Conservative commentator Brit Hume offered a rather novel justification of the National Security Agency’s collection of all Americans’ electronic data, saying that “if everyone is supposedly under surveillance — everyone , with every call — then no one is.”
Hume discussed the surveillance program — the subject of a lengthy speech by President Barack Obama on Friday — on a Fox News Sunday panel hosted by Chris Wallace. The commentator dismissed the concern that the program has been used to improperly target individual citizens, citing agency statistics that claim no one has been victimized.
“This program really threatens no one unless it’s abused,” Hume said, “and to date not a single victim has been identified, not a single abuse of the metadata has been identified that harmed anyone in any way. So that’s, I think, the real reason why Congress hasn’t done anything, is that the program has so far worked as intended, although it hasn’t done as much as they thought it might have could. But there’s no one harmed!”
There are indeed no confirmed cases of the federal government abusing their ability to collect data on an individual American without a warrant. But leaked documents do confirm that the Drug Enforcement Agency, the IRS and other federal law enforcement entities receive intelligence information from the NSA, which they then apparently use to charge Americans with crimes.
To avoid the obvious constitutional pitfalls, the memos instruct agents in a process called “parallel construction,” where data first obtained illegally is then re-collected through legitimate methods such as warrants, subpoenas and interviews — in essence reverse-engineering the evidence gathering process to make it appear legitimate. The memos instruct agents to never reveal the intelligence community as the original source of the information. Thus it is — at least for now — impossible to discover which individuals were targeted and prosecuted in such a fashion.
Despite Hume’s claim that no one has been harmed by the program, he believes it’s “understandable” that so many people are outraged. They simply are, in his view, misinformed.
“What many of them don’t understand is, these telephone calls are not being listened in on,” he claimed. “It is simply a record of the kind that your phone company gets every time you place a call of the number you call, the duration of the call, and the time of the call. That’s it. And when you have that, when you think of the number of phone calls made and the volume of this metadata, this is the ultimate haystack. And special procedures have to be undergone to search this vast amount of information.”
“My basic thesis, I guess, is if everyone is supposedly under surveillance — everyone, with every call — then no one is,” Hume concluded.
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