call it the Terrorism Industrial Complex and be done with it. Acknowledge TIC as the deformed offspring of the Military Industrial Complex that is turning the United States of America into a global military imperialism the likes of which has not been seen since the 1930s.
Duncan Lennox (Canada)
Ran Paul has it right even if he is partly wrong. The American people (and people of other nations with an equivalent NSA program) are being boiled alive; like the frog in the slowly warming pot of water. Big Brother or a Harry Tuttle future (in the movie "Brazil") is waiting down the slope that Mr. Snowden uncovered for us.
papabear (Chapel Hill, NC)
Freedom always carries risks, that was why one of the mottoes during the revolutionary war was "Live Free or Die". If you trade freedom for safety, you soon find that you have neither, when the person protecting you takes a bad turn.

Last night on the news, 95% of dangerous materials got through the security checkpoints at the airports when carried by undercover agents to test security. We can clearly see from this how well all the apparatus of government is protecting us while greatly restricting our freedom, AND costing us a lot of money!

There are plenty of laws to prevent terrorism and allow the government to investigate legitimate threats. The massive paranoid apparatus of the patriot act is unnecessary. Indeed, when we tried to stop for an urgent bathroom break for my young son at the NSA, we were met with loaded automatic weapons, and thoroughly investigated, when all we wanted to do was go to the lobby and visit a bathroom. This is our government serving us well. We never did get to take care of my son, and not even an apology for being treated like a criminal. In fact we were followed till we got to a facility for him to use after we left.
Niall Firinne (London)
First collecting and then using intelligence needs to be part of a coherent security program that also involves in varying degrees foreign, military and economic policy. Even the collection of intelligence in broken into various segments, such as electronic and in the field intelligence. If all done properly and in balance with each other, there should be little need for a civil rights tradeoff. At present there seems to a huge imbalance to the security program with electronic and "data" snooping overweighed, prompting a real threat to personal liberties. What's happening with the other elements of security. Seeming nothing as Daesh continues to grow unchecked. Until the other tools in the security toolbox, namely military in the case of the jihadis, the threat of terrorism will continue to grow. The more that happens, the less likely electronic intelligence will succeed and remember the bad guys have to only succeed once while the security services have to succeed everytime. One could speculate that the over-dependence on electronic sweeps itself becomes a security threat as well as a civil liberties threat. So to tackle the threat to security as well as liberty are people really willing to pay the price of tackling the terrorist threat at it's source. Not yet it would seem!
John (Atlanta, GA)
It seems that very powerful forces want this to be passed, they even could make-up their own poll data and spread it on CNN to convince others that the majority wants this; this tells you all you need to know about their unlimited power.
PR (Canada)
Gwynne Dyer writes, "Most domestic terrorism, and almost all international terrorism, is aimed at provoking a big, stupid, self-defeating response from the target government". By that metric, 9/11 was - for al Quaeda and its franchisees - a resounding, slam-dunk success. The current debate seems to be a small step in mitigating that big, stupid, self-defeating response. Let's hope it continues to progress, although in an election year, no bets.
Rosa H (Tarrytown)
Fear is one of the most effective tools to sway public opinion. Lucky for us the events of the last 13 years have exposed the costs of bowing to fear -- massive government surveillance and entrapment scams, the militarization of our local police and erosion of civil liberties, the criminal attack on Iraq and the wasteful deployment of American troops in an endless war, the enormous diversion of our wealth and resources to the so-called "defense" industry, and the complete disappearance of the "peace dividend" -- fiscal solvency and investment in our own economy -- that came with the end of the cold war.

Finally Congress has taken one baby step towards rolling back this dreadful misallocation of taxpayer wealth.
Larry Heimendinger (WA)
The collection of information about how we individually act occurs all the time and from many sources: what we search for, what we buy, what we post, where we drive, where we walk. The bulk of the data is not metadata but actual transactional detail. Much of it is collected by commercial enterprises, analyzed, aggregated and dissected, and sold to other companies, but surprisingly, to government agencies. Yes, the same government agencies that may be prohibited from collecting this data themselves are not constrained by law from purchasing it from commercial enterprises, who are largely not constrained by federal law from collecting or selling it.

Data on us has become a cornerstone of business policy and strategy for many companies large and small, old and start up. Google might be the most obvious in that, for most of us, everything they offer is free. They invest heavily in Android, to give it free to hardware manufacturers, mapping, and appear to be doing the same for self driving car software. Use of this produces galaxy-sized piles of data that can be sold to targeted marketers. Google is just one of many who do this.

We are left trying to float upstream in a creek with no canoe, much less a paddle, in seeking privacy. Sure, Goggle and others won't come arrest us if their data analysis makes a mistake, and that is something we should worry about from government agencies. Google won't stop a threat to harm us either. What to do...
David H. Eisenberg (Smithtown, NY)
"A report by the Pew Research Center last week found nuanced, even contradictory, public attitudes about surveillance."

Doesn't that describe our feelings on most things?

As with many (not all) issues in a free society, when there are two strong opposing sides or values to consider in making policy, the reasonable thing to do is to try to partially satisfy, partially frustrate both. I don't believe it is unconstitutional for the congress, which regulates our entirely interstate phone system, to keep track of its use (not content) by us for national security purposes so long as it is with very clearly defined terms. The agencies charged with protecting us will run with the ball until tackled. Where these searches are warrantless (or some recognized exception), then it should not be used to convict of a domestic crime. Every use of the system should be carefully monitored so that it is not abused, as it appears on its face to be, and warrantless searches are limited to terrorism protection (again, unless warrants are issued). However, it is also laughable to say that there is no proof it has ever been abused. It is done in secret. That almost always leads to abuses.

If we suffer another devastating attack like 9/11 or worse, people are going to be complaining left and right that our intelligence services did not do there job and they will come right back and complain we tied their hands. There is a middle ground and I think that is where this is heading.
SuperNaut (The Wezt)
The BoR kind of eliminates any middle ground, does it not?
Johnny Warbucks (Atlanta, GA)
So far, the only ones perpetrating abuses and attacks against the American people are those entrusted with their protection. You sound like a good sheep who would rather feel warm and fuzzy with false assurances of protection than live free.
Steve (West Palm Beach)
Plenty of things that are "firmly embedded in society" need to be dislodged. All variety of discrimination and inequality, to name two. A couple of centures ago, slavery, to name a third. Time to get cracking.
DCBarrister (Washington, DC)
And let's be sure to keep our facts straight on the Patriot Act.

The NSA provisions of the Patriot Act that allowed the government to spy on all of us expired after Bush left office. Barack Obama revived them.

Barack Obama extended Bush's NSA program to the extreme. It was Obama who authorized the US government to literally know every single thing every American does on their phones, computers and digital devices 24 hours a day. That level of intrusion NEVER happened on Bush's watch.

It was Obama who made criticism of Bush's policies the cornerstone of his 2008 campaign. It is Obama who expanded the Bush tax cuts, quadrupled drone strikes and secret prisons and it was Obama who pushed the Patriot Act abuses so far past constitutional that the courts are getting involved.

I didn't vote for Barack Obama because after meeting him in 2004 at the Democratic National Convention I realized Mr. Obama has never been honest a second in his life. If Obama can't stop lying to himself, how could he ever be honest with us?
DSS (Ottawa)
The debate over the Patriot Act is purely political. Phone companies have been collected our phone data for year (check your phone bill).
THR (Colorado)
Yes. For measured service and pay-by-the-minute long distance. Except they didn't keep it forever. The government wants to keep it forever. They not only want to know who you talk to this month, but who you talked to 10 years ago.

If they think it's needed, then prove it to us. The security is as more to hide unconstitutional actions from the voters than to hide it from would-be bad guys.

Like the "Trans-Pacific-Partnership" trade agreement that we can't see....
DJ (Tulsa)
Many comments reflect the position that "my life is an open book and who cares if the NSA listen to my phone calls when I invite Aunt Mary to lunch". I tend to agree. My life is also an open book, and I really don't care whether the NSA listens to me when I am on the phone or whether they read my emails.
BUT, then I am also reminded of the famous quote from Martin Niemuller about the government going after various categories of persons (unionists, communists, and others) and saying nothing, because he was not any of these things. Until they came for him and there was no one left to speak up on his behalf.
On balance, I would suggest that our liberties are too important to trust the government with the details of our day to day life endeavors.
Andrew (New York)
Laws change and so does the categorization of illegal or unlawful activity. Do you really want the NSA to have a forever record of your present day activities in a future where some of today's benign enjoyments may be illegal? Think of the McCarthy tribunals where people were run through the ringer for having once attending allegedgly "communist" meetings years and years earlier.
magicisnotreal (earth)
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

The quotation stems from Niemöller's lectures during the early postwar period. Different versions of the quotation exist. These can be attributed to the fact that Niemöller spoke extemporaneously and in a number of settings. Much controversy surrounds the content of the poem as it has been printed in varying forms, referring to diverse groups such as Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews, Trade Unionists, or Communists depending upon the version. Nonetheless his point was that Germans—in particular, he believed, the leaders of the Protestant churches—had been complicit through their silence in the Nazi imprisonment, persecution, and murder of millions of people.
Private Pirate (Christiansted, St. Croix USVI)
Despite all the moaning in these comments about how the Patriot Act undermines our so called Constitutional liberties, I see no evidence that Americans are prepared to face the reality that life is inherently full of risks and that government's ability to protect the people (including those corporate persons who enjoy such outsized power and influence in our contemporary society) is in fact greatly limited. In short, notwithstanding all of the comments here, I believe the American people want and desire the curtailment of "liberty" which the Patriot Act insures.

The solution to the problem (if those are the right words) is actually quite simple: We are long overdue for a constitutional amendment that repeals all of these quaint 18th century privacy rights and gives the government unfettered power to protect us from ourselves (as well as any possible bad guys from without). Given that we act as if this is what we want, it is hard to imagine that such an amendment wouldn't be readily welcomed among our putative leaders, especially those who like to call themselves "conservatives".
Jeff Pardun (New Jersey)
A little perspective is needed on this subject and I believe some are forgetting why the Patriot Act was created and the frightening circumstances of the time period.

Personally, I look at the Patriot Act similar to increased war powers given during war time. I fully supported the granting of increased powers to the President and government after 9/11 with the understanding that despite various parts of this law being unpalatable, it is necessary in a time of war when the US is under attack and I do not regret that.

The nature of this conflict with terrorism makes this subject complicated. When does it end? Will it ever end? Do we keep increased war powers given forever if the threat is not ended?

I have come to the thinking that the war powers given need to be reduced as the war threat to the US reduces and the terrorist threat has been reduced. The Iraq War is over, the war in Afghanistan is coming to a close, terror groups are far less capable of attacking the United States homeland and terror groups have a greater focus on carving out a place in the Middle East. In my mind, that should be grounds to pulling back on the powers given, especially in regards to domestic matters.

That being said, I think it is unfair to turn this into a political war and all Americans should remember this is a moving line in the sand in relation to the threats posed against us and, for lawmakers, I believe finding the right balance is not an easy or black and white issue.
magicisnotreal (earth)
And yet the fact remains it has not helped us in any way and has unambiguously harmed us by undermining the fundamental Trust in government necessary for a Democratic Republic to function.
magicisnotreal (earth)
I take the view that he would very much approve of how his quote is being used to point out cowardice in government and the electorate.
Jill Abbott (Atlanta)
"...terror groups are far less capable..." Living in a dream world.
HenryC (Birmingham Al.)
In the long run, the government is more dangerous to the Republic than terrorists. We should not forget this. A well run totalitarian state is quite safe if you do what you are told. I prefer freedom and risk.
Jeff Pardun (New Jersey)
I cannot recall the government blowing up buildings with thousands of innocent people inside while at work, as Al Qaeda was able to do.

Without disagreeing or agreeing with your larger point, terrorism is a far bigger threat to American lives than the U.S. Government and saying otherwise makes light of the many victims of 9/11 and the conflicts against Al Qaeda.
Some perspective seems to be in order for your statement.
Michael L Hays (Las Cruces, NM)
Somehow "the home of the brave" seems to panic at every violent episode, to take a long time to recover, and, of course, to forget its craven response and thus repeat it.
magicisnotreal (earth)
You fail to distinguish between the voices of the wealthy posing as "Press", the voices of the ignorant masses, and the voices of thinking people.
Bravery is so, well, primitive, didn't you get the memo? Now it's dismissed as paranoia and trite patriotism. Those who feel ready and capable to withstand dangers are ridiculed for it by elites.
NoLawyers (CT)
The MSM works very hard at creating that crisis atmosphere that keeps you tuned in.
Sally Ann (USA)
There's just way too much money to be made in the spy, surveillance, control, para-militarized state to ever fully get rid of the Patriot Act. We might want to revisit the PBS Frontline and Washington Post series "Top Secret America" from 2010 to remind ourselves all that we've lost in this Orwellian post-911 world.
Jill Abbott (Atlanta)
Teenagers can send naked pictures of themselves via cellphone, criminals can utter threats on Facebook, so exactly what privacy has been lost?
Alcibiades (Oregon)
"Risk", the primary risk here is to our liberties, which have already been eroded. Been on a flight lately, how easy it is to get singled out, "selected for additional screening"... I avoid flying just because it is such an invasion of privacy. We gladly send our children into harms way to "protect our freedoms" (more like protect corporate interests) yet here at home we constantly exchange our real freedoms for OUR security. Americans ignorance is only matched by our cowardice. To be clear, Americans main crime is not that of willful aggression, though we have certainly accepted the zionist propaganda biasing us against Muslims, our primary crime is accepting Washington's actions that in no way reflect the will of the people. Americans don't want war, we don't want military bases around the world, we don't want nation building, we want that money spent at home. Washington is run by war mongers, corporate lobbyists and aIPAC shills. So, until we take our country back from the war criminals, we will need greater security, bigger guns and higher walls, all of which cost more and more money, sapping resources from education, and infrastructure...America will build a trillion dollar safe to protect something that will not be worth defending.
Johnny Warbucks (Atlanta, GA)
Best comment in the entire thread. I'm surprised the NYT published it.
Carolyn (Saint Augustine, Fla.)
Storing an overwhelming amount of data, specifically the day to day communications between average Americans is just plain silly, and an expensive boondoggle that requires all kinds of multi-million dollar facilities, just so years later, some record remains of what little Johnnie e-mailed to his cousin about what time the soccer practice was. It's absurd, and it obviously must have a more sinister application if the government is trying to justify it on the basis that little Johnnie's soccer date is worth storing. We can't and won't prevent a terrorist attack through meta-data. We couldn't prevent the Boston bombers with all that stored data. We could have prevented the Boston bombing if we had listened intently to information provided by the Russians. Information via live intelligence sources is our ally, not spying on innocent people. The whole business is again, so sinister that it must having a broader purpose than the idiotic purpose declared by our so-called representatives. Rand Paul and the few resisting this dark effort should have the public's heartfelt thanks for being the Davids pitting themselves against Big Brother Goliath.
Facts Straight (Chengdu)
The Associated Press reported today that the FBI is spying on Americans and has been for some time. The FBI has installed high resolution cameras with Stingray IMSI catchers that intercept cellphone calls and other surveillance gear in a fleet of aircraft whose ownership is hidden behind fake companies. Frankly, I am sick and tired of this kind of intrusion happening in America. If congress can't put a stop to the government invading our privacy then we need to elect more capable congressional representatives. Here's a link to the AP story:
justdoit (NJ)
Not one terrorist plot or individual has been identified in 14 yrs!!!!.
Speaking of security, "67 out of 70 TSA screeners failed nearly every test to detect banned items".

