By now, all readers are familiar with the revelations that the USA’s National Security Agency (NSA) has been spying on virtually everyone in every way possible…for years. These revelations have been headline news since Edward Snowden, a former “technical assistant” for the CIA and a mere employee of “contractors” working for the NSA leaked to the world the extent of the NSA’s massive spying operations.
When the story first broke, the USA Today’s home-delivery, print version had an article entitled “I Have Done Nothing Wrong” by Gregory Korte which went into great detail about Snowden’s revelations about the inner spy-workings of the NSA and other agencies. The first few paragraphs of the article (first link) is all that I could find on the Internet from that article and the first link had no way to access the entire story that I could find on my computer. The entire article used to be available for a fee at one site, but that site has now scrubbed the story from its available archives (click on the third option at the second link). I suppose the intelligence agencies don’t want this information available to anyone, but the “cat is out of the bag” so I don’t understand why access to the article is blocked.
The full USA Today story, released to the world in USA Today’s print version, includes such revelations as (A) a sealed court order required Verizon to release to the US government “millions of telephone records,” information about a program called PRISM, a US federal government system “to collect communications from Internet companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple,” and another intelligence operation called “Boundless Informant” which was set up “to track, catalog and map the source of all the data NSA brings in worldwide (emphasis added)” The article also cited Snowden as saying in a video at The Guardian’s story about all this that “any analyst can target anyone.” Snowden said he could “wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president if I had a person’s email address.” If Snowden, a low-level employee, had such access, think how many federal employees can access anyone’s data. Apparently, no one bothers with search warrants or reading the US Constitution anymore. Other articles have revealed that much of the information gathered by the NSA was authorized by a secret “FISA” court that almost no one knew existed. This FISA court apparently issued the warrants to spy on everyone all the time. I saw a graph on FOX News showing that this shadow FISA court approved virtually all requests to spy on anyone as the line on the chart shown by FOX News was flat-lined at zero showing the times the FISA court disapproved such requests. On this thinnest of fig-leaves was the right to spy on everyone justified on Constitutional grounds. This FISA court is apparently some kind of “in house” court known to only a few that issues warrants upon requests. How broadly are these “warrants” worded? Do they authorize spying on all Americans and everyone in the world all the time by any means possible? Apparently so as that is what many media articles indicate has happened.
The media got upset when it was revealed that the Obama administration’s Justice Department was spying on the American media via its snooping on media communications with the Associated Press (AP), perhaps the largest distributor of information to all media outlets (see third link). The AP protested vigorously to Eric Holder, the Attorney General about this “unprecedented intrusion.” The DOJ issued a statement that “We take very seriously our obligations to follow all applicable laws, federal regulations and [DOJ] policies…” Notice that the DOJ statement failed to mention or even acknowledge their highest obligation as a federal agency–to obey the US Constitution, including its 4th Amendment.
The fourth link contains a discussion among three former NSA officials who had already blown the whistle on the NSA’s activities long before Edward Snowden did. These former NSA officials were “convinced that Constitutional rights were being violated.” I’d bet all the original Founding Fathers who wrote and approved the US Constitution would agree with them. The link reports that these three high-level NSA whistle-blowers complained to their superiors…to federal investigators, Congressional oversight committees and….to the media. Apparently, the media didn’t care about this spying until it learned that the media itself was being targeted by the Obama administration’s spying efforts. Apparently, Congress didn’t care either.
Obviously, all of this is very serious stuff. However, I must admit, I am amazed that anyone is surprised at these revelations of extensive surveillance of everyone by the US government. This has all been known in public sources for years. I’m reminded of the famous scene in the movie, Casablanca, where the Vichy French cop is shocked (shocked, mind you!) to find out that gambling occurs at Rick’s Place (as he pockets his bribe for looking the other way). I’m surprised the US establishment media is finally openly talking and writing about it. I think its likely happening because they finally realized that the Obama’s administration is also spying on all the liberal media as well. Also, anyone who watches NCIS (the USA’s top-ranked TV show and my favorite as well) knows that federal agencies have databases on all Americans. At the click of a mouse, the agents can examine any American’s financial and personal information as well as their criminal histories, their immediate whereabouts (by monitoring them via their cell-phones), all their phone usages, etc. The agents occasionally get a warrant if they have to enter a building, but rarely bother otherwise (a fact which has even been worked into the script at times). The show depicts a world where there are major turf battles between federal agencies and they frequently spy on each other and hack into each other’s computers. In 2009, there was an excellent two-part series where the Washington, DC and LA offices of NCIS cooperated on a case. One agency’s techie asks the other’s techie how often each American gets monitored in some way by the federal government each week. Their question and answer resulted in a conclusion that it was “way north” of 3000 times a week. Was this just a TV script guess or was this a hint of the truth? I think one reason that NCIS is so popular is because key agent, Jethro Gibbs, is just as determined to exonerate the innocent and rescue the framed suspects as he is to get the bad guys. NCIS also has the agents mentioning project “Echelon” as a spying option for information. I did a post on Project Echelon years ago. It is a spying cooperative where the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand cooperate in gathering and sharing intelligence from all over the globe. [Interestingly, these are the very nations identified in my books as the modern tribes of Joseph–prophesied in Genesis 48-49 to become in the latter days a single great nation (the Israelite tribe of Manasseh–the USA) and a grouping, or multitude of nations (the Israelite tribe of Ephraim–the British nations)].
