IS BIG BROTHER ALWAYS WATCHING? The news that the federal government is conducting at least two secret surveillance programs is just the latest in a long line of recent revelations that have us wondering:?Is anything U.S. citizens do off-limits anymore? The National Security Agency has been collecting the phone records of millions of U.S. phone customers. Officials said the programs are legal and limited in scope, and they are necessary to gather intelligence on potential enemies of the United States. Officials also complained that the disclosure of the secret programs will harm the country's efforts to thwart terrorist threats in the future. But some politicians and citizens have questioned why the government needs such blanket access to personal information, including audio, video, email, photographic and Internet search usage of foreign nations overseas. There's also the possibility of a third secret program that collects credit card transaction records. Lawmakers differed broadly in their reaction to the news. "I could care less if they're looking at my phone records. ... If you're not getting a call from a terrorist organization, you got nothing to worry about," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. But Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., disagreed. "The National Security Agency's seizure and surveillance of virtually all of Verizon's phone customers is an astounding assault on the Constitution," Paul said. As for us, let's just say the whole thing makes us wary of everything we're doing, including writing this column.
BUSY SUMMER It's going to be a particularly busy summer when it comes to construction projects in Minot and the surrounding area. There is, of course, ongoing repair work stemming from the 2011 Souris River flood, and the north part of Minot is bustling with construction of all sorts, as new homes and businesses are being built. Some projects include busy streets like Burdick Expressway and Second Avenue Southwest, and those will have a major impact on traffic patterns. We urge drivers to be on alert more than usual during the next few months, as more road construction workers will be on the job, and heavy equipment will be in use. Let's be careful out there.