NSA surveillance pits liberty against security
A man talks on the phone outside the U.S. Courthouse in Washington, where the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court resides. / Cliff Owen / Associated Press
By David Jackson, Susan Davis and Kevin Johnson
WASHINGTON — Public disclosure of the federal government’s effort to track terrorists through the telephone records of average citizens has reinvigorated a national debate over the balancing act between security and liberty.
A day that began Thursday with an uproar over the government trolling through Americans’ phone records ended with a new report about the government traipsing over their travels on the Internet. Taken together, they seemed sure to refocus Congress and its constituents on a debate that has waned since Sept. 11, 2001 — but never ended.
On one side, the White House, bipartisan leaders in Congress and former George W. Bush administration officials defended such snooping and note it’s been going on for years. The phone tracking dates back to 2006, when USA TODAY first reported that the National Security Agency was secretly collecting phone call records of tens of millions of Americans.
Ben Franklin said it best, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”