David Simon of The Wire: Calm Down on Surveillance

This is a 'faux scandal' driven by people who don't have a clue
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 7, 2013 3:55 PM CDT

(Newser) – David Simon created The Wire and presumably knows a thing or two about surveillance. One thing he's sure of: All this noise about the feds snooping on Americans is a "faux scandal," he writes at his website. The column opens with a question: "Is it just me or does the entire news media—as well as all the agitators and self-righteous bloviators on both sides of the aisle—not understand even the rudiments of electronic intercepts and the manner in which law enforcement actually uses such intercepts?" He goes back to his days as a Baltimore cops reporter and draws a parallel with how police monitored public pay phones in the 1980s, with a judge's blessing. One key parallel: "They weren't listening to the calls." (President Obama made a similar point about the modern process today.)

Sorry, conspiracists, but federal agents aren't looking to uncover the secrets of hundreds of millions of Americans. They're using an investigative tool to fight terrorism, a type of data collection "that is effectively asked to find the needles before they are planted into haystacks." Yes, overreach can happen. "But those planes really did hit those buildings. And that bomb did indeed blow up at the finish line of the Boston marathon." If you think the current "bloviating" is bad, imagine what it would be "if, in the wake of an incident of domestic terrorism, an American president and his administration had failed to take full advantage of the existing telephonic data to do what is possible to find those needles in the haystacks." Click to read Simon's full column.

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