Am I A Paranoid Tinfoil Hat Wearing Nutcase?

I’m not sure which upsets me more, the government’s massive program which spies on its own citizens or the fact few people really care. What’s happening is scary to me. It should be scary to you too.

This isn’t a Republican or Democrat problem. I was upset with President Bush for this intrusion on my life. Now I’m upset with President Obama.

We all understand that the price for services in the 21st Century is a sacrifice of privacy.

As I wrote over the weekend, Southern California Edison knows when I turn my lights off at night. AT&T knows where I am 24/7. Other companies, like Google, know so much about me from my web habits, they might know more about me than I do!

Last night I helped Stef with car insurance. After supplying a few bits of data the insurance company found the rest on their own!

None of these companies can put me in jail. None of these companies have the power of the government.

The US government doesn’t want to give up specifics of their spying programs. Even senators and congressmen have extremely limited access to the NSA’s workings. Government spokespersons say they are worried vital secrets would be revealed.

My suspicion is the administration’s more worried about the embarrassment and blowback from this overreach than any impact from the secrets. Do spies and terrorists not think we’re trying to track them? Do foreign governments think we just mind our own business?

The problem with the NSA and other secretive agencies is lack of oversight. Yes, the government claims there is the FISA court, but it is secret with secret opinions, secret rules, secret laws and gag orders enforced on anyone who has dealings with it or the NSA, CIA, etc.

Most people scrutinized by the court have no idea anything’s happened.

There’s certainly little of the safeguards and protection against prying the government claims. Look what Snowden, a low level non-government employee, made off with!

To me all of this seems like an obvious and dangerous violation of the 4th Amendment.

Few people seem to care. I’ll admit that. The majority of attention to the NSA spying leaks has focused on the leaker.

Who cares? He is not the story.

Fixating on Edward Snowden misses the whole point… which might be the government’s goal in directing our attention his way.

So tell me, why do so few care? Have I become a paranoid tinfoil hat wearing nutcase?

25 thoughts on “Am I A Paranoid Tinfoil Hat Wearing Nutcase?”

  1. My golly Geoff, have you moved into a retirement community? you are acting like an 80 y/o retiree that has nothing else to do but find things to worry about……..I’m pretty sure SoCalEd does not really care when your lights go on and off beyone being able to bill you correctly. They cannot tell if you’re turning on a light bulb or using your Mig Welder to build a tank. I don’t think you want them assuming when they bill, you will lose. AT&T really need to know where your phone is so they can send a signal to you……I’m pretty sure you’d be unhappy if they lost contact with your smartphone…..and as far as someone reading all my emails and texts??? WOW, godspeed to that poor SOB. That is not a job I would want…..I hope they give away free coffee to stay awake !

    Calm down and go build your hat……be sure to put a large enough brim on it to keep the sun off you when you play shuffle board 🙂

  2. Geoff, you are not paranoid. People don’t care because they are not connecting the dots and seeing the bigger picture. They think it is for their own good after 911 – government wouldn’t lie, right? This is one of those occasions that talking to OLDER PEOPLE helps… ask our elders, they remembers WWII. Our society has just become too trusting in government… and they truly will be surprised–that’s the scary part. And it’s hard as heck to get something back once it has been taken away – or given away, depending on how you look at it…

    1. It’s not that people aren’t connecting the dots, it’s just that people are too busy with more immediate problems.

  3. As you yourself have noted, there is so much ‘big data’ stored on our every move out there that we are simply getting desensitized to being watched every moment.
    The fact that the government is using this kind of data really comes as no surprise I suppose. While I am not a big fan, I don’t think that we can play the double standards game and say it’s ok for big businesses to track us, but not ok for our government to do the same. That said, I would prefer the government offer us a lot more transparency into what they are doing. Keeping this kind of intrusion cloaked in secrecy is what raises a red flag.

    1. I think it’s wrong for big business too. However, the government has far reaching powers. We are supposed to be protected from just this sort of thing by the 4th Amendment.

  4. Cl-p tracks your monthly usage and uses it as a point of reference on each bill. I’m sure they also track your use by hour. How else would they be able to plan for resource allocation? I can’t believe that this takes you by surprise, Geoff.

    This isn’t much different than phone companies (from 40+ years ago) knowing who you called and when you called them, right?

    Think about how much your credit card companies know about you and every store loyalty card. How about the mailman knowing who you receive mail from every day?

