Column: Apparently, someone in our government is listening

By Mike Eddleman

So maybe it is not as ominous as all that, but it is disturbing news to find out the government is collecting large amounts of data on Americans through their phone records.

Among the key principles that guide our nation are individual privacy and liberty. We expect there to be a line the government can’t or won’t cross when it comes to being intrusive in our lives and it seems now that line is being blurred at best and disregarded at worst.

The government – the National Security Agency in particular – admitted this week to the collection of millions of phone records of Verizon subscribers after it was outed by the British newspaper The Guardian. It remains unclear whether other providers are included in this, but it is unlikely the government believes terrorists only use Verizon so it is reasonable to believe the program covers multiple carriers.

Before you cry “liberal heresy,” though, it is important to remember one important factor – this is part of the Patriot Act that was enacted under Republican President George Bush following the Sept. 11 attacks. In fact, it is a program that has been altered and renewed a number of times since by Congress with support of both parties. Bush believed in it, President Obama believes in it and most of our Congressional leaders believe in it.

Why? Because power corrupts and even the most well-intentioned individuals will get sucked into the premise that if some power is good, more power is better. That’s why we are a nation governed by a constitution and laws, not by men.
No, this is not about liberals or conservatives, it is about government forgetting its place.

In my five years in the army, I spent four years in Germany working in military intelligence, involved in monitoring operations and investigations of both U.S. Citizens and foreign nationals. It figuratively took an act of Congress to monitor foreign nationals and an act of God to monitor U.S. citizens – even those in the military and overseas. I wondered then how the intelligence community ever got anywhere in its investigations when it was so difficult get authority to act.