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Chilling questions: Don't bet on answers

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Monday, July 1, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

A bipartisan group of 26 U.S. senators has posed a chilling question to James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence: Is the National Security Agency collecting “metadata” on records other than those for telephones and email?

The question came in a Friday letter from a group led by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., reports The Washington Free Beacon. “We are concerned that by depending on secret interpretations of the Patriot Act that differed from an intuitive reading of the statute, this program essentially relied for years on a secret body of law,” they wrote.

The senators want to know if the NSA is compiling data on things such as firearms and book purchases. The former, of course, would amount to an illegal national database of gun ownership, a shocking circumvention of the law. The latter would represent a shocking government move to monitor the philosophical bents of the citizenry, a most Orwellian move.

Indeed, Section 125 of the Patriot Act allows collection of a wide range of information — but in a “stepped” process, supposedly, that requires, supposedly again, the approval of the secret court overseeing such things.

So, what exactly is the NSA collecting from us? And can the American people, in any way, shape or form, expect an honest answer to this letter from Mr. Clapper?

After all, he's the same fella who gave that self-described “least untruthful answer” he could give when he told a Senate panel the government does not “wittingly” collect any type of data on the citizenry.

We are not encouraged during this week in which we celebrate our liberties.

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