    I think you may have flipped you (tinfoil) lid!!! Perhaps you should take up yoga or meditate. 🙂

    1. None of these entities have the power of the government. Stop and Shop can’t jail me. The government can be very vindictive and with secrecy provisions answerable to no one!

  5. The federal government has overstepped its bounds and has violated the 4th Amendment. What is sad is most American’s don’t even know their constitutional rights. Regardless of party affiliation (and both parties have taken part in this) we are losing our civil rights to the very government which was supposed to protect them.

  6. Actually, the ones wearing the tin foil hats are the ones (most prevalent up here) who objected to the smart meters because they felt they were going to be bathed in radiation by them! Clearly not understanding the physics of the inverse square law or the difference between radioactivity and electromagnetic energy. That new smart qrid is one more thing that makes California the most energy efficient state in the union, decreasing per capita energy use even as our gadget and travel addiction increases. We use less energy per capita here than we did in the 80’s, reducing the growth in power needs our population growth would otherwise have caused.

    But in terms of what Google, your cell company and other companies, know about you; as well as how that information can be accessed and used by the government should be a cause for worry. I opened Pandora the other day after not visiting it for a long time, and was surprised by how much it knew about my Amazon, YouTube, and Google activity, indicated by ads and listening suggestions. This is benign, but other things might not be.

  7. Frankly, Geoff, you have revealed a great deal about yourself on the Internet. Why are you so surprised about this? Even if the NSA hadn’t been spying, your information is out there because you put it out there. Many of us are guilty of the same thing. We let our “fingers do the flapping” without thinking of where that information is going. And, it’s coming home to roost. Sigh……………..

  8. There are so many pros and cons to this entire discussion, but one thing is absolutely clear to me:

    With every awful thing that happens regarding national security, the first people to scream are those that demand to know why the government didn’t know something and do something to prevent the awful thing. Think about 9/11 – what did we know and when did we know it? The accusations were almost as horrific as the attack itself.

    Those that use the internet have to be aware that, once you put information out there, you cannot control its use. It becomes public, meaning anyone and everyone can have access to it and use it, even for evil.

    We have also discovered that we have met the enemy, and it is us. When you look at Tim McVeigh and the two fools up in Boston – all born or naturalized US citizens with a bone to pick -, one has to realize that there are few avenues available to keeping these fools at bay.

    I’m interested in alternatives to this ‘spying’ that would perform at the same level to prevent further destruction. What would you suggest?

  9. OH I CARE!!! The government has over reached in a bad way. What is in the media is put there to distract us from the real issues for sure! Being a Verizon customer I was shocked that they have all of our information, but being a disabled housewife, I am sure whatever they saw was beyond boring. What frightens me is our younger generation does NOT seem to understand how violating this is, and how WRONG this is!!!! (by the way your title to the blog today made me crack up!!! )

  10. No, anyone who’s reading the source documents and watching the interviews at The Guardian and not the corporate media spin and smear campaigns on television can see quite clearly that we all have reason to take this very seriously. Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who is breaking this story and working with Snowden, worked as a constitutional and civil rights attorney prior to shifting careers and he wrote about the way those in power have been systematically shredding the Constitution in his 2011 book, “With Liberty and Justice for Some.” Daniel Ellsberg, of the Pentagon Papers, has come out strongly in support of both Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, as have intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky and Chris Hedges. Tin foil hats? None of them. Put them on your reading list. Those who speak the loudest against Snowden are those, I think, who are the most guilty–and that’s most of the corrupt politicians, I mean world leaders, out there. You know what really gave me the chills? When the head of the UN came out against Snowden. We may, indeed, be on the road to global turnkey tyranny. Many people think that if they have nothing to hide, this isn’t a problem, but everyone (since we are all human beings and not robots) has said something embarrassing or expressed political or personal views via digital media (our VoIP phones, cell phones, emails, attachments, or online) at some point or another, and that can be used against us by those in power. The personal vindictiveness that you experienced can be exercised by the government against its citizens. If you’re involved with the Occupy movement, the Tea Party, an environmentalist group, or attempt to speak out against or buck the status quo in any way, they don’t have to investigate you–they already know all about you–and they can choose, from there, how to deal with you before you’re even aware that you’ve been “selected.” Between the NSA and the NDAA (the law Obama signed that allows for the indefinite detention without formal charges or trial, Gitmo-style, of US citizens), not to mention Citizens United (when the Supreme Court declared that corporations are people) or the 16-year-old boy, a US citizen born in Colorado, who was innocently visiting family in Yemen when he was killed with a drone (see Jeremy Scahill’s “Dirty Wars”), it certainly does appear that we’re already living in the United Stasi. But most people don’t even know the half of it, so they aren’t concerned. Hey, what’s on television tonight? Have you seen the new iPad?

