Richards, the Washington University professor, was reminded of a phone conversation a few years ago to a cousin in Britain who asked for his views on U.S. politics. Just as he was about to reply, Richards said, he took stock of the situation. A phone call across borders. A foreigner on one end of the line. Criticism of elected leaders. It seemed just the kind of conversation that might be picked up by a government computer. But there was no way to know — and so Richards said he decided he had no choice but to keep his mouth shut.
‘‘It’s a symptom of the times we’re living in and the choices we’re going to have to make ... one way or the other,’’ he said. ‘‘We don’t accept total surveillance in the name of crime prevention and I think people are coming to reject total surveillance in the name of terrorism prevention.’’
‘‘But it’s hard to reject surveillance if you don’t know it’s there.’’
Associated Press writers Allen G. Breed in Raleigh, N.C., Sharon Cohen in Chicago, Tracie Cone in Sacramento, Calif., and Michelle Price in Salt Lake City, Utah, contributed to this story. Adam Geller, a New York-based national writer, can be reached at features (at) ap.org. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/AdGeller