For all the billion dollar facilities in Utah, the billion dollar plus consulting agreements with big consulting firms, our Congressional oversight, the 1.5 million people deemed safe enough for top secret clearance (not really the top clearance, but who is counting or really cares?), and the hundreds of billions spent on "national defense," we do not even have any idea what the US government is spending on the NSA much less on anti-terrorism. What we do know is that very big dollars are out there, being doled out to those who want the money for safety that is at best subliminal and in the shadows.
People guess that we spend $10 billion on NSA. How much more goes to anti-terrorism practiced by our armed forces, police forces, task forces, spies and others is unknown. If you add in the "war" on terror and all its geographies and the trumped up expenses of drones and other actions military and otherwise, clearly tens of millions owe at least part of their jobs to the "war" on terror. The cost since this "war" began is easily in the trillions of dollars.
No little sum. And no doubt a major blow to our economy. Banks and investment firms were not the only ones at fault. Or perhaps the "war" on terror has propped up our employment figures and the economy. In the end, we know we have had a ton of money and debt caused by our fear for terror and all that has meant.
What our military leader of NSA wants you to know is that in some way, no matter how minute or when this occurred, all of 50 plots not just in the US but around the world were somehow affected to our own good by the spying that took place involving the world. Not just outside the US. Not just records for or about foreigners. But for everyone.
The blanket immunities and permissions granted for the millions of excused and unauthorized violations of the Fourth Amendment, and the very costs inherent in obtaining and maintaining these monuments to future crime prevention, are not only never in the equation, they are ignored and in any case secret and unavailable.
To our president on down so far, saving a very few lives has been worth every penny of expense. Even if you cannot prove that the same result would have happened without the expense. The burden is not on those spending the money and with the information. It is on you, the taxpayer to prove the money should not have been spent.
So it is that we are faced with ephemeral claims of protection but a few very real and available statistics on the "war" on terror and the intrusions into our lives and the costs of doing so.
Take your time to take your shoes off because you may be concealing a bomb. Take all metal off because you might have a knife or heaven forbid box cutters.
And do so by stand in wasted years of lines every month caused by the need to be hyper-vigilant about that terrorist likely to be standing next to you, eighty years old and tired, four years old and jumping out of their skin, or even that baby strapped no doubt with a bomb.
The danger of doing this was foreseen by Philip K. Dick. In Minority Report, modified for the screen for a movie starring Tom Cruse, Dick saw that some day we might be able to prevent crime before it happened.
And so it is now.
We have a man in military uniform spying on us all who is supposed to use your information and everyone else's to prevent a crime before it happens.
We have the Minority Report too. A few brave souls who feel the government is going too far. Who want a debate. And those that say the crime would not have happened anyway. Or that some persons involved were not criminals. Instead, the persons were wrongfully accused.
But, just like we vote for death when we watch Jodi Arias and so many other televised show, like voting for some new talent being the best, we now allow criminal or potentially criminal acts to occur because we have been immunized from our rights like so many unwanted bacteria. The rights might harm us, so why have them at all.
You may admire NSA and believe this represents the era with law enforcement at its very apogee, our military not for victories but because of the bravery of those involved in our "wars," or if you may be just plain happy at the way things are going. But for many if not most of us, we give the situation little thought. Many use the cry, "Who cares? We all know this is happening anyway."
What every well-intentioned society started off saying before the ultimate breach of trust. Trust our government, even if they do not trust us. Government can do this best.
True, we have limited resources. But many seem wiling to pay the cost of stopping future crimes no matter how uncertain the savings really are.
Pay for our safety the cost of loss of freedom. Pay the cost of war to our efforts to stop crime around the world. Continue to pay consultants and others to keep us safe and just bear down on the risks of doing this. After all, the 1.5 million who have to know our secrets when we scale so large into this massive system of wiretapping and information gathering can be trusted with our data. They are all honest and, unlike in Minority Report, no mistakes are made at all. After all, anyone who tries to voice concerns is a traitor and will be dealt with accordingly.
If nothing else, give political capital to those who we want reelected.
Shouldn't we start making some real choices here?
If we want to prevent future crime, shouldn't we spend every penny NSA spends on cleaning up our neighborhoods, rooting out gangs, and giving our citizens better lives.
Surely, the ultimate savings for this will be far greater than any memory bank, any security line at an airport, and anything else.
Spend money more wisely, ensuring that NSA and the other entities are accomplishing some thing meaningful. And when they have done so little, like somehow help expose 50 plots at the cost of billions apiece, let's decide whether this was worth this price. Is it worth the price only when American lives are at stake, or have we finally and really taken over responsibility as the world's policeman without being paid for undertaking this task?
This decision should be up to you. You pay the money. And thankfully, President Obama is in full agreement with having this debate. The problem is, he is the most secretive president in history. We can have the debate. But can we have the facts? Certainly not.
Our government officials believe in stopping future crime. No matter how much money and the degree of personal invasions it may take.
And maybe you do too.