Very effective return on investments.

Heads should roll at NSA and Homeland Security (both oxymorons).
DCBarrister (Washington, DC)
In a 2007 speech, Barack Obama ridiculed George W. Bush over the Patriot Act, claiming a choice between liberty and national security was a false choice.

Now the same Obama who railed against the Patriot Act and NSA spying is trying to save both.

No sane American can support Barack Obama as President of the United States. And it's not Bush's fault.
No one should take seriously anything the president said before he assumed the role of POTUS. He had never been responsible for anything. His words were based on little more than hypothetical musings.
lisa (nj)
As a high school history teacher, one of the many things we discuss in class is how this country tries to balance national security and the protection of civil liberties. It has been a debate since the founding of this country. You can go through our history. For example,John Adams signing the Alien and Sedition Act or Woodrow Wilson signing the Espionage and Sedition Act. Both it was argued, wrongly curbed our 1st Amendment rights.
I'm glad we are debating this now and should be as Americans. Yes, we want to be protected from terrorist but not at the cost of our freedoms. This is one goal of terrorism, to make people fearful enough and allow too much power to be handed over to the government.
Jill Abbott (Atlanta)
What freedom have you lost via the Patriot Act?
bkay (USA)
Demanding to be safe from terrorists while at the same time demanding that we somewhat return to how things were prior to 9/11/2001 regarding personal communications or even boarding an airplane are sadly incompatible goals.

"Liberty." We hear that emotional word being bandied around and even exploited for political gain by some like Paul and others. But that's just a word. And it's all too easy to get lost in a word sans clear critical thinking about its meaning and whether or not legitimate concerns about it's loss truly exists.

The powerful ideas that that word, liberty, evoke of course took hold long ago when the first Americans rebelled against Mother England when she denied our predecessors their freedom and liberty to march to the tune of their own drummer. But there is a present down-side of that. And it has to do with deep seated emotional ideas that can take hold and continue to cause similar emotional gut spontaneous DNA-like reactions to present day situations that have nothing to do with the past.

Therefore any decision regarding the Patriot Act must take potential unnecessary unreal haunting ties like that into account and make wise rules based on clear unemotional thinking that's rooted in present day reality and not in a Revolutionary War reality when our freedom/liberty were truly up for grabs.
Johnny Warbucks (Atlanta, GA)
Or, in the alternative, rules that are based on the donations made to the politicians by the corporate entities that benefit most from these ill-fated crusades.
DonS (Sterling, MA)
Can anyone who truly feels the provisions of the Patriot Act are infringing on their civil liberties actually name one individual whom they know has been injured or unjustly accused in the 14 years since this act was initiated? I know I can't; can any of you?
Bruce Olson (Houston)
The article states: "Legislation that has wide support from both parties would ...take the government out of the business of bulk collection of telephone and Internet data..., leaving that information in the hands of telecommunications companies instead.

I find it both amusing and appalling to learn that our legislators who supposedly represent We the People would transfer this kind of responsibility they say is important to the National Security of We the People from our government, sworn to defend and protect us and give it to global telecommunications companies sworn by its their charters to do nothing but make profits.

Verizon is in bed with British multinational Vodaphone.
Sprint is owned by Softbank of Japan (70% as of 3 years ago.)
T-Mobile USA is German.

As far as I am concerned, color this lame brained idea dangerously stupid.

Or, follow the money.

It must have come from the Telco lobby in the form of political donations. That counts more then votes these days. If We the People would wake up and elect politicians that believed in and made government better serve We the People instead of calling it the problem it would certainly help.

Meanwhile, I would not be surprised if the telecoms are greedily figuring out how to slice, dice and outsource their data banks to the highest bidder in the tradition of our financial companies and our mortgages less than a decade ago. China and ISIS might be interested. And who would know? Only the telecoms until ???
Forrest Chisman (Stevensville, MD)
People don't have "complicated feelings" about freedom and security; the Pew Center asks silly questions. What does it mean that the government hasn't "gone far enough" to protect us? I haven't a clue how to answer that one, and I suspect most people don't.
Eric Glen (Hopkinton NH)
Please note today's story about TSA's 95% failure rate. Also note, before the Boston Marathon bombing the FBI received warnings from Russia about the terrorists and took no action. Our government is harassing and spying on innocent hard working Americans at our airports and during their phone conversations and is providing virtually no increased security. The Obama administration wants to continue to collect our information and can point to no instances where it has been used to thwart an attack. Those who give up liberty for security will enjoy neither.
DSS (Ottawa)
Surveillance programs just make us feel safer, like airport security, etc. My worry is not about privacy, which we lost long ago, but the miss use of data for political or anti-social purposes. I am more worried about an adversary digging into my closet or my kids closet for dirt, than a government official checking my phone calls. What ever happened to warrants?
Tess Harding (The New York Globe)
I'm disgusted by the way Rand Paul made seeks to recklessly sacrifices national security in favor of is political ambitions.
annenigma (montana)
It was not We the People who over-reacted to 9/11 and begged for our freedoms to be curtailed and our Bill of Rights to be torn into shreds. It was the Titans of Wall Street, the only people who matter to D.C. They feared for their wealth and saw a golden opportunity to cash in on a crisis they helped create conditions for. Typical 'Disaster Capitalism' coming home to roost.

It's the same reason the Occupy movement was infiltrated, marginalized, and cracked down. They feared Wall Street being fingered as the culprit for creating the economic meltdown and most other messes in this country. The Powers That Be had to send a message that no one should rock the corporate boats or the great ship of the corporate state sailing the 7 seas to perpetual war and ruin. Terrorism was even redefined terrorism to include businesses 'feeling' threatened. Poor babies.

It's the same reason our Constitution is in shreds and our elections are auctions to the highest bidder -'NATIONAL $ECURITY'. Democracy itself is too risky a proposition and an impediment to preserving, protecting, and defending the wealth of the plutocracy. Corporate people need TLC.

The bottom line is that fear and subservience to the corporate state is their ticket to success. Since corporate media runs the show, it's showtime all the time, 'folks'. Just don't pay any mind to the men behind the curtain. *They hate us for our freedom*
Bob Dobbs (Santa Cruz, CA)
You get the argument from software tycoons and mavens that there's really no privacy possible anymore, so why worry?

Then try asking them for their personal email address or cell number.
NorthernVirginia (Falls Church, Va)
Living inside the Capital Beltway, we have always understood that we would have a less-than 30-minute warning before everything within 15 miles of the Capitol dome was consumed in a nuclear fireball from a 20 megaton Russian/Chinese warhead. Viewed in that light, it is hard to get excited about the temporary disturbance that some bogeyman (sorry, "lone wolf") might cause.

That is not to say that I believe that the data collection under the crassly-named Patriot Act ever stopped any terrorists, lone wolves, or other fauna.
Matthew Rettig (Cornwall, NY)
Seems to me there is a balance to be struck here, and smart and honest law enforcement and civil-liberty types could get together and work out a strong regime which would address everyone's concerns. The problem is that the rules are being written by grandstanding, moronic politicians whose only motivation is success in their next elections. Let the career experts who know about this stuff hammer it out, and get buffoons like Rand Paul out of the way.
Johnny Warbucks (Atlanta, GA)
Success in their next elections, you say? I thought it was all about the dough being funneled into their pockets by the corporate entities that benefit most from all the quagmires they manufacture.
Tom (Pennsylvania)
Use the RICO statutes of the 70's. Far more intrusive than the Patriot Act.
Katheryn O'Neil (New England)
4/15/13: In a Boston hospital post-op when bomb went off. I could not have moved to save my own life, while everyone that had been dealing with me, readied for incoming and were also worried about people they knew. It changes one’s perspective.
K Henderson (NYC)
But? The Boston event was not uncovered by the govt using surveillance so what is your point? You seem to arguing from a point of view coming out of anxiety and fear. I was 10 blocks away from 9-11 and it might as well have been a combat zone: many more dead than Boston and the aftermath lasted for days. Really bad things happen to good people every single day somewhere. You have to move on because life is for the living. Or you can keep worrying about what "might happen" to you next. That is your choice and you seem to choose to worry about a million random hypotheticals. The USA govt cannot protect you from a million hypothetical events.
RPB (<br/>)
Since the 9/11 event, it is self-evident of the inefficiencies within the so called HomeLand Security apparatus. From 9/11 until the recent Boston Marathon bombing proved how information is handled poorly still. Furthermore, the use of video game warfare of drones as a controlling mechanism is false for Al Qaeda, ISIS, etc...
So to continue restricting civil liberties with domestic surveillance only perpetuates fear in the population. What is coddled is the ineptitude of the US gov't.
bnc (Lowell, Ma)
"Hey, sen, I've got $10,000 for your campaign if...",

Bug the phones between the Capitol and K Street.
elmueador (New York City)
Dear NYTimes, can we please get a version where everything Dick or Liz Cheney say is ignored?
Ben S. (New York Area)
I was in New York on 9/11. My father was about a block from the Towers when the second plane hit. He survived but was greatly traumatized. I have a personal, visceral understanding of what terrorism means. And I think that the Patriot Act, and especially the bulk collection of metadata that it has been used to justify, is dangerous and despicable.

To understand why the collection of metadata is worrisome, it helps to understand just how metadata can be used. Say you had a friend who is married. You see on Facebook that he has contacted his other friend's wife 30 times in the last month. Sometimes he's contacting her from work, sometimes from home. Often it's several times per day. He's also been calling her, often around midnight, from his office phone. She's been texting, calling, and messaging him with similar frequency. Do you really need to read the messages to know what's going on? All you've seen is metadata. This is what the NSA sees too, but more of it, and with more sophistication. And they do this for every person in the United States.

Governments are not benign entities. And even good people, if they feel it necessary, will bend or break the rules. Better not to give them the capability in the first place.
Tom (Pennsylvania)
Sorry for your Dad's trauma, but your emotional plea is in no way based on solid knowledge and qualification to speak on this issue.
theod (tucson)
J. Edgar Hoover proved a long time ago that blackmail is semi-official government policy. There is a lot of it. It is merely getting better. Just think what certain people know about Hastert, Clarence Thomas, Lindsay Graham, David Vitter, et alia.
Ben S. (New York Area)
Thanks for the comment. Many times, when people speak about terrorism, they accuse those who oppose strong domestic intelligence capabilities of speaking from ignorance. Specifically, they say that we're ignorant about the consequences of terrorism---that if we only knew how horrifying terrorism really is, how dangerous the world really is, we'd agree with them. My point in the first paragraph was that I know exactly how awful terrorism is. I've lived its consequences.

As for why the collection of metadata is dangerous, it's because metadata reveals a great deal about its subject. That was the point of the second paragraph: the reader can tell that the people are having an affair without knowing anything about the content of their messages.

Our government has shown many times that it is not to be trusted with the intimate details of its citizens lives. It showed this when it spied on Martin Luther King, Jr. and other peace activists in the '60's. It showed this when it did something similar after 9/11, conducting drag-net surveillance of Muslim charities, peace activists, and others.

Put simply, the NSA's collection of metadata allows the government intimate knowledge of its citizens lives, including (especially) their connections to each other. That, in turn, makes having an unpopular opinion, or worse, acting on it, even in a legal manner, more dangerous. That's pernicious in a democracy.
Mungai Mwangi (Kenya)
Security is very important to US citizens but don't allow the government to go very far and violate the individuals freedom. As earlier stated freedom and democracy are two inseparable Siamese twins that should be protected at all costs.
DCBarrister (Washington, DC)
How many more times will Edward Snowden be completely vindicated before it is all said and done?

I've lost count.
Richard F. Kessler (Sarasota FL)
Every hour, taxpayers in the United States are paying
$6.74 million for Homeland Security since 9/11. Since 9-11, approximately $625 million has been spent. How come no one asks what are we getting for our money. There are not two issues only, namely security versus civil liberties. There is the third issue of cost effectiveness. All the spying on ourselves did not spare us the Boston Marathon atrocity or various acts of homegrown terrorists. Homeland security is a big ticket item for many folks in the public and private sectors who have a vested interest in making sure w remain scared of our own shadow. Jumping on the security bandwagon is like catnip for politicians. Has anyone dared to say we may be paying too much and getting too little.

