Sen. Lindsey Graham, Verizon Customer: I'm GLAD The NSA Is Harvesting My Data. Because Terrorists.

by Tim Cushing
Jun. 10, 2013

Whenever overreaching surveillance comes to light, whether it's a national security agency or local law enforcement operating the dragnet, there's always one person who will toss out one of these two worn out, used up, dripping-in-paternal-condescension phrases in defense of the privacy abusers.

1. If you've got nothing to hide, what are you worried about? 2. Because terrorism/crime/drugs/child porn.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, usually a critic of the current administration, tends to fall back in line with his allegiances to George W. Bush's overreaching policies during events like these. If it has anything to do with terrorism, Graham is there to back up the abusers, no matter which party has control of the White House. (You may recall Graham's recent support of the FBI's decision to not inform Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev of his Miranda rights.)

Graham made an appearance on Fox & Friends the morning after news of the NSA's massive data haul broke. He starts out by invoking the most holy of political rhetorical devices: fighting terrorism.
ďIím glad the NSA is trying to find out what the terrorists are up to overseas and in our country,Ē Graham said Thursday morning on ďFox & Friends."
He followed it up with his particular spin on the "nothing to hide; nothing to fear" argument defuser.
As a customer of Verizon, the subject of the court order, Graham said he and others had nothing to worry about.

ďIím a Verizon customer. I donít mind Verizon turning over records to the government if the government is going to make sure that they try to match up a known terrorist phone with somebody in the United States. I donít think youíre talking to the terrorists. I know youíre not. I know Iím not. So we donít have anything to worry about.Ē
A member of the government informing the public that he has no problem with the public handing over things to the government. How refreshing!

There's a big "if" in his second sentence and that part worries people nearly as much as the general idea of national security/investigative agencies hoovering up all the data they can get ahold of.

"If the government is going to make sure that they try..." We, the people, have received no assurances to that effect. Sure, those involved directly and those defending these court orders are all stating publicly that the data is perfectly safe in their hands and won't be abused in the slightest (and quite possibly isn't actually happening at all), but the last dozen years or so have produced much more evidence to the contrary.

As far as he knows, Graham isn't talking to terrorists. But there's really no reason for anyone to believe the NSA and FBI are only interested in terrorists. The NSA may be trying to root out and punish whistleblowers. The FBI may be looking for any phone that's come within 500 feet of a mosque.

As for telling us that we have nothing to fear and, therefore, nothing to hide? Here's the problem with that argument. First off, if I'm not talking to terrorists, why is my data being grabbed along with potential suspects? This is still an anti-terrorism thing, right?

[Sidebar: I don't think I could really say I definitely don't communicate with terrorists. I don't have any friends or acquaintances who display an inordinate fascination with terrorism. On the other hand, if they were terrorists, I would imagine that part of their life is pretty well compartmentalized and that there's more to their life than terrorism 24/7. So... unlike Graham, I'm not going to say I don't talk to terrorists. Ultimately, this shouldn't matter, but Graham seems to think it does.]

Second: I am getting pretty sick and tired of talking heads trying to mollify us by informing us that we have nothing to fear because we have nothing to hide, especially since this phrase is only put into play after the government's encroachment has effectively removed the "hide" option. It's not so much that we have "nothing to hide." It's that we don't have a choice. The government exposes us and then pats us on the head and tells us it will all be alright -- because we're innocent. (And yet somehow still subject to the same treatment as the guilty...)

Third, I'm glad you're glad that we're fighting terrorism by using everyone's data, Lindsey. Since the President has informed us that Congress holds the keys to this whole debacle (in a roundabout way), maybe you could stop assuring us that everything's OK (as long as you're not a terrorist and/or talking to one!) and that we should all aspire to be good little nothing-to-hide citizens, and start rolling back this ongoing, ever-expanding encroachment on our rights and liberty. Maybe start by asking why, if you don't "talk to terrorists," is your data being gathered in the name of fighting terrorists?

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