You Need the Haystack to Find the Needle

Posted on Jul 30 2013 - 9:55pm by Harrison

There is always a difficult balance to be struck in any society between Freedom and Security.  Free Societies aren’t very Secure and Secure Societies aren’t very Free.  What I’ve been wrestling with since 9/11 is how “free” should we Americans be in order to have a relative sense of security?  And is the Federal Government the best guarantor of our Freedom?

The title of this article comes from a quote taken in an interview with General Keith Alexander, Director of the National Security Agency.  What he means is that in order to find a few terrorists in America bent on doing us harm, data from millions of people must be analyzed.  This does not mean someone is sitting at their desk in Washington, D.C. reading emails you have sent to your girlfriend.  What it means is the vast amounts of data as far as which phone numbers are calling which people are recorded in order to see if any patterns emerge.  Are numbers connecting with certain other numbers which might be calling places in the world known to house terrorist organizations?

This is what we call “metadata.”  That is to say things we can learn, through patterns, about data.  It’s things far too complicated for people to contemplate… it’s for computers.

It’s no different than when Sears asks for your Zip Code when you buy something and after 6 months of collecting this information they learn that stripe shirts sell best in Florida so the stores there should carry more of this type of clothing.

It’s just like that except it’s to learn whether a terrorist plot is afoot.

I’m sure my information has been collected by some vast Government agency in order to see if I’m part of some larger pattern.  I’m a Conservative who has kept a blog for the past 5 years  But I’m not doing anything to get noticed.

I would never even get flagged by a computer as being someone to look into. 

But this is not about the mentality of: “Why should I worry I’m not doing anything wrong?”

We have all become depersonalised… numbers in spreadsheets.


We have been tracked, analyzed, and compartmentalized for years already by private companies monitoring our spending habits, our cell phone usage, or even our Safeway “Club Card.”

And yet Americans accept, readily, these types of invasions of their privacy.

When people complain about their Constitutional Rights being trampled upon I ask them what Rights have they personally lost?

Speaking for myself, thus far, I cannot think of any.

We must remain vigilant, however, that it stays that way.