Katheryn O'Neil (New England)
We’re alive.
DCBarrister (Washington, DC)
But our freedoms as Americans are on life support.
Hobson's choice?
james thompson (houston,texas)
The "Patriot Act" should have been given another name.
America does not use Soviet style boosteristic language
as names for laws. The implication of the name of the act
is that if you oppose it, you are not patriotic.
theod (tucson)
And can we also repeal the awful, fascistic word 'Homeland' while we are at it? It is very jarring to hear, even after 13+ years.
RM (Winnipeg Canada)
And how about the weird adoption of the term "Homeland," which sounds like something from a speech by Joseph Goebbels? In fact, the word appears 17 times in his Christmas 1941 speech:
Joe (New York)
Oh, nonsense. The counterterrorism infrastructure has not become "firmly embedded in American society". What has become embedded in our society is, apparently, an inability to have an intelligent conversation about the infrastructure that was built without the knowledge of the American people. What has become embedded is an unwillingness to include facts in that conversation. What has become embedded is the surrender by cowardly lawmakers to the usefulness of the politics of fear, allowing them to pretend they are protecting us by taking away our freedom. Real protection requires far more difficult decisions, politically, than just telling people to be afraid of the latest monster. What has also become embedded is the surrender by the mainstream news media to the commercial usefulness of the war on terror. When people are afraid, they keep reading and watching and, thereby, digesting corporate advertising.
Fear has become an embedded commodity in American corporate and political society. If you don't sell it, you lose. Even President Obama has decided to get up in front of the microphone and cynically impersonate Dick Cheney. I'm surprised he hasn't re-instated the color-coded terror alert system.
Jill Abbott (Atlanta)
Please, sir, tell us lesser beings what freedom has been taken away.
Randy Brawley (San Leandro)
I wonder. If the counterterrorism "infrastructure" isn't embedded, what is? Here is a little piece I wrote to get people started thinking about this very thing.
The counterterrorism "infrastructure" amounts to $40B+ of bloated waste. Senator Coburn wrote about it and FEMA (DHS) has been denied by Congress five times now in trying to reform the $2 billion/year ($40 billion and counting) Homeland Security Grant Program. The Congressional testimony reads like the current NSA debate. The boogie man (a.k.a. terrorists) are coming and if we don't throw everything at it or we face an existential threat.
Like the current debate over NSA bulk collection, there is no accountability and nobody actually producing evidence that these programs are actually increasing security. I argue that whether it is ISIS (doubtful) a criminal (more likely) or a government (pretty likely) collecting on me, I am less secure as a U.S. citizen.
I agree with you about us defaulting to fear-based decisions. But I must disagree, because only Congress has the power to remove funding for the counterterrorism "infrastructure." That does not seem likely, regardless if anyone can show it is actually making us more secure. Cheers.
Marsha (Arizona)
This headline makes it sound as if "lawmakers" are now forced to have this debate about risks versus liberty....didn't they do that when the law was first passed? What a novel idea? I believe liberty wins out every time.

The thing the media is ignoring is the proof that these spying-on-We-the-People programs don't work. All they do is generate the need for a big building in the middle of nowhere where these records will sit, untouched, because nobody knows what do do with the stuff. What a joke. What a waste of our money. Just keep America scared and the corporations rich.
Turgut Dincer (Chicago)
I am almost sure listening to the phone conversations was done by Nazi Germany and by Soviet Union and other totalitarian regimes. Are we in the same basket now?
Samuel Markes (New York)
The very name of this legislation is an offense to truth. There is nothing patriotic about ungoverned spying. The Department of Homeland Security is in a similar vein. I'm sure that these agencies and the people that work within them are good, decent and dedicated public servants. The names are terrifying in their blatant application of jingoistic deception. DHS was intended to coordinate the efforts of all the agencies that already existed and fulfilled their duties of protection America and her interests. Now it's become a thing unto itself. Dictatorships are borne of such things - they come wrapped in flags and speaking words of strength and protection, but in the end, they're all the same - and that's not what a "patriotic" America is about.
anthony weishar (Fairview Park, OH)
Has anyone looked at the functionality of the data collection? I'm not talking about the result; I'm talking about the analytical process that comes with the data. Do we actually have the capability to properly analyze that volume of data? Do we have enough agents at NSA to read, listen, or watch this huge volume? After 9/11 we had a serious shortage of interpreters, especially in Farsi. So, how much of this data are we able to really use? The shotgun approach to collection is not working. Show us a cost benefit analysis that says this is worth the expense and the waste of computer storage space.
ktg (oregon)
so many better ways to make the U.S. not a target without all the security. If we tried to help other countries in the world instead of trying to rule over them through politics and finance and even going to war with them (mind you only countries that we can profit from, ignore the rest) we could become a helper rather than a target.
Even as the world is today I would much rather see a more open country with way less "national security" we have more people die in this country killed by their own countrymen every year than "terrorists"will ever take. I would rather take a risk that I might be killed bysome terrorist act than all thesecurity stuff in place right now.
I think that the expression "freedom is not free" entails every American citizen, you have to be willling to live with the risk of death or injury in order to truly have a free country. When we use that statement only for our troops we are really showing our cowardly side.
It's all for show without much substance when it turns out that 90 % of guns and explosives made it through TSA checkpoints in a recent test of airport security. Why risk our liberty for this illusion of security? It just doesn't pass the smell test.
Oliver Graham (Boston)
If we could see the total bill for what all this "security" is costing us that might be helpful. Strikes me there's a huge amount of waste/pork here.
theod (tucson)
As some proof of that, DC-Metro had a sterling increase in job production and rising average income during the whole span of the most recent Great Recession. It may have been the best regional results for the whole nation. The sound you hear is that of the National Security State feeding at the trough.
Christine McMorrow (Waltham, MA)
Yes, people have conflicted thoughts on this issue. However, as was said in many ways, shapes, and forms, through presentation of surveys, Americans hold highly contradictory thoughts within the same response.

In essence, like on so many things (healthcare, the role of government etc.), Americans want to have it both ways: they say they want a totally free society yet they also say they want to be safe.

But to have one, there are inevitable compromises on the other. Achieving the correct balance between some forms of monitoring that forestall preventable attacks while preserving the essential liberties of citizens is not easy. Government will always lurch from one extreme to the other until it finds a middle ground that works.

Right now, we're sort of caught betwixt and between. Just this morning I heard that we've had 2 weeks of bomb threats on US airliners. Lone wolf? ISIS recruited terrorist? Who knows--but if we let down our guard, those most in favor of total freedom will be the first to scream over government ineptitude if the tragic occurs.

We simply can't make two opposing forces mesh in a way that makes everyone happy.
I don't care either way if we keep or dismantle the NSA collection. I'm not concerned about some man behind the green curtain sipping his coffee while reviewing the numbers I called the night before.

However, I do believe there are merits to the collection pre-attack and post-attack. Regardless, the public should demand better analytical outcomes from the intelligence and security agencies. Analysis and critical thinking have atrophied to a deplorable level.
theod (tucson)
You might care about mega-data-collection more if you were a politician or gov't official being blackmailed by the national security state into doing their bidding. J. Edgar Hoover proved a long time ago that blackmail is semi-official government policy. Do you think the practice died with him?
SuperNaut (The Wezt)
I think the most astonishing thing is that there are still people on these very comment pages who think that the NSA's bulk collection of data and the removal of their shoes at the airport kept them safe.
Edward Perrow (Lilburn, GA)
The problem is not counter terrorism programs permitted by the court. The problem is when these programs do not get public scrutiny before implementation. I prefer open discussion in Congress of the concepts before a program is authorized. I see two problems; the lack of trust of politicians, defense contractors and the national security agencies and individuals and organizations expanding programs beyond the boundaries. There must be severe consequence for individuals involved in such activities.
Much of the discussion about domestic surveillance seems to rely on the emotion of the 911 event. Setting aside the personal fears and concerns of the many published supporters and opponents let's go back to the 1960s and 70s. Following the Church Commission and Watergate, we largely dismantled the human intelligence capabilities of this country and placed undue faith in electronic collection. A typical over-reaction to a very bad period in American history, the surveillance of Dr. King, anti-war protesters and even putting agents in churches suspected of supporting members of the military opposed to the Vet Nam war. Those knee jerk reactions helped provide America's attackers with the opportunity to attack on 911. Fast forward to current times and the fear of similar actions by the national security. We must create a program that provides for a balance of intelligence collection activities while paying more than lip service to American's civil liberties.
art josephs (houston, tx)
It will only take one dramatic terrorist attack on the USA to bring back meta data collection and more. There will be very few Senate and House members who are holdouts. That is reality, whether one agrees with it or not. Outside forces, ISIS and others, will drive this debate by their actions.
Johnny Warbucks (Atlanta, GA)
Whatever gives you the idea that the collection of mega data will go away? It will simply be completely handed over to corporations who will operate rogue from within the government with our money for their sole profit. Once the USG institutes something, it never goes back. Unless that something actually is for the benefit of the people not the ruling rich. But that's a story for another day.
Jim in Tucson (Tucson)
By its nature, defense is reactionary--you defend for a repeat of the last attack. There is no way that kind response can truly protect American citizens from whatever shows up on the horizon. In the meantime, the civil liberties we've lost will never be regained. It's the cost of an open democracy, and that's supposed to be what the United States stands for.
NoLawyers (CT)
But if we all got off our butts, those lost liberties could in fact, be regained. We have become too comfortable with giving others control of what in fact, should be our individual responsibilities.
Winemaster2 (GA)
With all said and done America has become its own worst enemy. For what ever its is worth, 9/11 need never would have happened if it was not for Reagan fisrt courting bin Laden as his favorite freedom fighter in that other US proxy war ib Afghanistan. Then after after the Soviets withdrew in good sense, and the dust settled, Reagan and his conservative republican cohorts as it has always been the republican modus operandi reneged all promises to the then ally and thus creating enemy #ONE. There after the Bush/ Cheney fraud war on Iraq using falsified and manufactured evidence so that Bush / Cheney could be a war time administration , the propaganda of terror hype, fomentation of hate, fear and republication so called concocted patriotism to control hearts and mind of a misled and gullible nation took care the rest., and Islamic radicals, militants, insurgents started sprouting like mushrooms and we are a nation ideologically divided, polarized, our own worst enemy and on a fast track of self destruction from within.
Don (USA)
It becomes more meaningful when you personalize it.

How many Americans would trust giving President Obama unlimited power to fight terrorism?

Edward Snowden gave us the answer.
magicisnotreal (earth)
Now if only he hadn't handed it all over to foreign governments.
NoLawyers (CT)
Not sure that's so.
The president, himself, repudiated the Patriot Act before he took responsibility for its execution. Now, one author of the Act, Sensenbrenner, repudiates the tactics being used to execute it.

So what is going on?? It sounds as though things have gone awry, and, as usual, no one is minding the shop. This seems like a clear case of poor oversight.
DCBarrister (Washington, DC)
What's going on?
Barack Obama is a sociopath, obsessed with self-glorification and was willing to look the American people in the eye in 2008 and lie so he could become the celebrity he never could be any other way.
The politicians who are responsible for wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on useless unconstitutional domestic surveillance should be held accountable. The money could be used much more productively to help keep our country secure.
And all forms of unconstitutional surveillance should be ended, not just phone data collection.
Howie Lisnoff (Massachusetts)
These surveillance laws are meant to restrict citizens' civil liberties. The so-called Patriot Act did not stop the Marathon bombers or other threats to public safety.
rowlandw (North Shore, MA)
Those that worry about the NSA throw their data and privacy out to big corporations (Google, Amazon, FB, etc). Also, why should I worry about the gov't when its other security arm, the TSA, is revealed to be a bunch of stumble-bums, and after trying to order ACA healthcare vs ordering anything on Amazon?

You know that whatever Congress legislates, the NSA has all the low-hanging fruit it needs through backdoors into the above mentioned corporations.

dmh8620 (NC)
The PATRIOT Act and the enormity of the convoluted Department of Homeland Security are symptomatic of the near paranoia that the U.S. experienced in the wake of 9/11. (As Oscaar Wilde said, though, even paranoids have enemies.) There's an internet story at the moment that the FBI has set up a network of shell companies flying small surveillance aircraft equipped, among other things, with collecting metadata from cell phones; unless thiings change, it's only a matter of time until these aircraft are replaced/augmented with drones. Cill the USA Patriot Act condone this --- indeed, does it comply with the PATRIOT Act itself? Maybe Rand Paul is Russ Reingold's reincarnation?
Babeouf (Ireland)
Look i'm English and am aware of the pro's and cons of a written Constitution. So either stick with your written Constitution or scrap it. But stop doing the latter while claiming to be doing the former. Rand Paul was certainly right , you seem to be surrendering your freedoms without a struggle. I guess Wall Street decided they were an impediment to profit( referred to as Progress). Have a nice day.
Gretchen King (midwest)
I'm going to keep making the same comment because I believe it's important enough to keep making. This is not an either/or fight. It is a fight to find a balance between freedom and security. Life is rarely black and white, at least for adults. The grey areas or balance is extremely important to moving forward in debate and in life in general.
magicisnotreal (earth)
@Gretchen King,
You are dead wrong. It is an either we are Free or we are not equation. You neglect to address or think about the reasonable well proven Police practices that would do more to help us and may have prevented the Boston Bombings if the Government was not focused on being "innovative" driven by paranoia and otherwise trying to pretend the past has nothing to offer us while the mostly anonymous people using our given authority grab away our power to control them and our destiny as much as they think they can get away with.
There are no "risks" to weigh.
NSA domestic espionage does not reduce terror risks. NSA domestic espionage does not make the US safer.
NSA domestic espionage serves only one purpose: to enrich and empower the criminal thugs who run the NSA.
magicisnotreal (earth)
I would suggest that it also creates and motivates homegrown terrorists by providing a known real version of the criminal government Timothy McVeigh imagined he was attacking in OkC.
bayboat65 (jersey shore)
If I'm not suspected of committing a crime, why is my phone data being gathered and shared by the NSA/FBI/CIA/local police?
Go Rand!
Katheryn O'Neil (New England)
“Despite the Boston…, Americans feel less scared of terrorism at home than,…"
And that’s because we are safer, due to heightened intelligence/invasiveness no one likes. The truth is, we have 2get over ourselves, while welcoming all of reality at the same time. What do we think is more sacred than life itself?
What r any of us doing that hasn’t been done or said or thought of before? I don’t think 2much. The downside 2living today is that the wrong people have access 2us. The upside is that we have many ways 2B protected. We cannot do it for ourselves. Perhaps one has 2have a basic philosophy that there are bazillions of forces much greater than ourselves. I can see the correlation between “there are no gods” and “we don’t need any help” and “we have a right to everything that abounds… “
Could everyone who believes we want protection, move to one side of the planet while those who don’t, slide on over to the other?
I would think our founding fathers would want us 2adapt 2the times just as they did when they wrote the Constitution. They weren’t writing it 4 a world 100 or 200 years prior, they were writing for current conditions.
I’d rather know that we are doing everything we can to insure every child’s safety, every elderly person’s safety, every disabled person’s safety, every animal’s safety than not.
Those of us who are fortunate enough 2b completely mobile must think of those who r not & those who r completely helpless 2move even an inch 2save their own life/lives.
RXFXWORLD (Wanganui, New Zealand)
If you would care to read the Federalist Papers where Madison, Hamilton et al debated the issues you mention, you'd find they were concerned about a central government that might become too powerful and thereby become a tyranny. The founders believed that liberty (from central governmental tyranny which they had experienced thanks to George III) was more precious than life. Hence in the writing and more importantly the signing of the Declaration of independence they pledged "our(their) lives, owr (their) fortunes and our (their) sacred honor." I doubt seriously whether many Americans, particularly the fearful ones you are describing, would be willing to so pledge and so act, today. Russ Feingold was one.And he was alone. Edward Snowden is another.
Katheryn O'Neil (New England)
Are you Edward Snowden?
RXFXWORLD (Wanganui, New Zealand)
I wish that at his age I'd had his courage. Kindly remember what Benjamin Franklin, another of our Founding Fathers said about the balance between liberty and safety. He that values safety above liberty deserves neither.
magicisnotreal (earth)
You cannot kill freedom a little bit to “save” it. Nothing has “changed” the world and human nature is the same as it always was. Anyone delusional enough not to know that should not be in authority, anywhere.
Just like you cannot be a ”little pregnant” you cannot violate these rules & principles a little bit. You either believe in, respect & follow them or you do not.

