Next, I don't buy it because it's not feasible. How many NSA agents would it take to monitor ALL Internet traffic. That means bit torrents, email (including spam), web traffic (html), tunnels, ATM transactions, credit card transactions, Windows updates, NNTP porn, remote backups, YouTube videos, streaming radio stations and so on. There is just way too much crap flowing over the wires to monitor it all. The NSA, CIA, FBI, US Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and National Guard combined wouldn't have the man power to monitor that much data.
Please tell me you're kidding. They use reasonably modern computers to extract obvious information s.a. URLs of sites visited (extracted from HTTP header, nowdays this could be done even on a router), search engine keywords (same thing), email addresses (parsing SMTP, again pretty easy), etc. Take a look at what Wireshark
could do, for example. There are no humans watching every email/HTTP request/etc. Packet sniffer determines that there is an instant messenger chat, picks up the word "terrorist", flags the IP address, matches IP to a specific AT&T customer and increases a counter in some database which indicates the probability of you being a terrorist. If you live in NYC and decided to visit your relatives for Christmas, and while you were away your teenage neighbor used your WiFi to chat with his friends about Counter-Strike match - do you really believe there will be some human reviewing your case before system puts you on "no-fly" list and prevents you from coming back ?!? This stuff is all automatic, there is some heuristic rule that determines whether you could travel by airplane or hold a job in a bank or buy a fertilizer - just like there is a heuristic rule that helps Clippy to determine if you are writing a letter. It's a fully automatic system with no independent review or right to appeal.
How else do you fight terrorism? What would you suggest (other than that warm fuzzy "leave them alone and they'll leave us alone BS)". How would you FIGHT terrorism.
We could sell less weapons to nations like Saudi Arabia, where 15 out of 19 1-11 hijackers were from. If we give them $10 billions in arms sales instead of $20 billion
we gave them last summer, terrorist funding will be cut in half. We could alienate less Muslims and instead work with Muslim communities to identify terrorists - British police was able to prevent attack on airplanes thanks to tips from Muslim community in London
. Instead of monitoring AT&T internet connections, we could monitor items like guns and explosives - as of today there weren't a single terrorist attack committed purely with iPhones and used DSL modems. We could actually secure access to things like ports
and chemical plants instead of trying to identify every single crazy person on Earth that might possibly try to attack them.