Steve Chapman

The scope of the surveillance came as a surprise even to the architect of the Patriot Act, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis. The section the administration used to authorize the program, said Sensenbrenner, "was originally drafted to prevent data mining" of this sort.

Obama's interpretation is like reading the Ten Commandments to endorse murder and adultery -- not plausible, and not at all what the author meant. The House measure aimed to restore something resembling what Congress had in mind.

There is no reason to believe that when it comes to seizing records, more is better. Police will have better luck nabbing criminals if they focus on people who have done something suspicious than if they stop and frisk everyone who walks down the street.

If you don't know how to locate fish, moving from a small lake to the Atlantic Ocean is not going to boost your catch. Nor are giant drift nets that scoop up every creature in the sea going to help you find a small and rare one.

This is not idle theorizing. William Binney, who once ran the NSA's global digital data gathering program, told The Daily Caller, "They're making themselves dysfunctional by collecting all of this data."

They are also compromising the privacy of millions of innocent Americans. Many people think they have no cause for worry because they have nothing to hide. If you're one of those, please send me your email address and password.

Fortunately, 205 House members saw through the fear-mongering to demand that our lives be free of relentless inspection by our overseers. A majority of Democrats and a large share of Republicans acted as though it's not too late to rescue our privacy from the maw of the surveillance state.

No thanks to Obama, John Boehner or Nancy Pelosi, but maybe it's not.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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