For news hounds and conspiracy theorists alike, the past few days have been about as good as it gets.
A series of groundbreaking news stories, one published by the British paper The Guardian, the second by the The Guardian and the Washington Post, uncovered two top-secret U.S. government surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency, both aimed at collecting massive amounts of personal communications data. The findings have reignited the age-old debate over privacy and security. Civil libertarians – an interesting mix of key outspoken conservatives and liberals (yes, Rand Paul, Al Gore, and the ACLU are on the same page on this one) – expressed outrage over privacy invasions and government overreach, while President Barack Obama and a similarly unique blend of conservative and liberal government officials are defending the programs as a “critical tool” for rooting out potential terrorist activity and protecting American lives.
“You can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience,” Obama told reporters on Friday. “We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.”
If you’re still a bit fuzzy on this week’s whirlwind of James Bond-esque (or, some would say, Orwellian) developments, here are a handful of good resources to help make sense of it all.
Understanding and comparing the two surveillance programs
The New York Times has a clear side-by-side comparison of the two programs, who they target, what data is collected and the companies involved in delivering it.
USA Today put together a fascinating simulation that approximates the process by which the NSA is collecting and using phone data from millions of Verizon users.
The Washington Post published a series of NSA slides explaining the PRISM data collection program, which accesses web communications information from nine different internet companies,
- Sharply contrasting editorials in two leading liberal and conservative newspapers:
- An interesting slideshow from Politico highlighting the differing positions of 20 influential politicians and pundits.
- Also from Politico, a quick video mashup of immediate reactions:
A modern history of electronic surveillance
The NY Times produced an interactive timeline of key (known) government electronic surveillance projects and milestones that began after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
And on the lighter side …
It wouldn’t be big news if Stephen Colbert didn’t have something deliciously sarcastic to say about it.
FILED UNDER:, , , , ,
About the author
Matthew Green runs KQED’s News Education Project, a new online resource for educators and the general public to help explain the news. The project lives at kqed.org/lowdown. View all posts by Matthew Green →
Correction: Several readers astutely pointed out that the map below of qualifying teams in the 2014 World Cup had inaccurately labeled Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as part of the English national team. Big faux pas! While part of Great Britain, these three … Read More
- How Chinese Memes Circumvented Censorship on Tiananmen Square Anniversary
- Old Enough to Drive, Too Young to Vote: Rethinking America's Voting Age Limits
When President Obama recently made his case for military action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, it was a sober reminder of the Commander-in-chief’s authority to send America’s armed forces into battle. While it’s still unclear whether the … Read More
- Health Map: Where You Live Can Determine How Long You Live
- Map: In Legalizing Gay Marriage, England Joins Growing International Community
How it works The top-two system made its debut in 2012 after voters approved Proposition 14 two years earlier. But this is the first primary where the new rules take effect in statewide races. The basic gist: you can vote … Read More
- "Schoolhouse Rock" Revised: What it Really Takes to Pass A Bill in Congress
- Income Inequality in America, An Illustrated Guide