“And the counterterrorism infrastructure built in recent years has become firmly embedded in American society.”
To the NYT; is this a reference to building of physical assets or it is a metaphor for the infiltration of our government by these un-American people who did this secretly in collusion with W for 5 years until they were exposed and then somehow knobbled Congress to authorise it from that point til now?
Johndrake07 (NYC)
When Obama was asked about NSA spying on Americans, his TV media response was carefully structured with carefully chosen words.
He said, paraphrasing a bit, that "If you're a U.S. Person, you don't have to worry about being spied upon."
An odd turn of phrase, stilted, but telling, regardless. A quick look up in the United States Code, known as the USC, that includes, among other things, the Tax Code, the Healthcare Act, etc - one will find the curious definition of a U.S. Person that is used throughout the ENTIRE US Code.
USC :Title 26 - Subtitle F - Procedure and Administration - Chapter 79 - Definitions - 26 USC § 7701 - Definitions:
(30) United States person: The term “United States person” means:
(A) a citizen or resident of the United States…
Ah! Then…
(9) United States: The term “United States”…includes ONLY the States and the District of Columbia…
Hmmm! Okay…but…
(10) State: The term “State” shall be construed to include the District of Columbia…
…and ANY possession of the United States…which includes the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa…
That's it? That's the US?

Yep. Obama was right: if you fit the above definitions, chances are you're a politician or a government worker living in those defined locations - and yes, you are not going to be spied upon. That's why the politicians don't really care about NSA spying.
It doesn't affect them - so there's NO RISK.

But the rest of us aren't US persons, and we are fair game.
magicisnotreal (earth)
Johndrake07, You have parsed what you attribute to POTUS incorrectly.
His odd wording as you recount it strike me as an effort to not say something, not a clever way of saying something while obscuring it since your parsing of the words you attribute to him is not even correct.
Dave H (NY)
Yikes! I agree with the Cheyneys on something. Because of the sneaky tactics terrorists use and their focus on harming innocent people, we clearly need the protections of the Patriot Act. I have nothing to hide. My life is an open book. I don't get all lathered up if the Government overheard me inviting Aunt Maud to dinner. But, 9/11, the Boston bombing, etc. need maximum effort towards preventing their repetition.
DCBarrister (Washington, DC)
My life is also an open book Dave.
But it's my book, and as a law abiding African American man I have the constitutionally protected right to keep that book under lock and key.
magicisnotreal (earth)
Dave H,
Such ignorance is mind blowing. Having entirely missed the fact that for 14 years it has done absolutely nothing for us but destroy the Trust necessary for a Democratic Republic to function you offer yourself up in an ignorant belief that there is nothing in the pattern of your communications that can be used to manipulate, blackmail or otherwise harm you.
Would those sneaky tactics include claiming that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction poised to devastate the world? Or, hiring your buddies at Haliburton to run the war effort? Etc etc etc
Edward Manring (Westlake, OH)
In framing the Fourth Amendment, the founders of our nation had no idea of how dangerous 21st Century terrorism can be. The Amendment states that we, Americans must be free of "unreasonable" searches. I would posit that the NSA metadata collection and storage is not "unreasonable" in the light of the dangers involved. I think we need to preserve the NSA procedures for our own safety.
jrd (NY)
Why is it that this kind of reporting gives ample voice to uninformed partisans -- Liz Cheney, national security expert? -- but never examines their claims?

Do proponents exaggerate the effectiveness of these programs? Have government officials lied about their effectiveness? Have these programs been abused? Would we have any way of knowing if they *had* been abused?

Or are these programs, which fund enormous for-profit industries and offer top secret clearances to hundreds of thousands of privately employed individuals, so secret we're not supposed to even know they exist, much whether they achieve anything valuable?

You'll never know, reading political accounts of this "debate", in which only one side is heard.
Don (USA)
Has anyone ever seen a Democracy run by terrorists or even a country that sponsors terrorism with a free Democratic government?

We are proposing giving up our freedom to protect us from terrorism. If we do the terrorists win without ever firing a shot.
DSS (Ottawa)
This is exactly what Ben Laden intended; live in fear and mistrust your neighbor, and continue the fight against an enemy we can't see which will eventually bankrupt us.
Number23 (New York)
I think it was the other day, on the Daily Show, that I heard a sound bite from one of the defenders of excessive surveillance. He actually said that if the provisions of the Patriot Act were in effect on 9/11, the attacks would have been prevented.
That's a classic example of a fact being used to perpetuate a lie. What he didn't say was that given the precautions and changes we enacted since 9/11, the same attack would have been thwarted if the Patriot Act was never even dreamed of. Off the top of my head I can think of multiple things that would have made the difference: No fly lists, coordination between internal and external law enforcement groups, TSA procedures, a president that heeds warnings of attacks and a defense adviser with international knowledge beyond the cold war.
Bulk collection of metadata -- not necessary.
magicisnotreal (earth)
I fail to comprehend your post. I really do not follow the reasoning.
The FBI forced the man who knew and tried to get them to pay attention to quit. There is also an ambassador to Yemen who interceded for Bin Laden and prevented that same FBI man from interrogating him in the late 90's.
I know it is hard to believe and even harder to distinguish them, but some FBI personnel (and other federal employees) are actually good at what they do as well as honest and working for Us as opposed to themselves.
Ray (Texas)
Maybe Senator Clinton will share her opinions on this one day. That is, if she ever conducts a legitimate press conference, as opposed to the staged photo-ops we've seen from her.
John W Lusk (Danbury, Ct)
You mean like the staged photo ops G W Bush held where he knew ahead of time what questions were going to be asked. The "journalists" were given a list of questions they could ask. If they asked something else they were banned fro future ops.
DSS (Ottawa)
I hear this so many times it's sickening. It should be obvious that an interview will be a free attack add for the Republicans. Why subject yourself to such abuse so early in the campaign. There will be plenty of time for interviews later.
HL (Arizona)
No new taxes and a balanced budget means we have to reduce spending. That means less security apparatus and less defense along with cutting SS and Medicare and unemployment benefits.

There are some Republican principles that actually have merit even though there are few Republicans who actually stand up for their principles.
Alcibiades (Oregon)
Instead of "cutting medicare", why not spend a little less on defending Germany, japan, Israel...?
rm (Burleson, TX)
If George Washington, or Abe Lincoln or F.D.R. had had this ability, that is, to know which address wrote to which address during their times of war, each of them would have done it in a second.

If I were charged with keeping you all safe I'd want this. Period.
I don't like it, and question how efficiently it's being done, but I understand how it's useful. This method of data collection is already in practice EVERY DAY when it comes to license plates, but nobody seems to mind that !!

Though rogue individuals within certain security services have spied on ex-lovers, and though the USG has been known act incorrectly by prosecuting the innocent, I still don't have a problem with the NSA keeping a record of which telephone number talked to which telephone number for five years.

This provision allows the USG to retain records of whom is in direct communication with whom, should one of them be involved in terrorism at a future date, we would be able to track that network.

If they want to really spy on you, they don't need this to do it
magicisnotreal (earth)
"If George Washington, or Abe Lincoln or F.D.R. had had this ability, that is, to know which address wrote to which address during their times of war, each of them would have done it in a second."
That is as may be but they would also have stopped it more than a decade ago once they realised it was not providing anything but a drain on the budget.
For 14 years it has provided us with absolutely ZERO assistance in preventing an attack or capturing a terrorist.
What it has given us is destruction of the Trust necessary for the government of a Democratic Republic to function.
Johnny Warbucks (Atlanta, GA)
Thank Ford you are not in charge!
Joseph Huben (Upstate NY)
The Bush Administration terrorized the country into War in Iraq with threats of WMD, a mushroom cloud, anthrax, Al Qaeda, and involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Orange alert! Red alert! Torture! The traditions of America were trashed. The Bush response to the terrorist attacks was to terrorize Americans.
Terrorized Americans were made to take off our shoes, stand in long lines, be X-rayed and searched, and have our email accounts and phone calls monitored. Our civil liberties are governed by the level of fear politicians can sustain.
Homeland Security and the Patriot Act ring of fascist jingoism. Crimes against foreign captives and murder by drone are ordinary.
Imagine what President Gore may have done. Maybe arrested the Bin Laden family members here in America; declare ground Zero a crime scene and conduct a forensic examination of the sites; sever our relations with Saudi Arabia et al, seize the assets of all Sunni Princes who supported and funded Al Qaeda; create a worldwide infrastructure to address global warming; end fossil fuel addiction and dependence on middle eastern monarchs by treating the development of renewable energy as a national security priority? If Gore were President 9/11 may not have occurred at all. Gore may have heeded Richard Clarke's warning and prevented 9/11.
Restore our traditions. Arrest our enemies foreign and domestic. Stop frightening our citizens. End domestic surveillance. Welcome Snowden home.
RXFXWORLD (Wanganui, New Zealand)
Don't forget that W became president due to a 5-4 vote of the Supreme Court, a vote Justice Stevens argued was a stain on the Court. It was a stain on all of us and it culminates in Citizens United where we surrender the rights of all of us to the corporate few.
Tone (NY)
The collection isn't working anyway. Time and again, terrorists strike in the US during the most watched and recorded period of our history. And strike even though these terrorists are known - that goes to the collector's competence.

Simply, the collection of this amount of data, on everybody, at all times, is nothing more than another facet of complete, totalitarian control, and the foundation of a police state. The data may not be used, but the psychology of common knowledge that we are being watched is devastating. And we become sheeple.

As a former IT specialist I can state categorically administrators with access to corporate email and data liberally make use of that power by reading what they like. It's human nature. Right now there's an NSA hack leering over playful sexts or pictures sent between couples. Maybe you and your souse.

Why is this even being debated. Get Rid Of IT!
Henry (New York)
To all the Liberals posting here : If another mega Terrorist Attack were to occur in America.... What would you say to the People afffected and their Families ?? ...
John W Lusk (Danbury, Ct)
There is nothing right now that can stop a number of terrorists from entering any number of airports in this country with explosive devices and causing massive casualties. To believe that monitoring telephone and e-mail will stop it is naive in the extreme. The terrorists don't need to fly into this country just walk into any airport
justdoit (NJ)
WTC 2753 civilians vs Iraq/Afghanistan 6233 US troops

Pick your poison.
Scollay Square (Boston)
Henry, why do you make the curious assumption that it is "Liberals" who oppose the Patriot Act's evisceration of so many of our constitutional protections? Quite the opposite-- it is true conservative (those who believe in preserving and conserving the founding principles of this nation) who want to roll back the overreaching tentacles of the Patriot Act.

I don't care what your ideology is, but please don't make the absurd claim that those who oppose discarding of our most basic constitutional protections in favor of a perception of greater security deserve the misplaced sobriquet "Liberal". Just ask the junior Senator from Kentucky if you don't believe me.
Nick Metrowsky (Longmont, Colorado)
Almost 14 years after 9/11 and what have we accomplished? Two failed wars, the rise of ISIS, the rise of the TSA, US government trampling on civil rights, arming the police so they are a paramilitary group and politicians who almost daily show their fear of a terrorist threat.

All the Patriot Act has done has made a strong nation; weak. All it also has done is say that the government does not trust its own citizens. Of course, more and more people do not trust the government, their representatives or their leaders.

If the US government had the same coward mentality, after Pearl Harbor, we'd be either in the Japanese Empire or the German Axis. Pretty sad commentary on the past 14 years.
johnw (pa)
Today we read, "Homeland Security ...tests found that airport screeners allowed mock explosives and weapons through security checkpoints 95% of the time". . Past tests have shown similar dismal results.

If i remember correctly, the media reported that the planned 9/11 attack was highlighted information to George w, Cheney and Rice when they took office. Also all if not most of the attackers were on the top 500 terrorist watch list and came into the USA using their passports.

This level of consistent incompetence at the price we are paying in the loss of our Rights and tax dollars is atrocious.
ejzim (21620)
All you have to do is go through a couple of those "security" lines, at the airport, to realize that the handlers are not really paying much attention. They look bored, and as if they were functioning on auto-pilot. I'm not surprised that they are completely ineffective. Either do it right, or don't do it at all. Stop letting people carry on any luggage. (Any excuse to add people to the payroll, whether they actually do the job or not.)
johnw (pa)
the same can be said for George w, Cheney and Rice ...and most of our elected officials.
jdd (New York, NY)
Curious, if not disturbing, to see my fellow Democrats once again give up their principles so as to defend the actions of this president. Once again "party loyalty" takes precedence over reason. Give credit where credit is due. Thank you, Sen. Paul. At least on this issue we can agree.
jwp-nyc (new york)
Our reaction to 9/11 could not have been dumber, more destructive to our nation and its founding principles, and more reductive of civilized society, pandering to the women hating mullahs.

People respond with fury when ignoring terrorism is suggested either because they are stupid or emotional, or because they have a dog in the fight and are trolling on behalf of those who profit from fear by working in the security or law enforcement industries that have experienced explosive growth under its fascist reign.

