We should think, before we don’t worry.

“According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released yesterday, 63 percent of Americans said they found the NSA program to be an acceptable way to investigate terrorism, including 44 percent who strongly endorsed the effort.”
Americans appear so far to have been soothed by government reassurances such as this: “The database… includ[es] called and calling numbers and the duration of calls, but nothing related to the substance of the calls.”
This makes it sound very impersonal, unprivate, and abstract. But what about “the substance,” not of the calls, but of the numbers? After all, this pattern analysis would be pretty dry if it just spotted patterns like who makes an inordinate number of two-minute phone calls between 7:04 and 7:13 on Wednesday mornings.
But the identities of the phone numbers, even without the content of the conversations, could really spice things up. Who’s been calling mosques, or peace groups, or gay bars? Is calling the ACLU perhaps a “gateway drug” that marks a high risk of later terrorist communications? Worth some serious data-mining, no doubt. Maybe the government should keep a list.
Besides names, phone numbers have associated addresses. Addresses correspond to neighborhoods, including ethnic neighborhoods. Racial and ethnic profiles will be data-mined that make all earlier profiling seem paltry by comparison. You just have to ask the wrong questions.
Indeed–just in case it should turn out to be useful at some point–the government might want to keep a permanent list of everyone who has ever dialed a phone-sex number. Those people can be risky, vulnerable to blackmail. “What if the truth should slip out?” J. Edgar Hoover had the goods on every member of congress, but never on the entire American population.
Hmm. Vulnerable to blackmail. That could come in handy–to protect the public.
This thing is only in its infancy!



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