  11. OK my take on it is this; there are 4 BILLION people in the US (give or take a couple of million). If EVERY person sent 2 text messages a day that would be 8 billion pieces of data. Now figuring that people send by email, text or tweet so much MORE than that every day, the mountain of information they are inundated with DAILY must be staggering. Even if you use filters to screen out most users (like all the teenagers madly texting eachother) you’re still dealing with a staggering amount of information. 99% of us are of no interest to the government. If you decide to threaten the president or talk about bombing someone or something then they might take interest. But in general , no. They don’t care when we turn the ligts out when we wake up or what websites we visit. I’d say Google cares more about those things (because they can sell the info to advertisers) than the government does. To them it’s like sifting through an ant hill for the one or two ants that crossed your picnic table.
    Relax, you’re not that important that the government is going to obsess about when you turn your lights off at night. Most of us aren’t. THAT’s why people don’t care. It’s more like a lion hunting for zebra in a herd. They disregard all the other zebras and zero on on just one animal. The rest are ignored.
    You’re not a paranoid tinfoil hat wearing nutcase yet but you’re leaning that way. It worries me.

    1. The above comment worries me. The US population is about 310-320 million, world population is a little over 7 billion. This information is easily found on the internet. Facts are important.

      You are not a nutcase. You make an excellent case for why we should care about losing our privacy. I care, then I wonder what action I can take … then I just forget about it. Laziness? Maybe.

      1. I meant to say ‘million’ instead of ‘billion.
        The point is still valid; there’s a whole lot of people in the country and considering how many of us emailing, tweeting and texting there’s a huge amount of data for the NSA or whomever to sift through making it extremely unlikely that they are interested in 90% of us.

        BTW as of July 1 2013 the US population stands at 316 million people (and change). Source; Wikipedia

  12. Geoff, being from the same generation as you, I think we are more aware of the freedoms that have already been lost to us….and fear for what is coming. (I actually had this whole conversation with someone last week!) I find it very disconcerting to know that every time I use the internet, a utility, a credit card or store card or even LIBRARY card, I am putting more and more of what SHOULD be my personal business out there. I agree with you totally….so if you need a tinfoil hat, maybe we should just share a roll!!!

  13. Geoff

    I TOTALLY agree with your position. I suspect that another reason why the public is not Outraged, as Bush AND Obama take our 4th Amendment rights away, is that the media has not emphasized that fact.

    I am further outraged that Obama can pick and choose what laws he will enforce. Most recently he delayed, likely for mere political (mid term election) reasons, the implementation of the now largely disliked Obamma care. HE has appointed people to an office, while by-passing Congress which was in session. Certainly one could list dozens of other instances, where HE exceeds what I thought was his “power” as he deems laws to not be to HIS liking, then he dictates new rules ??

    PS At least you no longer have to be concerned that Stop and Shop is tracking you. Safeway will need to start a NEW Fox file?

  14. There are too many in government who can be quoted or paraphrased saying, “I don’t worry about the Constitution.” Politicians are no longer held accountable for their individual votes, 70% of the population votes according to party, not policy. George Washington warned against party politics, unfortunately most of our founding fathers true ideals are no longer taught in public schools.

  15. The more news I see on this subject, the more concerned I get about protecting my privacy. I’ve been doing some research and came across this new Cloudlocker device that is supposed to be like having your own personal cloud in your house to keep your files safe. Can anyone speak to this? Is it like a hard drive or a thumb drive? If it works, that would be one less thing to worry about.

  16. Snowden IS the story. I want him caught and tried because I don’t think he’s guilty of very much. And I also don’t think that, if he is caught, our government will be able to railroad him, or worse Gitmo him. The American people are pretty savvy, and even the nutcases (left and right) aren’t nuts all the time. I’d love to see if a charge of treason holds up because I think there’s a fine line between exposing the spying on American citizens and notifying some terrorist cell as to where we might be vulnerable. Let’s at least see what he’s guilty of? (Sorry for that terminal preposition.) As for the fourth amendment, I don’t like to pick and choose amendments and then give them some sanctity because they’re old. They could all use a revamping.

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