When news of the government’s collection of phone and internet data first came out, the people and agencies responsible tried to assure everyone that it was only general data that was being collected and that it was all for our own good. Senator Feinstein told us that she knows “people are trying to get to us” and that wholesale data collection is “called protecting America” . Senator Graham was all for “Verizon turning over records to the government,” as long as it’s to catch terrorists.
But last week, freelance writer Michele Catalano wrote about an unannounced visit from 6 armed men that belies the claims that only general data is being collected and that only terrorists are being targeted. Several weeks ago, this writer’s family made various internet searches. She, the wife, researched pressure cookers . Her husband googled backpacks, and after the Boston bombings, her son read news stories about how the bombers found bomb-making instructions on the internet.
Several weeks later, 6 armed men in plain clothes pulled up to her house in 3 black SUVs while her husband was at home. Two came to the front door, while the other 4 surrounded the house. Her husband was a really good sport, and let them into the home, where they performed a cursory search, and asked questions about their alleged ownership of pressure cookers. In the course of discovering that the family was not a terrorist cell, they told the husband that they perform about 100 such visits per week.
Does this sound like general meta-data gathering to anyone? To me, it sounds like the government is gathering very specific and very individualized data about what we are doing on the internet without probable cause. The 4th Amendment gives citizens the right to “be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,” and that right is clearly being violated.