Anyone who didn't know, shouldn't vote

Anybody who doesn't know that the government is spying on its citizens shouldn't be allowed to vote. Then we'll get a better system of government.

There has been the Patriot Act, passed by a Democratic majority Congress, and the National Defense Authorization Act, signed by Barack Obama. We have drones over our heads. But, hey, it's all for our own good, according to Obama.

The current administration is prosecuting anybody who reveals its crooked deals and secrets, but reserves for itself the right to listen to our phone calls, read our emails, check on the websites we access on the Internet, and even what books we check out of the library. This is the progressives' road to a police state in the land of the free.

Leo T. West

San Leandro

People are not doing the math on this one

In the hundreds of articles on National Security Agency data mining of our phone and email records, two things are being totally ignored.

First, when you are dealing with billions of calls, emails and text messages, why would anyone pick your calls to analyze or, as some believe, listen to the conversations?

To pick specific calls, they'd have to have a very good reason -- such as ties to terrorist groups. Do you fall in that category? You'd need billions of government employees to randomly listen to everyday conversations. Do the math. What is the likelihood a government employee has listened in on your conversations?

Second, Internet companies are being criticized for their role in this data mining. Being required to keep government requests secret is helping fuel speculation that Google is giving the government unfettered access to our users' data.

If I do a Google search for car insurance, you can bet every page I open from then on will have ads for car insurance and, in some cases, ads for new cars or ads related to the car for which I sought insurance. I will get telephone calls from insurers.

It may be algorithms setting up unfettered access to my user data, but it is also algorithms comparing my phone calls to terrorists calls. Why is it OK for Google to share with other companies but not OK to share with the government?

This is a different world then when the Constitution was written. If data mining prevents another 9/11, mine away.

Flo Samuels

Hayward

More concerned about appointment

I am more concerned about the quiet dismantling of Dodd-Frank by the Obama administration in appointing Amanda Renteria to be chief of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. She is thoroughly unqualified and will allow the hedge fund millionaires another pass at the taxpayers.

While the newspapers and blogs are in high drama about data mining, this financial story merits scant coverage. And why? Anyone who thinks they have privacy in this digital age is dreaming.

Of course there are dangers, but spying on citizens has been with us since before Nixon. We have safeguards that will never be perfect but do protect, and an alert citizenry who encourage whistle-blowing can keep it in check. Financial shenanigans are another matter.

Anne Spanier

Alameda

Big Brother is our greatest danger

The Constitution states: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

The Founding Fathers ratified that amendment on Dec. 15, 1791. How brilliant of them to foresee data mining.

The president's oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution" he now interprets through a dark, opaque PRISM, instead of the ratified agreement that establishes our nation.

Our nation's greatest danger is from Big Brother swindlers, not terrorists.

Read George Washington's farewell address on this.

B.F. Minton

San Lorenzo

Acceptable, with reservations

The mining of data from the nine U.S. Internet companies is an acceptable balance of my privacy interests and my need for protection. However, I think I understand the basic potential of political abuse (instead of auditing someone, use this information to say who they've been sleeping with, etc.).

Politically speaking, as well as substantively, I agree with President Obama on this matter. Although I'd feel more comfortable if I knew more specifics, I can understand why this isn't possible.

I find it disingenuous that many Republicans support this surveillance when their guy is in the White House, and reject it when a Democrat holds it.

Generally, I dislike Obama, much because of his Chicago-style of "transparency." Unfortunately, I find those Republicans of whom I speak being all too transparent.

Daniel Mauthe

Livermore

These surely are challenging times

The question, "Are you concerned about the government apparently mining data from ... Internet companies?" hasn't an easy answer.

The furor over the practice is conspicuously tardy, as it began under President George W. Bush. I remember defenders of the surveillance adamantly arguing "9/11 changed everything."

I'm usually a critic of what's perceived as unnecessary governmental overreach, and I'm aware of the protections enumerated in the Fourth Amendment. But there are exceptions to virtually everything, especially in these challenging times.

In a 1919 Supreme Court decision, the justices affirmed speech has limits, " ... the character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done." The "speech" in question was suppressed because it created a "clear and present danger" to America's war effort.

Terminating the mining of data would please some Republicans, but it also would establish a no-win situation for President Obama. Those same Republicans would be the first to condemn Obama for failing to protect our country if a terrorist strike occurred that the surveillance program could have prevented.

Ronald Entwistle

San Pablo

Primary objection is secrecy from us

My primary objection is the secrecy of this program from U.S. citizens and the lying that goes along with it.

President Obama said every member of Congress was informed. That turned out to be untrue, and the mouths of those who were informed were taped shut. So how is that supposed to ease our fears?

It is extremely naive to suggest secrecy is needed in order to not tip off our enemies. Seriously, terrorists don't suspect their communications are tracked and don't use means to avoid detection?

What danger is there in disclosing the existence of metadata mining to anyone but freedom-loving Americans -- who have ample reason to distrust government in general, and the current crop in particular, given the daily revelations of overreaching?

As a candidate, even Obama feared government intrusion into his privacy (we still don't know what's in his college transcripts), invoking the warning that those who trade their freedom and privacy for security end up with neither.

Besides, the effectiveness is as questionable as that of waterboarding, while solid leads are ignored.

Erich P. Kellner

Walnut Creek