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The NSA and Americans Caught Up in the Data Sweep

2:10 PM, Jul 7, 2014 • By GARY SCHMITT
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This last point is actually captured well by the Post also reporting on a cache of emails and Facebook exchanges collected by NSA and Australia’s Signals Directorate that were between a young Australian woman and her Muslim boyfriend who had left Australia in order to join the Taliban.  On the one hand, it’s clear she was not complicit in his effort to wage jihad.  On the other hand, while the conversations between the two were of the most private nature and hardly the stuff anyone would want shared between scores of intelligence and homeland security bureaucrats, it’s also clear that both the American and Australian governments had an interest in knowing what he was up to—especially when he returned home to Australia and she had secured a job in the government there.  So, when asked, if she felt “violated” by the fact that her emails and Facebook exchanges had been collected, stored, and distributed by two governments, she naturally enough said, “yes.”  But, she then went on to say, that she was “not against the fact that my privacy was violated in this instance” because he was being “stupid,” and not “thinking straight.”

Now, one doesn’t know, until more thorough oversight is done, whether NSA has overreached its mandate in this instance, been less thorough than it should be in scrubbing collected data of irrelevant material or, actually, doing its job as expected.  Based on previous reactions to Snowden leaks, one suspects that a number of senators and congressmen will simply conclude that NSA has jumped off the rails.  It would be nice to think, however, that our young Australian woman’s reaction would find favor within a majority.  No one likes the government eavesdropping.  But, then again, when individuals are not “thinking straight,” and are aiming to wage war against either the public or our military, we ought to want, indeed expect, our government to know that as well.

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