US government phone call snooping angers broad spectrum

(Photo: Reuters / NSA / Handout via Reuters)An undated aerial handout photo shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland.

Revelations that the U.S. government has been prying into the telephone calls of ordinary Americans has created an outcry among people of all political persuasions.

 The clamor over a report in Britain's Guardian newspaper that indicated that the U.S. intelligence-gathering National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting the phone records of millions of people, is just beginning.

 A top-secret court order issued in April requires that Verizon, one of the largest telecom providers in the United States., provide the NSA with all information on telephone calls within its systems on an "ongoing, daily basis."

Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald noted that while domestic surveillance occurred under President George W. Bush, the "unlimited nature of the records being handed over to the NSA is extremely unusual."

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who conservatives say has a liberal bias, has complained of the snooping.

But the widespread domestic spying of the government on its own citizens has given ammunition to the religious right, which already has a testy relationship with the administration of President Barack Obama.

One of the president's greatest critics is Joseph Farah, the editor of the news site WorldNetDaily.

Farah is a conservative Christian and carries the label "birther," a person who has doubts about whether or not Obama was born in the United States and, therefore, eligible to be president.

The cover story of Farah's Whistleblower Magazine is called "Obama's War on Christians."

Farah responded to the news of the domestic surveillance by saying, "America is facing a constitutional crisis in which government is moving to be master of the American people rather than their servant."

He called on the U.S. Congress to use its oversight authority over U.S. intelligence agencies and obtain the documents which he said would prove that "Obama and his executive branch have been abusing their authority."

Farah said, "Congress needs to stop acting like it is impotent in getting to the truth. It needs to stop being timid as Rome burns."

The Voice magazine, a conservative Christian news site, published an article on the scandal titled, "America: Under God or Under Surveillance."

The headline is adapted from the American Pledge of Allegiance, an official expression of loyalty which includes the words "one Nation under God."

The author of the piece, Chuck Baldwin, is a pastor who said that "perhaps the most essential element of liberty is the right to be left alone, the right to privacy, the understanding that a man's home is his castle, the right of free people to live their lives without Big Brother looking over their shoulder.

"Without the right to be left alone, liberty does not exist! And ladies and gentlemen, it is this freedom that is under attack the most in this country."

Baldwin said the issue cuts across political, social, racial, and religious lines.

"It doesn't matter to a hill of beans whether one is liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, white or black, or Protestant or Catholic," he said.

He asserts that people being able to go about life without "government sticking its nose into our personal and private business" is essence of a free society.

"America is no longer 'one nation under God'. Today America is 'one nation under surveillance'," he said.

Thomas C. Fox, the publisher of the National Catholic Reporter, quoted Kate Martin of the Center for National Security Studies, a civil liberties advocacy group.

Martin said, "absent of some explanation I haven't thought of, this looks like the largest assault on privacy since the NSA wiretapped Americans in clear violation of the law" under the administration of George W. Bush.

 "On what possible basis has the government refused to tell us that it believes that the law authorizes this kind of request," she said.

Conservative radio host and devout Mormon Glenn Beck said, "It is a brave new world. It is 1984.

 "You're being listened to. You're being monitored," he said, quoted in The Blaze, a media outlet Beck founded. "Do you care - or do you say, 'I'm not doing anything wrong so it doesn't matter?'"

 Beck said that Americans should stand up and tell the government, "We are the employers. You are the servant," noting that the issue is "about civil rights."

 Obama defended the NSA program saying, "In the abstract, you can complain about Big Brother and how this is a potential program run amok.

"But when you actually look at the details, I think we've struck the right balance, " he said acknowleging  that the government is collecting huge amounts of data, but adding, "Nobody's listening to the content of people's phone calls."

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