This Snowden/NSA spying story now has very significant international repercussions. Snowden revealed the NSA is intensively spying on citizens in foreign nations as well (as surely does the CIA and other agencies). The fifth link reports that Germany, France and the EU nations are furious at the US agencies for their “massive spying and snooping in Europe.” The US was even named as spying on French government offices. The sixth link details that Brazil is also angry at the US for the USA’s spying on their nation and citizens. Just in Brazil alone, the USA is reported to have spied on “billions” of telephone calls and email messages. If the Obama administration is spying on the USA’s allies on so vast a scale, one can only imagine how immense is the information-gathering on American citizens. The US Congress needs to wake up and rein in this overwhelming surveillance on US citizens and foreign nations or the US government will eventually find it has no one anywhere who will trust it (as Europe’s leaders hint in the fifth link).
However, the European nations may, to use a phrase from Shakespeare, “protest too much.” The seventh link reveals that France is also spying widely on telephone and internet communications. One can only imagine the extent to which Russia and China spy on everyone as well. That link also states that a “necessary national debate over US government surveillance needs to take place.” I think one place to start is requiring all federal agency requests for warrants to be granted by a real, sitting federal judge who has been approved by a vote of the US Senate instead of getting blanket approvals from this mysterious FISA court which appears to be no more than a mere “rubber stamp” so agencies can bypass Constitutional federal courts.
All this “metadata mining” done by the NSA and others needs to be seen in a biblical context. The Bible certainly allows for spying by nations. When the Israelites were about to enter Canaan, Joshua sent 12 spies into the land and only two brought a true report (Numbers 13). Forty years later, Joshua sent two spies to Jericho who were saved by a hooker named Rahab (Joshua 2). As an aside, it is interesting that in God’s judgement, Hebrews 11:30-31 reveals that God regarded Rahab’s faith in saving the Israelite spies as outweighing her sins as a hooker. However, none of these spies needed a search warrant. They were spying on enemies, not their own citizens.
It is evident that many believe the US federal surveillance on its own citizens and the entire world has gone way too far. Count me among them. Also, I saw on cable TV that Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), an original author of the Patriot Act passed under the Bush administration, thinks so too (see eighth link). However, I’ll bet that any American living in a city under threat of the detonation of a nuclear “dirty bomb” or the release of an anthrax plague would want the federal agencies to be able to use every tool at their disposal to stop such acts of terrorism–including all metadata mining information. Perhaps this has already happened and we don’t know about it. The Bible also allows for “exceptions to the rules” when pressing imperatives to preserve life require the waiving of normal laws. The “ox in the ditch” exemption, which allows for intense work to be done on the Sabbath rest day if required to save property or even animal lives, is found in Luke 14:5. Also, a very sacred Temple requirement–that only the priests could eat the temple “showbread”–was waived by the priests once in order to save the life of David and his fighting men (I Samuel 21:1-9), and this exception was favorably mentioned by Jesus Christ in Matthew 12:3-8. So, placing this in a modern context, the US Constitution’s limitations ought to be binding on all federal agencies at all times; however, there will be urgent situations that will arise which can require laws to be temporarily suspended. These exemptions will be rare, however, whether we are looking at matters Constitutionally (in modern times) or biblically (in ancient times).
Revelation 13 also prophesies a final “beast” system will arise in the latter days just prior to the return of Jesus Christ that will have the ability to monitor and control all global financial/economic transactions (verses 16-18). At the very least, the groundwork for the Bible‘s prophecy to be fulfilled with 100% accuracy is being laid via the metadata mining data on all people now being assembled in the USA and elsewhere. Without the global mass surveillance, Revelation 13’s prophecy couldn’t be fulfilled. The creation of the ability of a global power to monitor everyone means the fall of Babylon the Great (Rev. 17-18), the rise of the “beast” power for a mere 42 months (Rev. 13:1-5 and Rev. 17-18), the unveiling of God’s powerful Two Witnesses (Rev. 11) and the return of Jesus Christ (Rev. 19:11-21) isn’t far away. Jesus told his disciples that when the events of the latter days “begin to come to pass,” that they should “look up…for your redemption draws nigh.” That sounds like good counsel for all Christians alive today to consider.