Wednesday June 12, 2013

CARL F. GOODMAN, Becket

President Obama did the public a service by acknowledging, after the fact, that the government is mining emails and phone numbers in the name of national security. The president is correct that "there are some trade-offs involved," "we’re going to have to make some choices as a society" (Eagle, "Obama backs records sweep," June 8).

Of course, like its predecessor, the current administration did not provide information to the American public that could enlighten it so it could make "choices as a society" and the public still lacks the full details of the program. Rather, the president took his position on balancing privacy and security as the only reasonable position and kept the public in the dark, even though there are serious questions as to whether the choice made conforms to the choice made by the Founding Fathers.

The president’s explanation that all is well because a warrant will eventually be sought if the sweep of phone records discloses probable cause is nonsense. Either the original sweep is a reasonable invasion or it isn’t.

I guess the next step is to match the swept records and match them to known numbers of The Associated Press, the Guardian, The Times, The Washington Post, The Berkshire Eagle (?), etc., and their writers to see if any government employee’s number shows up so the government can then get a warrant to listen to the exchanges to see if they can find who leaked the story (or some other leak). That too would likely be justified as the government’s unchallengeable determination that it is the correct balance.

But we can take comfort that, to paraphrase South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (in a somewhat different context), you have nothing to worry about if you aren’t communicating with known reporters.

CARL F. GOODMAN

Becket