Mission creep: the expansion of a project or mission beyond its original goals, often after initial successes.
"Mission creep" is a military term, used with disapproval, and usually ends with a final catastrophic failure. It is the inevitable result of politicians with agendas meddling where they shouldn't.
Which brings us to the NSA and their phone database.
In my view, things are never as good a the optimists say, but they're never as bad as the pessimists say.
Right now, in my opinion, the NSA database probably isn't as bad as the NSA detractors are claiming. It's also probably not as benign as the NSA apologists are claiming, either.
However, it is not the present that concerns me. It is the future, and here's where the dreaded mission creep comes into play.
Right now -- today -- this database is (we hope) designed for, and being used, to track and develop intelligence on foreign terrorists. All well and good.
And -- when it works -- what of tomorrow? The NSA database worked so well on foreign terrorist networks, why not apply it to domestic terror networks? Terrorists, right? Surely no one could take offence at intelligence being gathered on terrorists, no matter if they're foreign or domestic...
Bearing in mind, of course, that some folks in government consider the National Rifle Association to be allied with terrorists, if not an outright terrorist organisation.
I should have my phone calls tapped because I'm a Life Member of the NRA?
"Oh, come on, 'Dog," I hear you say, "No one is going to go that far."
No one thought that an American government would go so far as to steal guns from American citizens who had been flung headlong into a Third World hellhole without government aid, citizens who needed their guns for simple survival, yet I give you New Orleans, Louisiana (post Katrina) and a thousand or so stolen guns.
Yes, I am pro-gun and anti-gun-control, which may colour my perceptions a bit, so let me give you another scenario:
The NSA database has worked well in gathering intelligence on foreign terror networks. Foreign-based narco-trafficking rings do every bit as much damage to America as terrorists. Both are outside the United States, so let's use the database to form intelligence on narcotics trafficking.
Which works so well, let's use it for domestic narcotics enforcement. They're criminals, right?
Which, due to mission creep, winds up with us phone-tapping Joe Schmuck due to his $10-dollar-a-day pot habit.
Remembering that mission creep tends to end with a "final, catastrophic failure"...
Trust me, it there's any program that could be considered the King of Mission Creep, it would be at least one (probably more) of the various U.S. State drug policies.
So. The NSA phone number database ... may ... be a good idea. What it is going to become, what it will become, due to Mission Creep makes it a Very Bad Idea, and it should be scrapped. Immediately, if not sooner.