Over the weekend, the extent of NSA surveillance of Americans became even more evident:
Not just metadata: "NSA admits listening to U.S. phone calls without warrants as well."
So you might say that yesterday's conspiracy theory is today's sad reality...
Bryce Edwards answers, or tries to, the question that might occur to every New Zealander about now:
Many have been wondering this week if New Zealanders are routinely spied upon by the United States’ NSA. International reports would suggest that we are and many journalists and commentators asking the Government whether it receives such information about us from the US. The logical answer is that it surely does—that seems to be exactly what programmes like Prism are intended for. When asked, Prime Minister John Key gave an ambiguous answer. Toby Manhire takes this issue up in his excellent column, Step up, Mr Dunne, become a hero, saying ‘It is inconceivable that such sharing does not include Prism.”
John Key has not denied that it does. Indeed, the carefully crafted prime ministerial response to any question on New Zealand agencies, the NSA and Prism has been repeated so often this week it's become an earworm. What-I-can-tell-you-is-we-don't-ask-foreign-intelligence-agencies-to-act-in-any-way-that-circumvents-the-law. That's all you're getting. Everything else, apparently, is an "operational matter".’ Manhire says that this all amounts to a fancy way of avoiding saying ‘yes’. For more on this evasion, see the blogposts by No Right Turn: No denial from Key and "No comment" is not good enough.
There was once a cure for this. It was something called the US Constitution, which said in part:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
Unfortunately, it takes more than mere words to effect constitutional protection. It takes an understanding of what those words mean—and why the principles they espouse, especially of tying up the government, are so important.