What if the Government Hid Bugs and Video Cameras in Every American Home?

Top government officials have been defending the NSA’s secret collection of phone records of every American. But the argument they are using today to justify mass surveillance of phone calls could be used to justify ANY amount of intrusion into Americans’ private lives. Imagine, for example, what would happen if it were discovered that the NSA had placed a secret microphone and video camera in the living room and bedroom of every home in America. It’s easy to predict how the government would defend that kind of spying. Here is what they would probably say:

  • The audio and video data collected from Americans’ homes do not constitute “surveillance” because nobody watches or listens to the recordings, unless they obtain a warrant. Actually, not a real warrant, or even a subpoena, but permission through an internal NSA process based on—trust us!—very, very strict criteria. Or in a small number of other very exceptional circumstances.
  • The program has been approved by the chairs of the major congressional intelligence committees, as well as the secret FISA Court.
  • While it’s true that even the sweepingly broad Patriot Act requires that data be “relevant” to an investigation, there has never been a requirement that every piece of data in a dataset that is turned over be relevant, only that the data set be generally relevant . When it comes to the mass of data that we are collecting from people’s homes, we know there is relevant information in there, and if we don’t preserve that data, we won’t be able to find it when we need it.
  • At least 50 acts of terrorism-like crimes have been prevented. We can’t release details of these successes, but they include several people caught building bomb-like objects in their kitchens, two instances in which women who were kidnapped years ago were found being kept prisoner within private homes, and numerous instances of domestic violence.

All of the arguments above are essentially what the NSA’s current defenders have been saying. My point is that there are few limits to the spying that their arguments could be used to justify.

The idea of the NSA secretly visiting every home in America to hide audio and video bugs inside may seem far-fetched, but what they have actually done is not quite as different as it might seem. It was not long ago that in order for the government to collect telephone metadata (all telephone numbers called and received), the authorities had to attach telephone bugs known as “pen register” and “trap and trace” devices to a home’s physical telephone line. Today it no longer needs to do that, but its mass collection of telephone metadata accomplishes the same end through virtual means, and just because the technology makes it possible to carry out such spying through the reshuffling of digital files at telephone central offices, doesn’t mean it’s any less intrusive than if the NSA were to physically attach a bug on the telephone wires outside every home.

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Anonymous

They already do this, it's called a smartphone.

Anonymous

but wouldn't they already have done that through laptop computers that have built in webcams with microphones? It used to be that laptops didn't come with installed webcams. Then more and more of them started being installed. There have been stories about people hacking computers and looking at people through their cams...sooooo if that is the case, then it has already been shown in material released by Edward Snowden that in-fact computers were hacked at the EU embassies and computers on networks had information copied from their hard drives in these "surveillance" operations. If that can be done, then I am sure now after reading all that, there is no problem for them accessing web cameras or microphones. Plus the anti-virus companies providing software for protection from spyware have not fully covered the computers they were supposed to.

Anonymous

Why isn't the ACLU aware of the fact that the FBI already places small hidden digital video cameras inside the homes and vehicles of individual Americans ?

Anonymous

Why isn't the ACLU aware of the fact that the FBI already places hidden digital video cameras inside the homes and vehicles of innocent Americans?

AFEKTMEDIA

As of recent reports over the weekend this is ready to be rolled out this holiday- it's called XBOX ONE that Microsoft has included some of the most advanced motion capture, voice, detection ever to be available. Its more disturbing to realize Microsoft has stated that the XBOX ONE must always be connected and online with full cameras and voice detection in order to operate the Game Box and now your all in one entertainment and NSA spying box! It has been leaked from The Guardian that MICROSOFT actually worked with NSA in handing over their Encryption and new SKYPE APIs so NSA can have a 24/7 video and audio peek inside your home.

Anonymous

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