There are several vital points raised by the new revelations in The New York Times that "the N.S.A.'s reliance on telecommunications companies is broader and deeper than ever before" and includes both pre-9/11 efforts to tap without warrants into the nation's domestic communications network as well as the collection of vast telephone records of American citizens in the name of the War on Drugs. The Executive Branch and the largest telecommunications companies work in virtually complete secrecy -- with no oversight and no notion of legal limits -- to spy on Americans, on our own soil, at will.
More than anything else, what these revelations highlight -- yet again -- is that the U.S. has become precisely the kind of surveillance state that we were always told was the hallmark of tyrannical societies, with literally no limits on the government's ability or willingness to spy on its own citizens and to maintain vast dossiers on those activities. The vast bulk of those on whom the Government spies have never been accused, let alone convicted, of having done anything wrong. One can dismiss those observations as hyperbole if one likes -- people want to believe that their own government is basically benevolent and "tyranny" is something that happens somewhere else -- but publicly available facts simply compel the conclusion that, by definition, we live in a lawless surveillance state, and most of our political officials are indifferent to, if not supportive of, that development.
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