In the post 9/11 world we live in, we expect to pay a cost in some personal liberties for the sake of national security. We expect to get scanned and searched and give up our fingernail clippers at the airport, or to have people call police if someone sets down a package for a moment.
But the idea that the government is grabbing the phone records of millions of cell phone users, by order of some judge in in a secret court that reports to no one, is a government overreach that smacks of Big Brother.
The government's practice was revealed last week by a former National Security Agency and CIA contract worker, Edward Snowden, to the British newspaper The Guardian.
The government grabs hundreds of millions of phone records every day, looking for patterns on who terror suspects are talking to. The government also taps into nine U.S. internet providers to gather all internet usage information.
President Obama defended the program, which began with the Bush administration, saying no one is listening to telephone calls, unless a link is established with a potential terrorist, and a federal judge issues a warrant.
But the idea that the government has secretly been keeping track of every time we make a phone call or log on to a website is certainly unsettling. It is a program that needs to have oversight and strong boundaries set to prevent abuse.