Max Boot writes on the Commentary magazine Web log, regarding the disclosures of programs that appear to allow the U.S. government to access Verizon and Google customer data without the knowledge or consent of the customers: "President Obama deserves to be commended for continuing these programs, building on work done in the Bush administration, rather than being attacked as the second coming of Big Brother."
The New York Times has a different view of it in an editorial:
Essentially, the administration is saying that without any individual suspicion of wrongdoing, the government is allowed to know whom Americans are calling every time they make a phone call, for how long they talk and from where.
This sort of tracking can reveal a lot of personal and intimate information about an individual. To casually permit this surveillance — with the American public having no idea that the executive branch is now exercising this power — fundamentally shifts power between the individual and the state, and it repudiates constitutional principles governing search, seizure and privacy.
I can see both sides of this one, but one aspect of it that strikes me as particularly intriguing is the role of these companies like Verizon and Google. What if they refuse to comply? Can they challenge it in court? What is their avenue for appeal? What would they risk by doing so? And how widespread within the companies is the knowledge of the existence of these programs? The bigger role government has as a customer and a regulator of these companies, the more difficult and less likely it is for the companies to challenge such requests when they come. You wind up with a private sector than, instead of being a restraint on government power and a bulwark of individual freedom, turns into an enabler of government.