"Tons of civil rights activists and Democrats are complaining that this violates the civil rights of us Americans. I say, who cares?"
People who believe that the freedom we enjoy, now under attack at home and from abroad, cannot ever be traded for a false sense of security without betraying those who died to create these rights for all of us.
The NSA is forbidden by law from conducting surveillance on American citizens on United States soil on purely domestic communications, and if the NSA and federal government is willing to disregard the laws that forbid that activity, what's to stop them from going the to the next logical step, and data mine the content of the calls? And who is there to make sure this information is used strictly for national security purposes, and not passed onto other law enforcement agencies for political ends? I care, and so should you, for you seek to trade away the very things our country stands for in the eyes of the world and in history.
And really, what is with the spin?. The House Majority Leader, Republican John Boehner, showed concern over the revelation, saying "I don't know enough about the details except that I am willing to find out because I'm not sure why it would be necessary to keep and have that kind of information." Another Republican, Senator Lindsey Graham, also questioned the need for the activity, "The idea of collecting millions or thousands of phone numbers, how does that fit into following the enemy?" Neither of these Republicans are considered moderates by any stretch of the imagination.
"If I know that the government is using all this information to try and find people who could be trying to kill innocent Americans, how are we victims?"
First, you didn't know about it until the press broke the story. Second, what kind of justification is that? What if the government decided to begin tapping calls (oops, NSA is already doing that) in the name of protecting us from terrorism? What about bringing back internment camps for foreigners? How about yearly lie detector tests at schools and toll booths? How about shifting the burden of proof from the government to the people? I demand you prove you do not have intentions to attack the United States, and if you can't, you're going to jail, and not ever getting out. Is that the America you want? Is that the America the founding fathers created? Where does it end? Can the government only go too far when it affects you personally? You may think that way, but I care for more than my own personal privacy, I care about the freedoms of all my fellow citizens.
"It's a scary world to live in, especially since September 11th, 2001."
It's no different at all. 9/11 was not our first dance with terrorism, and it won't be the last. Other countries live under true fear of bombings every single day, far worse than anything we have to deal with in such a privileged country. The US has it easy. Try living in Israel, or Ireland 10-15 years ago. That's scary.
"We know that recordings aren't being sent to the government, only records."
No, we don't. The only investigation into the NSA amounted to a bunch of lawyers trying to determine if anyone at the Justice Department was in trouble for lying about the NSA wiretapping. That investigation was just recently closed, because the NSA refused to grant any security clearances to Justice Department lawyers that would have been required to do their jobs. We don't know a damn thing about what is going on, and Nixon (and now Bush) have proven without a shadow of a doubt that the government cannot be trusted solely on its word alone. This is not and can not be allowed to become a Monarchy.
"So the government knows who we called and when. The only worry that I would ever have about the government knowing these things is if they publish it or make the information public to anyone outside of the top-level intelligence community."
Given that the entire executive branch is operating outside the law, there is nothing to stop this from happening as of right now. Frankly, it's not even necessary to do this in secret. The requirements for obtaining trap and traces are significantly lower than those for obtaining wiretaps, which is what this amounts to. It's just another instance of the Bush administration going outside the law to do something it can already do within the law for no good reason.
"The phone companies do have a duty to protect your records and keep them private but they are required to give it for criminal investigations or subpoenas."
Neither of which the NSA has done, given that their mandate strictly forbids spying on US citizens on purely domestic communications.
"I don't want cameras pointing at everyone's window so the government can find out if we're building a bomb or not, but something as small as a record of what number you dialed at a certain time to help weed out terror cells, in my opinion, is worth it."
Many of the Republicans you so conveniently left out of your indictment don't believe that it is necessary, or even useful information that the NSA ought to have.
"We've gone almost 5 years without an attack on United States soil. Are you going to tell me it isn't worth it?"
That is exactly what I am telling you. There have only been two acts of foreign terrorism on United States soil in over 200 years, and it sure as hell isn't because we've had the USA Patriot Act, or because a bunch of criminals in the White House thought tossing the Constitution out the window was a good idea.
"No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The questing before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings. ... It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775.
Heed his words, or lose everything you've ever cared about to complacency.