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John Oliver, formerly of The Daily Show, has his own platform now, and he's used it to get an interview with former NSA director Keith Alexander. As usual Alexander minces words and makes it seem like the NSA doesn't collect information on US persons.
When Alexander claims the NSA doesn't collect the content of American communications, but acknowledges it collects metadata records in bulk, Oliver observes that this information "is not nothing. That's significant information, otherwise you wouldn't want it."
"Is this the argument, then, that to get the needle you need the haystack?" Oliver asks.
"Well that's part of the argument."
"Right but people's concerns, I think, are that you're not just taking the haystack, you're taking the whole farm, and the county, and the state, and you've now got some photos of the farmer's wife in the shower, as well."
Alexander says that ultimately, the people of the United States have to decide if the government is "doing the right things" to protect the public, while simultaneously protecting civil liberties. It's obvious the answer is no on both counts.
The interview is pretty funny, but the subject is no laughing matter. We know that mass surveillance doesn't advance public safety. It's about political, social, and economic control. Dragnet spying is incompatible with a free society.