But, the truth is that terrorism depends upon the reporting of the press and media on its relatively minor disruption, however gruesome, in order to promote its goal, which is war on the cheap using your enemy's fear and news media. That in a nutshell is terrorism's agenda, and always has been. The best way to combat it requires denial of the broad hype and publicity upon which it depends. I'd rather sacrifice that small portion of discretion under the 'clear and present danger' rationale of Justice Holmes's limiting of the first amendment's reach than throw our whole society under the truck. I'd rather target and profile non-US citizens traveling or living in the U.S. under similar protocols as those used by the Israelis less obtrusively in their air travel, than degrade the quality of freedom and live for all Americans.

We have allowed the fascist fear mongers like Cheney to lie and profit from terrorizing our nation.
jwp-nyc (new york)
A few follow up points:

The head of the TSA just resigned in the face of a finding that in a test 95% of weapons smuggled upon planes got past TSA screeners. Targeted Israeli-methodology is needed, not the long lines and harassment designed to infuriate travelers while protecting nobody.

Cheney is a convicted war criminal. Send him to the Hague and let justice be done.

Shut Gitmo. 8 years late.

The trials we've had against terrorists according to our rules and laws have been several times as successful as military tribunals which are a mess.

Most of the building and corporate security we've allowed to encroach on our day to day life had been parasitic and corrosive to our civil liberties while empowering private corporations and kleptocracies.

The total cost of wars to the U.S. since 2001 is $1,618,311,089,222 and counting as this is written and posted by the times. ( What would one and three quarter billion spent on our roads, rails, airports, schools, research and development, child welfare, medical care facilities, and other civil works have done to stimulate our economic welfare that would have hurt our security compared to a failed war in Iraq, and Afghanistan?

Why won't our congress or senate actually debate where the bulk of our tax dollars go? Too many cops and soldiers. Far more than our founding fathers ever planned, envisioned, or would agree to or endorse today if they were alive to discuss it.
DS (Georgia)
George W. Bush and his cronies stirred up fears of terrorism for political reasons in the wake of 9/11. It helped him justify putting the country on a wartime footing, which helped him win reelection and advance his other political objectives.

We're finally able to see things more clearly and consider national security and liberty issues more sensibly. Thank goodness for that.
kilika (chicago)
Those in control what to remain so. It' up to the public to educate themselves an vote accordingly.
Jacques (New York)
Why is America so frightened of terrorism? What do you think these people could do to you that you're not already doing to yourselves?
Jill Abbott (Atlanta)
Spoken like a man with amnesia.
Jeff Pardun (New Jersey)
I suggest watching the coverage of September 11, 2001 again. You will see what terrorists can do to America what Americans would not and do not do to themselves.
Eleanore Whitaker (NJ)
I don't buy what Rand Paul is selling. Here's why. Compare the security needed by Kentucky to New York City. Is Kentucky remotely as in danger of another 9/11 as NY City? Is Atlanta? Is Dallas?

Yet, you have a host of red state politicians whose states are not ever going to be under threat of a terrorist attack looking for ways to reduce security in the MOST vulnerable area of the country.

Remember when Bush and Cheney decided to close 11 military bases on the East Coast? Some were relocated or new ones built in WY and TX...why? Is WY or TX a major ISIS target? Or, is it that red states these days have honed the fine art of creating businesses they know will be subsidized solely by taxpayers in the form of federal subsidies and tax cuts?

The Patriot Act was highly promoted by the GOP when a GOP president was in office. Now that a GOP president isn't, suddenly the Patriot Act is a violation of rights? Or, is it that the GOP needed to datamine millions of American citizens personal records up to and including thousands of veterans personal records, left on the back seat of a VA employees car in 2007 and then "stolen?"

It's another GOP game all over again. But, they'll call it conspiracy theory if you dare to say what was okee dokee in the Bush administration is suddenly verboten in the Obama administration.

Time for all the Mutton Chops in this country to stop trying to herd the sheep.
ejzim (21620)
You make a good point!
rowlandw (North Shore, MA)
The military-industrial-security behemoth is the great gov't transfer program that the GOP loves. Let everything else go to hell (Amtrak, infrastructure, health insurance, and if possible, social security, medicare and other social goods).
Dan Mabbutt (Utah)
What liberty? What freedom?

There's no question that government snoops were ... and are ... checking your every move but they're not the only ones. Corporate marketing keeps track of every key click. Political strategists poke and prod constantly with their vast databases. Charities (some legit, most not) trade information about you like baseball cards. Social media keep extensive files on you. Why do you think you get such targeted emails from Facebook?

The fact is that privacy went the way of the Dodo bird a long time ago and it's not coming back. To think that tweaking this one law will change anything is like trying to shovel back the tide with a teacup.

Rather than moaning about privacy, let's go for "public and accountable" for EVERYBODY instead. Let's level the field and force the power brokers to be more transparent and stop keeping secrets from us. We might be able to actually do something worthwhile there.

"Public and Accountable" !!!
Henry (New York)
Isn't it odd... that the People who advocate the Right to Privacy... are many of the same People who advocate the Right to Know...
In other words, you do not have a Right to know my Business..but I have a Right to know your Business...
NoLawyers (CT)
To date the IRS has committed more crimes in the US than ISIS. The #1 question is "Can we trust the government?" Maybe that needs some fixing.
MetroJournalist (NY Metro Area)
The IRS? What about Congress, Moody's/S&P/Fitch and the banksters? Try treason, financial terrorism and theft.

Also, some of the most significant acts and intended acts of terrorism in the U.S. were missed by those in charge to "protect us." Think: the Times Square would-be bomber, the guy with the bombs in his sneakers, and the Boston Marathon bombing. It's interesting that travelers on El Al Airlines haven't had to take their shoes off in years, and that since 1976, not one El Al airplane has been attacked.
magicisnotreal (earth)
MetroJournalist, Well if the worlds airlines were allowed to use racism and bigotry as a "tool" to prohibit potential problems from buying tickets or boarding planes they could have similar results too.
A. Taxpayer (Brooklyn NY)
Do they read the content without a warrant or I they only reading and storing the header info: To & From like on conventional may?
magicisnotreal (earth)
I see where you may be going and assure you "just" knowing who you call and when can be used to manipulate you, blackmail you, hurt you in personal relationships, work life, etc.
abie normal (san marino)
"Nearly 14 years later, 77 senators voted to advance a bill ratcheting back its expansive scope."

Or: Nearly fourteen years later, the US Congress, and this newspaper, are finally addressing parts of the bill that flagrantly violate privacy protections spelled out in the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution, in addition to acknowledging that both Congress and this newspaper should have been far more skeptical of anything called the Patriot Act.

Again and again and again the Times refuses to discuss the real issue, daily crimes willfully committed by the government of the United States against the United States people, obfuscation again and again and again, every section of the NY Times. I'm old enough to remember when this was a newspaper.
abie normal (san marino)
Liz Cheney!!

Liz Cheney the Times is using as its terrorism expert!!

I rest my case.
RLW (Chicago)
I always assumed "The Government" had the power to monitor phone calls and every ther form of communication, so I am not terribly worried They are welcome to see whom I call and who calls me. If hey want to listen t our conversations so be it. I worry more about the Crazies out there who might do much more horrific things. Trouble is that they too must know they are being watched/listened to. This is much ado about nothing when the real problems of the world fester along.
art josephs (houston, tx)
Although I believe it is useful, Meta Data collection of phone and internet records will be misused in the future by Political types to use against their foes. Multiple visits to porn sites , too many phone calls to out call sex services, and a pattern of almost daily visits to internet gambling sites, your political foes will know it all sooner or later. They will be aided by like minded bureaucrats within NSA and other similar spy operations.
magicisnotreal (earth)
What makes you think this hasn't been done already? A lot of this metadata is what TPC's keep to be able to bill you.
ejzim (21620)
Not much will change, one way or the other. This is just a lot of baloney to divert our attention from real issues. Once again, congress spending a lot of time and money doing nothing but lining their own pockets.
Rick (LA)
That one Senator who initially voted against the Patriot act was Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, and for his trouble they ran him out of The Senate.

Those who would sacrifice Liberty for Safety deserve neither. -Ben Franklin
TFreePress (New York)
Since there is a clear divide between people who think government data gathering is a good thing, and those of us who think it is an abuse of our constitutional rights, the government should create an opt-in program. Those who want to volunteer their phone, banking, medical, email, travel and other records for daily collection by the government should voluntarily give it up. The government can get warrants for the rest of us.
HC (Mount Prospect)
My concern goes beyond phone records intruding into our social circle of influence. I believe the entity that is controlling this database has pooled the resources. The power of the mind has never been greater. Forget Heisenberg, Eistein and Oppenheimer. The powers that be have harnessed all of the above and then some. Thereby I believe they have come up with a chip that can replace any other chip and include wireless remote control access. Really scary when you have people who feel they have God like abilities like all knowing.
Just my 5cents.
Michael Boyajian (Fishkill)
So let me get this straight, civil liberty advocates trust corporations more than the American government with all that government's checks and balances when it comes to surveillance.
JD (San Francisco)
In a war on terrorism Americans are willing to send young men and women overseas to die in the defense of Liberty.

At the same time ignoring the fact that the "front line" of such a war is fought on every street corner in America. What hypocrites Americans are. We want zero deaths of the front line troops of this war which is every one of us.

Even if 60 percent of American's are willing to trade their liberty for security, being a country build on Constitutional Rights, my 4th amendment rights should not be abridged in any way unless 2/3rds country modify that constitution.

At what point does a citizen have an inalienable right to engage in illegal activity against the government if we start to condone "Majoritarian Tyranny"? The majority by allowing its elected representatives to go down the path we are on regarding surveillance may breed just the thing that we are trying to stop ---lawlessness behavior.

Like Benjamin Franklin said:
"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety"
Brian (Utah)
If you are afraid of terrorism, secure the border. Otherwise, we can conclude we love our politics over our security. It makes no sense to collect my data to prevent terrorism, but leave the border wide open when we know terrorist can and do/will use the border to get into the United States.
DS (Georgia)
Which terrorists have walked across our border? None that I know of. Securing the border would have done nothing to stop them.
Laura Black (Missouri)
The use of comments by famous politicians from the 1780's isn't helpful. It's a favorite ploy of the radical right to use such quotations and while it may rally the confederate flag, gun toting faithful, it doesn't help prevent terror attacks. No one is losing any rights; geez, the information is kept anyway.
Bill Nichols (SC)
If by that you mean Franklin's quote, remember to keep in mind that he was speaking of people who meekly *accept* government control. Such control is the hallmark of the right, not the left. ;)
K Henderson (NYC)

Yikes. This article is an editorial and not a "news analysis."
J. (Ohio)
As several commenters have noted, there was information available pre-9/11 that could have been used to discover and interrupt the plot, but the government failed to connect the dots. 9/11 was a tragedy of enormous scale; however, we cannot let that day be used as a basis for diluting the Bill of Rights, notably the Fourth Amendment, which have served us so well. While any death is a tragedy, our country tolerates 30,000 gun deaths per year and does not seek to dilute the Second Amendment or even promote constitutional time and place regulaations on gun ownership and use. Likewise, our other constitutional rights are equally deserving of protection. If we continue to allow Big Brother type surveillance, the terrorists have won.
John (Nys)
I think that a tyranny could not form or exist anywhere in the world in environment where the Bill of Rights was fully followed. What 20th century tyranny did not depend on restricting speech and assembly, locking people up without peer based jury trial, taking life liberty and property without due process, taking arms away from people, covertly surveilling people without probably cause? I can't name one. For our continued liberty we should hold firm to the meaning the Bill of Rights was intended to have, and not allow them to be weakened through abstract law. For our long term liberty we need to hold fast to our constitutional rights, realizing liberty does have risk. I don't see how tyranny could ever exist in an environment where the Bill of Rights was fully followed.
Wayne A. Spitzer (Faywood, NM)
If you file a tax return the government has a copy of your financial records. If you are on Medicare or Medicaid the government has a copy of your health records. What difference does it make if the government collects a copy of your phone records? The violation of privacy is not about what access the government may or may not to your data, it is about how the data is used.
TFreePress (New York)
The government does not have a copy of your daily bank records if you file a tax return and it does not have a copy of health records just because you are part of Medicare or Medicaid.

But even if it did, what is the legitimate purpose for having a copy of my phone records? And no, it's not about how the data is used - it's about how the data could be abused.
Dan Mabbutt (Utah)
Agreed, Wayne!

"Privacy" ... if it ever did exist ... is clearly a lost cause now. The public was stampeded into adopting this act with hysteria before and now they're being bamboozled again. All the furor over this act is mainly misdirection.

We the people would serve ourselves much better by insisting that the power brokers are "Public and Accountable" in all that they do rather than crying over the loss of any mythical "privacy".
Bruce Olson (Houston)
Yes it is about how the data it could be abused and that is what is so stupid about the idea of keeping it at privately owned for profit internationally owned telco companies. If the case can be made for collecting and having the data, which I question, the case must be made that taking it out of the hands of our own government and putting it in the hands of private for profit entities is ludicrous and possibly traitorous.

No, its just plain stupid and that is what our representatives and senators are seeking to do. Maybe that's why at least one of the political parties is fast becoming known as the Stupid Party. If Govt. is the problem we need to fix it not strangle it. Verizon is in bed with Vodaphone, T-Mobile USA is German. Sprint is Japanese. We fought a war with two of these three in my lifetime and our Revolution was against Vodphone's primary nation of allegiance. Both China and ISIS have money and the telecoms are in business to make profit more than protect our National Interests. Come to think of it, so are too many of our congressmen.
Charles (Clifton, NJ)
Fine writing and very important article by Peter Baker. The fact is, as Peter points out, there is a significantly large number of U.S. citizens who are extremely circumspect about this bill. And proponents of the bill in congress appear not to be representing their interests.

People like Peter Hoekstra cast the fear, uncertainty and doubt line. To him, the law tangibly protects us all against terrorist acts. But to rational thinkers, it's not reasoning, but feeling, that Hoekstra employs. I can buy a lottery ticket; I won't win the lottery, but if I don't buy the ticket, I definitely won't win the lottery. It's just good to buy the ticket, just in case. Such is the motivation behind the Patriot Act's extreme surveillance measures. But there is a further price to be paid by the people in reduced liberty. Proponents of the bill think that price is acceptable. They should reread Orwell's "1984".

And the darkly humorous aspect is proponents' evoking the Cheney's in support of this legislation. Bush removed those surveillance measures for which the Cheney's so stubbornly and nefariously pushed. If anything, it further alienates the detractors of this bill.

