It is not reassuring when the president says “nobody is listening to your telephone calls” because he is not answering the deeper question. People may have in their minds a 1960s wiretap where someone may indeed be listening. However we live in a day when we can speak to our cellphone and it understands us. It is not a person listening, but a computer. So the president can speak the truth in letter, with the full knowledge that the spirit of what is said is bogus.
Nobody is sitting in a chair listening to your calls. However, your calls go through communications centers like the infamous room 641A and are captured by NarusInsight systems. It is a rational assumption that much of the audio is recorded and the percentage will grow as the Utah Data Center goes live in the summer of 2013. As with your cellphone, computers translate your voice into text. Your words can then be cataloged in a database and algorithms used to determine if your conversation need further investigation.
The “I have nothing to hide” attitude seems justifiable to someone who is not planning on hijacking a plane. But are you really that pure in the eyes of the state? With the recent revelations about IRS targeting groups for political reasons, it is not hard to envision automated systems that increase your likelihood of a tax audit due to your church affiliation, or the websites you view. Do you think it will stop there?
What this means is that the state monitoring of your life is not limited knowing if you are preparing to take box cutters on board an aircraft. Your comments about a political figure, where you get your news, the kinds of things you might research, even your view on eschatology are being recorded and cataloged.
The infrastructure is being put in place that, given an excuse such as another 9/11, the government could use its growing fleet of drones to simultaneously take out numerous US citizens who have scored high on their threat criteria. Collateral damage, like the children we kill in Pakistan via drones, can be lamented as the price we must pay to protect our nation. This should not be a notion of comfort.