What is gloriously lost in the NSA violating the privacy rights of individuals, and I’ve not seen this in one single story, is that it is absolutely not necessary for the specific contents of any email or phone call to be viewed or known for a violation of privacy to occur. President Obama’s mealy-mouthed excuse that no one is listening in is most likely factually correct, but for a man of his intelligence and awareness this amounts to intentional deception because it depends on a general ignorance on the part of the public that knowing the frequency, time, and ultimate senders and recipients of a message can give as much information as message content itself.
It’s called Traffic Analysis, and has always been as important as message content. It’s what lets Google be Google. It can do wonderful things like collate search term patterns to predict outbreaks of influenza. It also, when tied to emails or social networks gives information about who you talk to and when.
But what’s the problem here? It’s that when a government takes upon itself the power to know of all your activities and contacts, and when governments and nation-states are the social institution with a monopoly on violence, the only way for a state to act, whether by taxation, fines, imprisonment, or guns, is to act through violence or by threatening violence.
Given that any government’s only recourse in any situation is violence or it’s threat, granting, or allowing the government to grant itself,...