This nation is at a crossroads. We need heroes to stand up rationally for our liberty. Bulk data collection needs to be replaced by effective measures that protect the democracy that we all want to have. We cannot let fear, uncertainty and doubt govern this nation.
Bruce Olson (Houston)
Orwell was right-on in his prognosis. He was just a little early in his timing but when he wrote it, 1984 seemed a long way off. I know, I first read it in the 60s and it was nearly 20 years in print by then. Now it seems like just yesterday. 2024 should be an interesting time, if here are still Americans around to argue this issue or if our government or the UK will even permit us to.
johnw (pa)
We the People deserve and expect better. Violation of our civil liberties is criminal. If our elected official cannot build and ensure a security system that without question fully respects the letter and spirit of our Rights as citizen, they should step aside.
Jack McHenry (Charlotte, NC)
If Congress is willing to argue openly about specific provisions, you can be sure that this whole political drama is a slight of hand misdirection designed to keep us from discovering something much more malevolent in the NSA arsenal of domestic surveillance tools. NSA's basic rule is to exploit every collection opportunity that technology provides and no one should expect it to curb its appetite for new and innovative ways to learn more about the private lives of potential terrorists. Unfortunately we all fall into that category. On the other hand, since there is no possible way to dismantle the surveillance state, it might be useful to declare drug smugglers and dealers as domestic terrorists and use metadata to root out their networks, and on a more positive note, the IRS could automate the whole income tax process just by sorting through all of our personal financial transactions. William Binney's description of Stellar Wind included the collection of credit card and banking transactions since it's all available on line.
Joe (Rockville, MD)
This is natural. Politics is like a pendulum. After 9/11 people were very afraid and took actions that were extreme. Now, the pendulum is swinging back. It is also very practical. After 9/11 we didn’t know what we needed, what would work. Now with experience, we can see which programs produced results and which were wastes of resources.
Gretchen King (midwest)
Did everybody miss the part of this piece where Mr. Baker says that a plurality of Americans do not think antiterrorism policies have not gone far enough to keep us safe? A majority do, however, want the mass data collections stopped. I would think our Congressmen and Congresswomen would be a tad confused as to what we really want. No wonder this legislating is such a mess.
Dyspeptic Skeptic (Marine on St Croix, MN)
More security vs. more privacy is a false dichotomy. No evidence whatsoever has been offered to show otherwise. The absolute first responsibility of our government and every soldier is to protect the constitution, not to protect citizens from harm.

The goal of the constitution is to protect the citizens from tyranny, which the founders understood to be a MUCH greater harm than injury or death. An attack on citizens is unfortunate but harms a limited number of people for a finite time. Tyranny harms everyone for generations.

Loss of personal privacy is the lever by which a government enslaves its people. It does so by discrediting dissenters. Sounds so simple, almost banal. But once all your private affairs can be used to 'discourage' you from writing that critical article, or producing that exposé or voting for that bill, the government has carte blanche to do as it pleases without criticism. Eviscerating the 4th amendment is tantamount to eliminating the 1st. This removes our defense against propaganda.

Those whose response is "I have nothing to hide" are beyond naïve. They lose chess in 3 moves because they don't understand that the seemingly unimportant actions preceding their subjugation are where they lost, not the final move of the queen.

The silliness about guns, while being willfully obtuse about "search and seizure" will be our undoing. People don't understand that the gun is useless when their adversary can convince them to shoot their allies.
Gretchen King (midwest)
Sorry, Correction needed to above post. A plurality do not think antiterrorism laws have gone far enough. Ignore the second not in first sentence.
Andrew (New York)
Maybe peoples' idea of "antiterrorism policies" include taking the fight to the actual terrorists in ISIS and Saudi Arabia, where little is being done, rather than the continuation of the policy of scooping up all Americans' personal phone records (and who knows what else) in a seemingly endless fishing expedition governed by secret laws, courts, and retention policies.
Abbott Hall (Westfield, NJ)
Perhaps the national security apparatus should concentrate on actual terrorists instead of data mining. The FBI had information on the Boston bombers and failed in their surveillance of them and there was an abundance of information
Pre 9/11 that was not acted on. Senator Paul and the other opponents should be commended for their principled stand against the Patriot Act.
Wayne A. Spitzer (Faywood, NM)
But once they knew who was involved in the bombing they could quickly use the phone data to determine if it was an isolated incident or part of a larger terrorist plot. Contrary to your conclusion your argument demonstates the value of collecting phone data.
Andrew (New York)
@ Wayne, and they could still get that data once they know the perpetrators just as quickly simply by getting the required warrant (the way the justice system is supposed to work...that is all we are asking for here) Why is law enforcement pretending that their entire ability to monitor and surviel rests upon the blantantly unconstitutional provisions of the Patriot Act of 2001? It's not like warranted phone taps were illegal before that.
Maybe it's just me, but I feel more threatened by the GOP, the 1%'ers, the giant corporations, the Christian extremists and the bloated Super PACS over any terrorist organization.
Bill (Charlottesville)
“We want and need to be safe, but we’re now in a better position to take a deep breath, step back and look more carefully about how best to balance the competing interests in security and individual freedom,” said Geoffrey Stone...
False choice. Losing your individual freedom is the ultimate loss of security.
Gretchen King (midwest)
The way you have stated your assertion is nonsensical. This is not an either/ or situation, it is about finding balance between freedom and security.
Anthony Esposito (NYC)
This debate seems not to have evolved from the Bush/Cheney days when there were no social media networks to the present where Americans blithely have handed over their privacy to just about every company in the world. If you want to make your life easier by sharing all your information then why not make it safer too. In other words, what privacy are you trying to preserve?
COH (North Carolina)
How easy to forget 9/11, as NYC has by building 90+ story buildings and catering to plutocrats, and the Oklahoma City bombing. What has our recent obsession with privacy wrought us? Housing areas that are no longer communities, where no one knows their neighbor, and a horrendous gap between haves and have nots that has isolated people even more. I am not a bit afraid of the NSA's collection of data. We have not heard of one citizen harmed by this "terrible scandal." But we have not heard about all the plots intercepted and all the intelligence that is truly keeping our country safe from very real threats. We are not the good guys anymore; we have wrecked our own system of government by the corrupting influence of money. Even our highest court is no longer free from politics. We are no longer the shining star of the success of democracy, an example to the world. Our culture is seen as morally bereft, our infrastructure is in decay, our students rank behind dozens of other countries and our government is gridlocked out of bigotry and a fight over what other countries believe is a basic human right, healthcare. Step back and look at what others see here; we have a right to be afraid!
b_smark (VA)
"But we have not heard about all the plots intercepted and all the intelligence that is truly keeping our country safe from very real threats."

That's because, *by the government's own admission", there are none, zero, zip, nada.
Henry (New York)
I was at the WTC on 9/11 and witnessed the Attack....The problem is that many Americans - just like before WW I and WWII would just rather put their "Heads in the Sand" and not look at reality ...They say "hindsight is 20/20" just like WWI & WW II ...
jb (ok)
Many Americans have forgotten that 19 men with BOXCUTTERS did that. Not super-villains with magic powers, but men with boxcutters. Many Americans have let themselves be stampeded into being fine with any madness that promises to "make us safe" from the terrorists they have been trained to fear. Your chance of being struck by lightning is greater than you chance of dying in a terrorist attack, and you think it's WWII again; your chance of dying in a car accident is much greater, and you aren't turning in your car keys and begging the NSA to save you.

When Timothy McVeigh bombed our federal building here, you know what we did? We caught him, we tried him (yes, in the US, before we decided that "terrorists" were too dangerous to allow on the continent with us), we convicted him, and he was ultimately executed for the murders he committed. We didn't make him an eternal threat, or give away our rights, or ask corporate/military types to spy on us all, or invade Michigan. We certainly didn't open a money-spigot for every fear-monger who comes down the pike.

Get a grip, Henry, get a grip at last, and take your own blinders off; you're being taken for a ride.
Johndrake07 (NYC)
Yes, but WHO were the attackers? Convenient that an unburned passport by some Arab "terrorist" flying one of the planes was found down in the street in the rubble - when everything else was incinerated…
Convenient that everyone from Cheney on down proclaimed that Bin Laden was responsible…then it became Saddam was responsible, all the while crowing that we need to "wrap it it all up, sweep it all up", and let's go bomb Iraq into the stone age. Adding in Libya, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and a few more, for good measure.
You're right - our heads are in the sand. But, we've had our heads pushed deep into the sand by a constantly repeated meme of "foreign terrorists who hate us for our freedoms" - that we have failed to find the real culprits behind this, I believe, "false flag" event.
Bill Nichols (SC)
And point being? :) The comment is so vague & ambiguous that it could essentially be Delphic. However one that isn't is the old legal maxim that "Hard cases make bad law." The use of 9/11 & a few other incidents (which are by no means unique to the small period of time since then) to leverage excessive government surveillance & intrusion are much more similar to post-Weimar Germany than they are to anything else. The results of *that* are rather obvious.

Fear is also well-known for making bad law too; the question is, do we ever actually *learn* from that lesson, or do we jingoistically continue to refuse to?
The Observer (NYC)
The Bush years turned the U.S. into a hidden police state that continues to this day. News and information has been replaced with entertainment news. The word "FREEDOM" has been so misued that applying it to FRIES now almost seems accurate, as our individual freedom from spying by our own government has been fried in our Congress of millionaires who have used their positions to lie to the American public on a daily basis. Nothing is real anymore, there is no truth in the discourse. The countries of the world do not respect us, do not see us as "exceptional" except in our lack of knowledge about the world outside the boundries of the U.S. media and our elected officials. The ship is sinking, and only the wealthy will have access to the lifeboats.
Wayne A. Spitzer (Faywood, NM)
"The Bush years turned the U.S. into a hidden police state that continues to this day.".....Your argument would be more convincing if you would sight examples. There needs to be something more tangible than a blanket statement that somehow the sky is falling.
SuperNaut (The Wezt)
So the last SEVEN years of these programs under Obama control were what? An accident? An oversight?

I promise you, people are being waterboarded right this very second with President Obama's full knowledge.
blackmamba (IL)
What happened to America on the morning of September 11, 2001 was the result of the gross incompetence and hubris of the American national security defense intelligence apparatus. No one was honorable enough to apologize and resign. No one was held accountable for the failure to protect the American people by being fired by those in high levels of governance or by the voters.

The 9/11 Commission found that there was adequate intelligence to detect and stop the attacks but poor analysis and coordination was endemic and rampant. In order to deflect responsible accountable reasonable change our leaders decided to kidnap, torture and indefinitely detain people along with targeted killings. Setting a moral legal boundary for every other nation and group to follow against their own citizens and Americans as well.

Followed by the frightening fast thoughtless enactment of the so-called Patriot Act which shred the Constitutional protections requiring particular reasonable suspicion and probable cause in order to protect our liberties and freedoms. The President takes an oath of office to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" while" faithfully executing and performing the duties of the office of President."

There is no evidence that meta-data collection has detected or thwarted any terrorist attack. But even if it did, that is not the primary issue. Conserving our governing way of life takes precedence over our physical security.
Patrick, aka Y.B.Normal (Long Island NY)
Our Congress is autonomous, devoid of loyalty to the public and their opinion on the matter of surveillance. I can only hope that if the military run N.S.A. is again empowered to retrieve all phone records that they truly respect the freedom and dignity of all Americans. After all, don't we all want to be free and doesn't that mean respecting the freedom of others?

Sadly, we have not heard from the N.S.A. leadership how they intend to respect our freedom and innocence, so I still fear the wholesale fishing expeditions into the data that will result in false accusations and victimization of innocent Americans. You know it happens.

Do you all understand that the N.S.A. is a military organization and that the Congress is trying to mandate military surveillance of Americans. Do you understand the ramifications of that?
Yes, the NSA is in the military Chain of Command; however, it operates under different authorities (Title 50) than the standard military (Title 10).

Recommend you google Title 10 and 50 and see the authorities.
Mark Schaeffer (Somewhere on Planet Earth)
Excellent point. Years ago I said the same thing. And how far is the US in becoming a dictatorship like Pakistan?
Number23 (New York)
It's so infuriating to read comments from the likes of Liz Cheney, again spreading misinformation, on this topic. In no way would these new limitations impact the government's ability to monitor conversations between suspected terrorists. But what is more troubling is that the major reason the collection of this data is a threat to civil liberties is that it poses too easy a temptation for abuse by people like her father, who exploit the fears of civilians to justify unconscionable acts, like making up intelligence to support the invasion of Iraq. Dick Cheney, just one administration removed from being a breath away from the presidency, is proof that the danger still exists that we could elect public figures who would not be constrained by morals or ethics to abuse that information to wage attacks against civilians that these warped individuals deemed threats to the country or their political futures. Politicians seem to be getting slimier by the day. Do we really want to make it even easier for them to monitor the activities of citizens, like MLK, and other "radicals"?
It's laughable that we seal the front door against the slightest bit of anything remotely perceived as government intrusion, then download countless apps (developed in Russia, China, who knows where?) to our smart phones which can access just about all of personal information. We, the people, can control the NSA via our elected officials -- not so much the terrorists who, in Africa, the Middle East and Boston, have made it clear that they can and will do anything and everything they want.
SuperNaut (The Wezt)
Stop downloading stupid apps.
Tom (New Jersey)
The collection of meta-data shouldn't be cause of concern for everyday Americans. People hear about the government programs and immediately jump to "the government is spying on my conversations"...which just isn't true. I really don't care if some covert government agency knows that I call my mom every weekend and that my wife calls me 5 times a day...or that I can't seem to go to the grocery store without the kids calling with last minute requests. If you're not making shady phone calls, who really cares?

If the program manages to break up a major terrorist plot along the way, then it's well worth it. We have a really short memory, and "never forget" is fading into our nation's rear-view. Terrorists are becoming more ingenious, bolder, and better financed...we need to do what we can to catch the next event before it occurs. Too many of us lost too many friends and family to let it be for nothing.

It's an odd juxtaposition...the "doves" are actually using scare tactics this time around to peel back programs put in place to combat a real threat. The fact is, the government is not listening to or recording your phone calls...just doing the equivalent of looking over your phone bill.
K Henderson (NYC)

"If you're not making shady phone calls, who really cares?"

