“Even the ACLU is shocked” by the Obama administration’s secret grab of phone records of millions of Americans, says talk-radio host Michael Savage.
He noted on his nationally syndicated show Friday night that while Obama has characterized the government’s access to the data as a “modest encroachment” on privacy, an ACLU senior policy analyst called it a “gross privacy invasion.”
Recalling the warnings in his “Beware the Government-Media Complex” speech to the Commonwealth Club of California in 2000, Savage told his listeners the NSA’s snooping is “the biggest scandal of your entire life.”
“I’ve always run my life as if I’m listened in on,” he said.
Savage cited an op-ed for Reuters by the ACLU’s Ben Wizner that pointed out the disturbing privacy implications of the Obama administration’s surveillance program.
A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study, Wizner wrote, concluded that “reviewing people’s social networking contacts alone was sufficient to determine their sexual orientation.”
He noted that “metadata from email communications was sufficient to identify the mistress of then-CIA Director David Petraeus and then drive him out of office.”
“The ‘who,’ ‘when’ and ‘how frequently’ of communications are often more revealing than what is said or written,’ he argued. “Calls between a reporter and a government whistleblower, for example, may reveal a relationship that can be incriminating all on its own.”
The ACLU analyst said “repeated calls to Alcoholics Anonymous, hotlines for gay teens, abortion clinics or a gambling bookie may tell you all you need to know about a person’s problems.”
“If a politician were revealed to have repeatedly called a phone sex hotline after 2:00 a.m., no one would need to know what was said on the call before drawing conclusions,” said Wizner. “In addition sophisticated data-mining technologies have compounded the privacy implications by allowing the government to analyze terabytes of metadata and reveal far more details about a person’s life than ever before.”
The London Guardian released a secret order Wednesday from the FISA Court revealing that the U.S. government has been using Section 215 of the Patriot Act to track the calls of every Verizon Business Network Services customer.
In response, the ACLU issued a press release Thursday calling on Congress to investigate.
“The secrecy surrounding the government’s extraordinary surveillance powers has stymied our system of checks and balances,” said Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office.
Murphy said there’s “a time and a place for government secrecy, but true democracy demands that the governed be informed of the rules of play so as to hold elected officials to account.”
The Obama program appears to be based on the FISA Amendments Act, which authorizes surveillance of communications if one party is believed to be outside the U.S.
In February, the ACLU’s lawsuit challenging the law’s constitutionality was dismissed 5-4 by the Supreme Court on the grounds that the plaintiffs could not prove that they had been monitored.
ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer, who argued the case before the Supreme Court, said the new revelations “make clear that the NSA – part of the military – now has direct access to every corner of Americans’ digital lives.”
“Unchecked government surveillance presents a grave threat to democratic freedoms,” he said. “These revelations are a reminder that Congress has given the executive branch far too much power to invade individual privacy, that existing civil liberties safeguards are grossly inadequate, and that powers exercised entirely in secret, without public accountability of any kind, will certainly be abused.”
Savage is the author of 29 books, including six New York Times bestsellers. He was awarded the coveted Freedom of Speech Award by Talkers Magazine and earned his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.
Savage’s Train Tracks: Family Stories for the Holidays,” released in October, takes his readers on an engaging, thought-provoking journey back in time, to the Bronx of the late 1940s and early 1950s, beginning with a vivid portrayal of a train trip from New York City to Pennsylvania to visit relatives at Thanksgiving.
He other bestsellers include “Trickle Down Tyranny: Crushing Obama’s Dream of the Socialist States of America,” “Trickle Up Poverty: Stopping Obama’s Attack on Our Borders, Economy, and Security,” “The Savage Nation,” “The Enemy Within,” “Liberalism is a Mental Disorder,” “Political Zoo,” “Psychological Nudity: Savage Radio Stories” and “Banned in Britain.”