Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Snoopy, Snoopier, Snoopiest
The Outrage Index

Snoopy, Snoopier, Snoopiest A tip sheet for the scandals

By Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The last few weeks have brought so many reported breaches of privacy that it has been difficult to determine how to feel about each one. So we asked Jeffrey Rosen, our legal affairs editor, to adjudicate: Which government intrusions should you be furious about and which are closer to shrug-worthy?

AP Phone Scandal

Scope of Intrusion

Medium

Justice Department investigators secretly peeked  at the call logs of more than 20 phone lines used  by Associated Press journalists to find out who tipped them off about a CIA operation in Yemen.

Chilling Effect

Medium

The search could have compromised the identities of secret sources and will certainly give future informants a reason to keep quiet.

National Security Interest

Very Low

The Associated Press held off on publishing a story for five days until the CIA confirmed there was no national security risk.

How You Should Feel

Queasy

“The government’s response to the leak felt aggressive and overly sweeping. These were just journalists doing their jobs, and the information doesn’t seem that sensitive.”


Rosen Investigation

Scope of Intrusion

High

When Fox News’ James Rosen revealed that the CIA had assets inside North Korea, the Justice Department not only went after his source, but also labeled Rosen a possible “criminal co-conspirator.” It later backed off.

Chilling Effect

Medium

Investigators pulled Rosen’s call logs, read his e-mails, and followed his comings and goings. The message: Journalists who deal in confidential info will be watched.

National Security Interest

Unknown

The government will not say if Rosen’s story did any harm, though some say it put North Korean operatives at risk.

How You Should Feel

Irked

“Only the government knows how much Rosen disrupted any secret missions, but nothing can justify treating a journalist like a potential criminal under the Espionage Act.”


PRISM Program

Scope of Intrusion

High

Through partnerships with nearly every major Internet company, the National Security Agency (NSA) spies on e-mails, searches, Skype sessions, and even Facebook messagesalthough only foreigners are fair game.

Chilling Effect

Very High

The NSA combs through the data using keywords but says it will only investigate targets it is 51 percent certain are non-citizens. Lots of room for potential mistakes.

National Security Interest

Medium/Unknown

Senators familiar with the program swear that it has saved lives, but critics say it’s impossible to sift through so much data effectively.

How You Should Feel

Creeped Out

“For U.S. citizens at least, Prism might not be the intrusion that privacy hawks claim it is. But that depends on how much you trust the NSA’s algorithms.”


Verizon Metadata

Scope of Intrusion

Very High

The NSA obtained a blanket warrant ordering Verizon to give daily reports on all calls made on its U.S. network. The collected metadata includes the time of the call, who you called, and even your cell phone’s unique ID number.

Chilling Effect

High

Though the government isn’t listening to your conversations, knowing who you talk to can be just as bad.

National Security Interest

Medium/Unknown

It’s likely that terrorists have learned by now to avoid relying on phone networks, but officials say the program has seen some success.

How You Should Feel

Outraged

“At least with Prism, the NSA has to provide targeted search terms. Seizing these phone records, which cover a vast swath of the American population, comes dangerously close to domestic spying.”

Jeff Guo is a reporter-researcher at The New Republic.

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