Oh god -- not that nonsense argument again.
HC (Mount Prospect)
But if you look at how people work, you will notice that people trust and listen to people they communicate most frequently. That is privacy by the way. And if someone wanted the gain your cooperation, they would most definitely benefit from going through people who you know. So if you don't mind me thinking out loud, I presume I could profile you and use the information to barter with you on exchanging favors. That is what I mean about getting to the guy who knows the guy. And I think this can be very skewing the balance of competition in the game of life.
Dominic (Astoria, NY)
You are welcome to give up your rights to privacy, but you are not allowed to give up mine. You "really don't care", but I do.
R. R. (NY, USA)
There have been no documented of data collection. This monitoring helps our agencies keep us safer.

Thus, the risk reward ratio is quite favorable.
R. R. (NY, USA)
No documented abuses of data collection have been reported.
P.Law (Nashville)
This assertion is an outright falsehood on both fronts. First, evidence of abuses would be classified, something that not even most members of Congress would be able to know about. From what we DO know, however, you're even more wrong: we know of instances where NSA employees have spied illegally on former lovers, etc., -- and those were only the self-reported incidents. Much more importantly, if you read the PCLOB report you'll find that for months the NSA collected records pursuant to selectors that the FISA court hadn't authorized.

Second, it's simply false that they "keep us safe." The PCLOB and Inspector General's report both state that none of these programs have prevented a single attack.
abie normal (san marino)
No, you're just getting your information from the Times, which refused to report about a year ago that there were in fact several cases of abuse, NSA people (ones in the same position as Snowden, i.e., many thousands), who were reading people's private emails. (Not to keep us safer.)

As for risk reward .. meaningless. What are the risks right now of being a casualty from a terrorist attack? As close to zero as its gets, our government's actions worldwide ($600-billion worth) only increasing the odds.
Carolyn Egeli (Valley Lee, Md)
The headliner of imbeddedness only demostrates why it is so important to rid ourselves of these leachers of our civil rights for their own profits. Get rid of the Patriot Act, and expose the whole infrastructure of militarism that now targets the average American citizen in order to control him or her. It is scary stuff and needs to stop. Too many things are claimed to be top secret when the purpose is not our protection but to exploit us.
Josh Hill (New London, Conn.)
"The real overreaction, he said, has been to the disclosure of the programs by Mr. Snowden, which he said had not resulted in reports of widespread abuse."

That says it all. The public doesn't really understand how these programs work. People think their every phone call and email is being spied on, but nothing could be further from the truth. Most of the data is just sucked up and stored, to be examined only if there is suspicion of terrorist activity.

Ironically, the real threats to our privacy, such as an obsolete law that allows the government to read at will our email messages and anything we've stored in the cloud after six months have elapsed, are unknown and ignored. The Anthem hack has caused me infinitely more harm than the NSA ever has.
K Henderson (NYC)
"Most of the data is just sucked up and stored, to be examined only if there is suspicion of terrorist activity."

JH You simply can not say that with certainty unless you actually work within the NSA. First of all -- the USA domestic data collected on all US citizens is too broadly and deeply "suckered up" (as you put it) on a literally daily basis. And that USA citizen data can be stored indefinitely. And it can be offered to state and local govts per "need."

Please go to UK Guardian or Ars technica and read some more before you comment again. Please?
Josh Hill (New London, Conn.)
So -- from my perspective, after Snowden's data dump, we found little evidence of abuse. The situation is in fact much better than when I was growing up, in the days of Hoover's FBI. The technology isn't what makes the difference. Government has always had the means to spy.

I've seen some of the Guardian articles, and they didn't impress me. But what really galls me is that all the people who are going gaga over Snowden are ignoring the *real abuses* that are *right in front of our faces.* Such as the governments *legal right* to look at your data on the cloud -- email, files, nudes of your girlfriend -- six months after you put it there (and just try to get it off after you do). *This* is what's being looked at by everyone from the FBI to our local dog catcher. Yet the public isn't informed enough to complain.

The public is barking up the wrong tree. It's like thinking that the Republicans are better for the economy, or that nuclear power plants are worse than global warming. It's ignorant, and often knee jerk and emotional, and it means that the real privacy issues aren't being addressed.
depressionbaby (Delaware)
I would still trust the phone company storing the records over the Federal Government storing the records.
Ken Camarro (Fairfield, CT)
The problem with Senator Rand Paul is that he is like the NRA and its members and its strident public relations firm Ackerman McQueen which want no liberty taken away on the gamble that it's going to be some other person in some other town who gets shot by a family member or an unstable person, or has a family member that commits suicide.

Opponents of the NRA system ignore that there is no other way than making a sweep that is looking for connections and signal characteristic to find terrorists, criminals, military and rogue-country attacks on our individuals, towns, cities, trains, planes bridges and buildings.

It's going to be someone else or place so let's fear monger and ignore how a system has to be designed to be effective with checks and balances so that the USA is at the leading edge of R&D and countermeasures to keep us safe.

Developing countermeasures to both operate and protect our digital infrastructure is the new rocket science of the 21st century.

So check out the knowledge and skill of the people we send to Washington. Don't ley the true fools endanger our country and please call them out with vigor.
Shrine236 (Florida)

I agree with the general thrust of your arguments, but do not conflate "[d]eveloping countermeasures to both operate and protect our digital infrastructure" with giving government carte blanche to listen, record, analyze and store billions of terabytes of data simply because some government official doesn't want to be bothered with having a reason for examining my library or video rental habits.

The various surveys mentioned in the article are not confusing or contradictory. The results are clear - "Government, do everything (and spend whatever it takes) to protect Americans from its enemies, but target those efforts and expenditures at enemies. Use your brains before bring the full resources of the US to bear on a specific suspect and specific threat. Focus your efforts there and remember the founding principles of this country - individual liberty, free from government intrusion (i.e., privacy). Unless and until a particular individual presents a clear and present danger to the country and fellow citizens, stay out of our lives."
Redtape (Midwest)
Ken, I don't think you have any understanding whatsoever of why there is opposition to government being allowed to restrict some of our basic rights. The government never, ever wants gives you more freedom, they always want to restrict your freedoms. We fortunately have "a line in the sand" so to speak - it called The Constitution of the United States. Can you imagine what freedoms we would not have if it weren't for that document?

You call other people "fear mongers", but you appear to be the fear monger with statements like, "......looking for connections and signal characteristic to find terrorists, criminals, military and rogue-country attacks on our individuals, towns, cities, trains, planes bridges and buildings."

It's like the search and seizure authority we gave to Homeland Security to protect us against terrorists and the like. We allow the government to trample on our privacy only to find out that they are only finding 5% of the illegal items that are brought through the airport security process. Why do we allow them to continue?

Not many people would oppose effective and limited surveillance, but governments always want more control and more power which is a real threat to freedom. Look at the IRS and the abuses that go on within that screwed up organization. The there is the postal system, welfare, Medicare - let's face it the government is not efficient or very effective.
John Wilkins (Frederick, MD)
I would gladly surrender many of my personal liberties and privacy if meant security for myself and my fellow citizens. After all if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.
Rob (Mukilteo WA)
It's precisely because I have nothing to hide that I object to the government having a record of all my phone calls and emails .It's an unconstitutional for of search seizure even though there is no cause for the government to be suspicious of calls I've made ,beyond a reasonable doubt,constitutional rights that the Patriot Act didn't repeal.The fact that those calls haven't been listened to doesn't change that.But in addition keeping a record of all my phone calls and emails doesn't make our nation any safer,precisely because I have nothing to hide.Just the opposite,perhaps when we multiply the collection of such useless-from a national security perspective-data more than 300 million times,because if intelligence agencies decided to try investigating all the records,the "signals"-the actual contacts to or between terrorists-would likely be drowned out by the "noise "-the contacts by the 300 million plus of us that aren't and never were to or between terrorists.
As for "If you have nothing to hide,you have nothing to fear," that's a favorite line of would be dictators,such a Liz Cheney and her daddy ,Darth.
How wrong you are.
P.Law (Nashville)
No one is stopping you. Post your email and IM logins, your bank statements, the list of books and websites you read, etc., here. Take down your curtains and shades. You've got nothing to hide, right?
Heloise (Massachusetts)
After many long years, at least those who have opposed the knee-jerk anti-constitutional reactions to Sept. 11 have a voice in the debate with only some portion of the public denouncing us as traitors. While we're moving forward, let's not forget the TSA, a "gateway" 4th amendment violation. Earlier this month I was astounded to hear grumbling as my airport security checkpoint line was held up while a dozen TSA agents swarmed an elderly lady who was also being manhandled by one female agent. That grumbling is literally the first time in many hundreds of flights in which I've heard the sentiment shift on site from "well, if it makes us safer" to any form of upset. Better late than never I suppose.
David (California)
The dichotomy of risk v liberty only makes sense if it can be shown that the risks are materially reduced. Before 9/11 the gov't had ample raw information but could not connect the dots. It is incumbent on NSA to show it can do more than massively collect data in violation of our liberty. Moreover, cost effectiveness needs to be explained - simply writing a bunch of bureaucracts a blank check is a prescription for them to figure out how to spend it, whether or not it enhances our security, and then ask for more.
Phil M (Jersey)
What all this comes down to is can you trust our leaders to do the right thing? Since Vietnam, they have done very few things right or implement policies to advance our society. I really want them to do the right thing, but they can't or won't. So trusting them with any policy especially the ones not debated or reviewed, is downright scary.
Bill Nichols (SC)
Which does of course automatically beg the question -- who put them there? :)
Ron (Wisconsin)
As Ben Franklin said,"Those who would sacrifice essential liberty for a little temlorary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Kudos to Rand Paul and to Russ Feingold, the only senator who voted against the Patriot Act. They are the real patriots.
Justice Holmes (Charleston)
If we never want another 9/11 we should stop being so cavalier about the individuals we allow into the country and the way in which we track them. The idea that we have to spy on Americans to stop another 9/11 is appalling. The people in the planes were not Americans they were Saudis. Maybe we should reassess our relations with the Saudis. We didn't do that after 9/1. Rather we decided to wrap ip the Constitution and give the terrorists everything they could have possibly dreamed but could never have done themselves..we turned ourselves into a massive spy state and our citizens all into criminal suspects.

Secret prisons, black sites, GITMO, the cynically named Patriot Act they are some of the results of our fear and they have corroded our society and our nations soul. We need to turn this around. Experts and corporations who make the money our of "security" shouldn't be listened to; their opinions are so infused with self interest that they can not be trusted.

It is time to stop acting like a police state and start acting like the USA.
ChrisH (Adirondacks)
Patriot Act... Freedom Act...

Laughable if it wasn't so serious.

Lets call them by a more correctly descriptive name:

Safety, Terrorism and Security Initiative Acts

or the STASI acts - for short.
Robert Salzberg (Bradenton)
There is absolutely no evidence that any of the unconstitutional and financially wasteful provisions in the Patriot Act have saved any American lives.

What Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1755 applies even more today in an era of Orwellian surveillance capabilities:

"Those who would give up essential Liberty to purchase a little temporary Safety deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
Bob Trosper (Healdsburg, CA)
The quote appears in many replies, but I don't want to respond to all of them.

See for full context

As the Brookings Institute’s Benjamin Wittes observes, “Very few people who quote these words, however, have any idea where they come from or what Franklin was really saying when he wrote them.”

Despite its many (many) variations, this is the actual quote:

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

According to Wittes, the words appear in a letter widely presumed to be written by Franklin in 1755 on behalf of the Pennsylvania Assembly to the colonial governor. “The letter was a salvo in a power struggle between the governor and the assembly over funding for security on the frontier, one in which the assembly wished to tax the lands of the Penn family,” he explains.

The letter wasn’t about liberty but about taxes and the ability to “raise money for defense against French and Indian attacks. The governor kept vetoing the assembly’s efforts at the behest of the family, which had appointed him.”
pjd (Westford)
Once we settle the civil liberties aspect of domestic surveillance, Congress needs to shine some light on the amount of taxpayer money spent on this enterprise. We not only hoisted ourselves with the rush to the Patriot Act, we paid for the petard, too. Handsomely, no doubt.
TSA alone costs us $8,000,000,000 a year. $8,000,000,000 a year to be sexually assaulted at the airport.
John (Aspen, CO)
Buy some go pro stock. It won't be long before the govt requires us to wear one. Sound far fetched? Our current program would have sounded just as crazy twenty years ago.

Oh yeah, hi to the NSA guys collecting my comments.
Excelsam (Richmond, VA)
You live in Colorado? "Focus" is watching you! And no one has even mentioned them. They were also formed right after 9/11, now have, I understand, at least 70 buildings, with their headquarters in Colorado. They have absolutely NO oversight by anybody. I bet they haven't even been slowed by the actions in Congress. They're probably monitoring this site right now!
sophia (bangor, maine)
I think there are two big reasons for politicians wanting the Patriot Act (don't I hate that name). One, control the people. Two, they are all scared to death that an attack will come when they are 'in charge' and so blame will fall on them. They're terrified (pun intended) that they will be blamed. Trillions of dollars, 100% surveillance, no proof of it stopping one attack. Not one.

What did Osama Bin Laden want to do? He wanted to change us, to terrify us, to make us do exactly what these ignorant politicians are doing. Turn our democracy into a prison for 300 million of us. I think that means he won.
John (Nys)
The Fourth Amendment already defines the balance between liberty and risk. If the constitution is followed, the government is not allowed to violate the limitations it places on government. The government is not above the law, and the constitution is our highest secular law. The Bill of rights largely provides laws limiting government, which government can not change without amending it.

You CAN violate peoples privacy but you MUST have probably cause and get a SPECIFIC warrant enumerating targets.

Prior to the Fourth Amendment the British has general warrants / writs of assistance allowing them to search any house for smuggled / untaxed goods without probably cause. The founder decided the government can not go on a fishing expedition but must have at least have probably cause.
See Fourth Amendment below:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
Turgut Dincer (Chicago)
Terrorism is used nowadays as an excuse to scare and control masses, as capitalism is used as an excuse for the same purpose by communist countries. Would great powers act justly, respect other country's independence and culture there would not be a a cause for terrorism.
AMH (Not US)
A somewhat fatuous remark, as great powers do not become "great" by acting justly, only by acting with force. Whether or not the force is employed for good or evil is a matter of opinion. The victorious will always say yes. The vanquished, not so much. Those in power always think they are acting for good (See: Rove, Cheney et al), the true question is whether the "good" is in the interest of the broadest number of people, or the few in power. I think we all know the answer to that.
Jill Abbott (Atlanta)
A cause for terrorism? The Quran.
AB (Maryland)
Who cares anymore. The Republicans gave us the PATRIOT Act, now they don't want it because of . . . Obama. I wish the president would come out for something the GOP wants so that they'd switch positions. Maybe then we'd get the crumbling bridges, highways, and sewer systems fixed.
Erich (VT)
“I don’t think you could find one-third of Americans who understand what this does"

And we can include the nice naive Representative in that group. A bunch of technically illiterate men sitting around being sold a bill of good by the NSA-Government-In-Hiding, and swallow it hook line and sinker.

