For the past couple of weeks we've been learning more and more about a National Security Agency data harvesting project allegedly identified by the code word PRISM.
In Erick's post this morning he lays out his concerns about the program. I think he is too charitable by half. I have no confidence that the Obama administration gives a tinker's dam about the safety of the United States or its citizens beyond the extent to which harm may result in blame attaching itself to him. Were that the case we would not have thrown our lot in with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or stood idly by while US citizens were slaughtered in Benghazi.
The Administration's blithe lack of concern about the threat of terrorism is accentuated by the way in which his Administration completely ignored the concerns the Russian intelligence services had about the visit of deceased Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev's to Russia while sending out minions to label evangelicals and Catholics as national security threats. Indeed, while Tsarnaev was obtaining training from fellow Islamic radicals in Russia the US government busied itself with persecuting the notorious "Hutaree militia" for plotting a violent overthrow of the US government (acquitted on all charges) and arresting four geriatrics in Georgia for talking smack in a Waffle House.
So, one might ask, given the Administration's oft stated position that there is no war on terrorism and the deference it has shown Islamic radicals in our foreign policy and the preference it has shown them in our domestic policy is there any need whatsoever for the NSA to collect any data, much less launch the electronic equivalent of a drift net to trawl up everything within reach?
While I can come up with any number of reasons that NSA scientists might want to pursue this, mostly for the sake of establishing bragging rights which is the nectar and ambrosia of Ph.D.s, it is difficult to come up with an operational or strategic reason to develop the capability attributed to PRISM.
More to the point, the data being collected by NSA has very limited predictive value. While data collection aimed at a particular person or location can result in actionable intelligence, the trawl that we have had described to us can only be used retrospectively to build a court case or analyze an event that has already taken place -- like the Boston bombing. The volume is too large, the number of analysts too small, and the decision cycle too ponderous to actually react to anything that might be learned.
One can, however, contemplate a regime as lawless as that which currently dominates the Executive Branch turning this information on its political enemies. The fact that Eric Holder would not state whether or not Members of Congress had been subject to surveillance tells you all you need to know about the program.
It doesn't take a very active imagination, in light of the still festering IRS scandal, to see how the data the NSA is collecting could be used by the IRS and FBI to contrive prosecutions of some political opponents and selectively leak to humiliate others.
In short, it is difficult, bordering on impossible, to see what good comes out of a program like PRISM. On the other hand, the dangers posed by it to our form of government are very easy to predict.
PRISM must be terminated.