Mark Haslett's Blog
11:56 am
Sat June 8, 2013

Some weekend reading about domestic surveillance

As usual, the headlines are long on drama, short on context. ProPublica offers some help in understanding an issue that seems to have the country and its government on different pages.

"World goin' one way...people another, yo." - Malik "Poot" Carr, HBO's "The Wire."

When, in the fourth season of the HBO television series "The Wire," Poot made that observation to Bodie, he was talking about the global climate becoming warmer and humans getting colder.

This past week's headlines illustrated another way in which the "world" and "people" are going in different directions. The revelations detailing the extent of domestic surveillance in the United States have more than a few shaking their heads at how the powerful and the powerless have such different ideas of what's acceptable.

As regrettable, in my view, as these stories are, this is a good opportunity to point out that there's a vibrant world of nonprofit news organizations beyond NPR and its affiliate stations. There's ProPublica, which has a few worthwhile reads that can help fill in the gaps in one's understanding of the situation.

First, there's a timeline of domestic surveillance in this country that shows how we got to the place where we are. This might be useful information for those in your life (or on your Facebook feed) who have the idea that one particular president or political party is to blame for the mess. It's a bipartisan effort - and that's not debatable, it's a matter of historical record.

Second, there's an article explaining how the government can access your digital data. This explains both the physical and legal side of "how" - the nuts-and-bolts of how it occurs and the legal processes that make it possible.

Finally, ProPublica compiles its own greatest-hits list of some of the best stories on the topic from the big media outlets since 2005.