Such a naive fool.
Bob Trosper (Healdsburg, CA)
Ms. Cheney doesn't understand it, quite obviously. If you allow the collection of what number called which number and when it is trivially easy to find out WHO called WHO and when - reverse lookups are done all the time by law enforcement and anybody with twenty-five bucks on the internet - sometimes free. If you have many such calls you can begin tracking location. That's why "they" want the data - if it were as innocuous as "they" say, it wouldn't be collected at all. There were many, many repetitions of what I just said early on in the media but those seem to have disappeared.
I was in NYC during 9/11. I still am.

And as an information security professional, I despise and deplore the Patriot Act and all it entails. This is precisely what the terrorists hoped to achieve.

Please, people, do not believe the lies you hear! It is NOT just "metadata" that's being collected--the NSA is collecting every byte of every online interaction, including telephone conversations, web searches, banking information, and emails, as Snowden amply demonstrated. For American citizens, not just foreigners.

The NSA is expanding already-obscenely large data centers by 10X or more, without public discussion or debate. Metadata does not take that much space. What does? The actual data itself.

Again, I'm an information security professional. I'm not a conspiracy theorist or a Tea Party anti-gummit sort. I know for a fact this is happening, and I'm aghast at the gullibility of the public who believes lies like "only meta-data is being collected" and "American civil rights have not been violated".
Dave K (Cleveland, OH)
What the NSA is doing now is the continuation of the "Total Information Awareness" program that was run by convicted Iran-Contra felon Admiral John Poindexter back in 2002-3 under the George W Bush administration. The stated goal of that program was to collect all online traffic so the government could know everything about everyone - all credit card purchases, all emails, web browsing history, bank transactions, drivers' licenses, tollbooth EZPass records, and all other electronic information that they could get their hands on.

This naturally made more than a few people upset once it became public knowledge (William Safire and the American Civil Liberties Union were in complete agreement about the level of outrage it represented), so Congress defunded the program in May 2003. The NSA responded by renaming it "Terrorist Information Awareness" and continuing on as if nothing had changed.

That's what is really going on, and has been going on for over a decade in express violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.
sj (kcmo)
All of this government surveillance, including low flying airplanes with cell phone location detection, is just a way to go after leaders who are a threat to the financially powerful in this country. Think Elliot Spitzer vs Richard Grasso, then head of the NY Stock Exchange. Hedge funders threatening candidates running for president to "cut the crap" when they may be engaged in financing unethical activities in third world countries that threaten democracy, including our's. Remember when Smedley Butler stood up to the powerful interests against FDR? I fear that is what is happening now.
Mark Schaeffer (Somewhere on Planet Earth)
Thank you! You are a honest man who should be admired. I believe you, and I have always suspected that. I don't believe lot of the words that comes out of "formal press releases" any more. The only thing the media, including liberal media like Democracy Now (which my ex calls Democracy Not), do not say openly is, "Our great leader says...". But they sure do act like it.
Sequel (Boston)
Few things offer as damning an indictment of the Patriot Act as the continuing cries of "treason" levelled against Edward Snowden.
Not only did the government lie about the need for the Act, it used the terms of the Act to conceal the fact that the government itself was going way beyond what Congress had authorized.

The USAFREEDOM Act is an attempt straight from the Wizard of Oz to continue concealing, hence enlarging on, all the formerly-visible things that the Patriot Act pushed behind a very large curtain.
macktan (tennessee)
I'm unsure of what these polls truly detect, particularly after long periods of publicized fear-mongering by Elected Officials screaming that "the world is exploding in terror" and warnings that naysayers will "have blood on their hands" if they turn away from the Patriot Act and rely on the inadequate powers of the Constitution. 911 was 15 years ago! How long are we to leave in a state of emergency? If things are so dire that we need to submit to surveillance, then perhaps we should begin building underground bunkers and dole out gas masks for every household.

Since the Patriot Act ended, I feel free again! And I feel as safe as one can feel in a country armed to the teeth. I'm more likely to be terrorized by the police or Wall St than jihadists. Given the trillions invested into Patriot Act levels of security, I tend to believe this is more about profit and less about ensuring I won't be killed by a lone wolf.

I'm shocked that the media would take up this fear mongering after they'd been duped about Iraq and WMDs. Yes, I'm talking about you, NYTimes.
Mark Schaeffer (Somewhere on Planet Earth)
Thanks for writing. I believe you, and you articulated some of the issues well. I think all the spying and surveillance is actually expanding, while there is all this pretense for the masses about curtailing this or curtailing that.
Bob 79 (Reston, Va.)
I'm more threatened by the plutocrats who have excessive ownership of our congress then by the actions of the NSA.
Susan (New York, NY)
The Feds just aren't happy unless they can scare us. I read all of the books - 1984, Brave New World etc. I'm not falling for any of this fear mongering one iota.
David Watts (Saco)
There's never any money to fix roads, schools, bridges and rail systems but the surveillance-industrial complex is a billion dollar and in many cases a "for-profit" operation. A revolving door for military leadership to get rich off the taxpayer when they leave government service. People are fed up with this crony capitalism and the fact that they try to scare people into accepting it is even more revolting.
Carol (Santa Fe, NM)
"Weighing risk vs. liberty," as if this is a serious issue that our eminent lawmakers must ponder in order to keep the citizenry safe. In fact, it's just the NYT promulgating an Orwellian phrase. I don't recall that the US Bill of Rights says that we are protected from unreasonable search and seizure "except for when government officials claim there's a risk to national security."
K Henderson (NYC)

THIS. Perfectly and succinctly stated. thank you Carol.
seeing with open eyes (usa)
1. US Constitution IV Ammendment:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

2. 'Megadata' for the telephony industry is a record of who spoke with whom, when, for how long, and where each of you was. It is all contained in something the industry calls the 'EMR' record for each phone call.

3.Most of the Congress has never read the 342 page patriot act. They didn't in 10/11 when they voted approval and they haven't since.

So, does Congress really understand that this capture of megadata is the same as a watching every one of us from a small distance and noting who we talk to, when, where and for how long.

Keeping track of who you associate with/speak with is part of Stasi or KGB first line tactics to control the population.
It also violates the fourth ammendment cited above.
John (Nys)
"Keeping track of who you associate with/speak with is part of Stasi or KGB first line tactics to control the population.
It also violates the fourth ammendment cited above."
Those records also contain information such as calls to abortion clinics, calls to suicide hotlines, oncologist ect. A lot of information unrelated to crime and terrorism can be gained from such records that is legitimately private. Government does occasionally leak private information for political purposes.
MDM (Akron, OH)
Far more terrified of corporations and billionaires then the miniscule chance of terrorism.
Alan (New York, NY)
This assumes a certain level of competence in finding bad guys once you have the tools.There was a story yesterday on NBC news that the TSA failed 95% of the time to find weapons on testers going through airport security. 95% of the time! That is chilling
However, not one single plane fell out of the sky in spite of the TSA's lapses. What does that say about their constant fear-mongering?

Sadly, the result of the TSA failures will be more flyers being groped more thoroughly, more often when what should happen is a complete review of TSA procedures, a reduction of the list of items prohibited, like water bottles, shampoo, toothpaste and a realization on the part of the TSA that inert items are INERT and toys are toys.
JJ (Stamford)
Where is the right line? Freedom from unwarranted government search is a big part of what this country was founded on.

I work in marketing - you would be amazed what can be understand about an individual with just a few seemingly disparate data points.

I am old enough to remember Nixon, McCarthy, and Eastern Germany. Who is watching the watchers? Trust me is not the Reagan way - it's trust but verify. Applies here too - need strong oversight and rule of law, and if in doubt, I'd rather live with risk and freedom than security and government control. And I'm a liberal.
Lance (San Diego)
Well put, Stamford. And I'm a conservative. At the end of the day, Americans need to stop looking through our left or right eye, and instead open both eyes. Bravo. I chose freedom.
Dale (Wisconsin)
The implication from this current debate in Congress, and even from the headline writers, is that if there is enough worry about security and safety, that the Constitution can be ignored.

I don't believe that is the case. I hope that is not the case.
Barbara T (Oyster Bay, NY)
It is completely unclear to the public exactly how these limitations will be framed, if deemed necessary by Congress. Our "right to know" is fundamentally a part of our freedoms. There appears to be a basic issue of citizens being informed of technologies used in surveillance and to what degree. Therefore, limitations imposed will be largely misunderstood.
ScottW (Chapel Hill, NC)
If you aren't doing anything wrong then you have nothing to hide.

So why doesn't the NSA become totally transparent and stop lying to the American people who finance this entire spying operation? If we lie to the government we go to jail. When Clapper lied to the American people Obama gave him a vote of confidence.

If the government has reasonable suspicion I am a criminal, get a warrant. But until then, there is absolutely no reason to collect my data, retain it for future use, or spy on me. None!
sgeorge360 (Michigan)
Suffer no illusions that this spying program's purpose won't expand to have government agents approach you (especially if you're politically active), and ask why you're doing what you're doing, just as they do with the bank's reporting on every $10,000 transaction. Ask Mr. Hastert.
Castor (VT)
The mass collection of every piece of communication has a chilling effect on Freedom of Speech and Assembly. People who know that the government is tracking their every move via their cellphone, recording who they talk to and the content of their text messages and e-mail, will choose not to engage in speech or activities which don't hone to the "proper" lines.

This is how we end up in a 1984 society, homogenous in every way, where stray thoughts are frowned on, and all communication not explicitly approved by the government has to take place in hiding.

The Founders noted that Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness were Inalienable Rights. Maybe the NSA should pick up a copy, and realize that the foundations of our nation are crumbling at our own hands.
<a href= (hempstead ny)
Why is Liz Cheney even mentioned in this article? Other than being the daughter of the miscreant vice president, she has near zero credibility in this area. If the Times is simply looking to add quotes from people who madly desire to be in the public eye, why not quote Miley Cyrus or any Kardashian. Mr. Baker, you are too erudite to include this drivel in anything you write.
Dale (Wisconsin)
In addition, her comment is that terrorists need to be tracked. Perhaps agreed on that point, but to track honest Americans, by the hundreds of millions to find that terrorist (if the program to do so actually worked, and we've had examples of where it hasn't in the few things that have happened since 11 September) is not worth trampling upon those inalienable rights that were mentioned.
K Henderson (NYC)
Answer: Because the writer of the article has an agenda and is spinning accordingly.
Bravo. This comment about the absurdity of mentioning Liz Cheney in an article about national security deserves a prize as best reader comment in the Times for the day.
Patrick, aka Y.B.Normal (Long Island NY)
The "Freedom Act" will Nationalize all the phone Companies.

Do we really want security so bad that we would trade Democracy for Communism?
carlson74 (Massachyussetts)
Just kill it, it is unconstitutional.
Don (USA)
Once you lose your freedom you can't get it back.

We all want to be protected from terrorism and other crimes but it should be done legally within the constitution. History has shown us what happens when governments and leaders have unlimited powers.
Jack McHenry (Charlotte, NC)
oops, too late!
John (Nys)
During the twentieth century governments killed millions of their own citizens. None of this could have happened if the types of liberties in the Bill or Rights had been maintained. Has tyranny or terrorism killed more people in the last century? Likes keep our Bill of Rights alive and well.
rowlandw (North Shore, MA)
Sart with assuring competence in the TSA!
TSA needs to be disbanded.
Vlad-Drakul (Sweden)
Although an anti racist, anti war leftist I may vote for Paul Rand as a matter of principle. This will be my first GOP vote even though I believe Obama has been a better (or more accurately a less bad) POTUS than is mostly admitted. I will definately NOT vote for any other GOP candidate or Hillary Clinton as all these would be votes for leaders far worse than Obama.
I say this despite disagreements with Paul on other issues as well as seeing him as less principled than his very principled father, who again, while wrong on many details has been consistently correct in his analysis of the plague of Government overreach and liberty destruction. Wether the war on drugs, the war on terror (Liberties) or illegal war making the Pauls' have been correct lone wolves (excepting the excellent Bernie Saunders) in the wilderness of lobbying, AIPAC funded candidates and pro war and fear politics.
These questions go to the heart of the issues of liberty, the Constitution and how are 'democracy' misfunctions. From our now oligarchic society, brutal murdering police, limitless campaign financing, wars without voting, secret courts, torture prisons and the like, our society faces a future of totalitarianism and endless wars by pro Israeli politicians financed by billionaires.
My support for Obama has been despite his pro state views because he has shown the correct instincts in NOT following AIPAC and McCains views that more wars = good wars. McCain gave us Libya, Syria, ISIS, No more!
Bill Nichols (SC)
It's a huge mistake to vote for pols just because you like their stance on a single issue. Consider the whole, & having been a long-time resident of KY, believe me, you do NOT want to vote for Rand Paul just because he's against the "PATRIOT" Act.
Paul (Long island)
This is not, and should not, be a debate over "risks vs. liberty," but about unintended consequences and unconstitutional action. The Fourth Amendment to our Constitution that sought to protect citizens from the seizure of the personal effects under British rule states, "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause..." The National Security Agency (NSA) clearly violated the Constitution in seizing our personal, private phone records, euphemistically referred to as "metadata," and then its director James Clapper lied to Congress about it. Even the author of the Patriot Act, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, admits that this was not his intent. It is only due to the revelations of Edward Snowden, who blew the whistle on this program, that we have arrived at this point. The courts also have finally spoken and ruled, as they should, that the program is illegal. For any politician to argue otherwise should be disqualifying for any office where they must swear to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Jimmy (Greenville, North Carolina)
Rather take out our wrath on our own citizens we need to deal with terrorist threats more harshly.
Turgut Dincer (Chicago)
"terrorist threats more harshly."

How? We already tried everything, including torture. What could be harsher?
mark of the wild west (usa)
People who want to be spied upon, should find another country to live in...
Lance (San Diego)
Why? This one (USA) is doing a perfectly good job (and illegal) at it.