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NSA surveillance

By Jim Killebrew

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[January 03, 2014]  By now, most everyone has discovered the advertisements on their Facebook account or their email accounts.

When we use Google or other search engines for searching something like a book or any other item, we begin to find advertisements on our pages that are similar to items we have purchased, urging us to look at those similar items since we liked the item we bought. Some have thought this is a convenience, thinking someone else has done the legwork in searching out those things that match our personal likes and dislikes. It is a technology that can be used in many different forms.

The continued debate regarding the National Security Agency surveillance practice has sparked a nationwide discussion regarding the protection (or reduction) of civil liberties. A giant data storage facility has been built in Utah where a vast amount of personal data may be stored for each individual citizen in America: telephone calls, emails, social media postings, locations of telephone usage, incoming telephonic messages, items purchased, travel plans and a myriad data set of information that outlines specifically the routines, practices and desires of each individual citizen. Regardless of the motives now for collecting that enormous metadata, it is the future use that may have the greatest impact on our individual lives.

Many are concerned that the personal information may be collected in an effort to control future behaviors of people. Privacy is important to Americans even if they don't think of their privacy too often; privacy is just assumed to be protected since the Fourth Amendment ensures that it will be.

The Fourth Amendment states: "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."

The large digital footprint each American leaves behind during each daily walk of life affords the "data-watchers" the opportunity to build a profile of personal information that would nullify the Fourth Amendment at the very moment the information is exposed. That leaves the individual in a position of being controlled by the person or entities who possess that personal information and threaten to release it publicly.

During the NSA debate of spying on individual Americans, the administration has insisted no one is "reading" the information being collected. Yet we know that currently technology has the ability to "read" the metadata to establish categorical data showing trends, correlations and similarities. Hence, Amazon can recommend other books by the same author who wrote the book we purchased. If that is a reality presently in commercial ventures, what kind of tracking and trending can the giant computer facilities in Utah accomplish? So it is feasible to believe the administration when it says, "No person is reading this collected information," but is that also true for the computer reading and categorizing the information? It is only a short leap from collecting and storing the information to analyzing and using the information. Since we have since found the president and a number of his administration telling much less than the truth regarding other matters, can we really believe they wouldn't mislead the American people regarding privacy?

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Think of some future date when some administration more unscrupulous than any we have ever seen is in power and has all the stored information available for use. How easy would it be to have the director of national security have the computer generate reports on the life of every opposing senator or representative or federal judge to uncover some embarrassing incident from their "digital footprint." Not just the particular senator, representative or judge, but each member of the official's family, spouse, children, siblings, grandchildren. Possession of that kind of power could cause sway over decisions for laws or other positions of power. Such information just lying in storage accessible to those in power has unlimited uses to gain and maintain control to make people virtually dependent on those in power.

From a biblical viewpoint there is precedent (or prediction) that some sort of identification process will be used sometime in the future for people to engage in normal commerce. In the Book of Revelation in the Bible we read, "He also caused everyone (small and great, rich and poor, free and slave) to obtain a mark on their right hand or on their forehead. Thus no one was allowed to buy or sell things unless he bore the mark of the beast  that is, his name or his number." (Revelation 13:16-17) This passage in Revelation is not presented here to imply in any way, shape or form that the NSA surveillance practice is the process described in the Bible. It is merely presented to remind us that we are living in a world where this process has been invented and the conditions are now available to implement such a process.

Christians need to remember that our faith in Christ is our assurance that He has already won the battle over all evil. We may be subjected to such man-made surveillance processes, but in the final analysis. ours will be citizenship in the kingdom of God rather than the oversight of the kingdom of man.

[By JIM KILLEBREW]

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