All Sorts of Things

Random posts on all sorts of things designed to inform and provoke.

United States: NSA Plays the Herring Game

k-bigpic6The National Security Agency (NSA) and the entire US intelligence community (IC) have been telling legislators, US citizens and anyone who will listen – pun intended – that their programs which collect data on all Americans have saved lives. The US president has also chided citizens for being concerned about the lack of oversight of these programs by saying that he properly informed the US Congress and all relevant authorities.

Both these arguments are wrong. Indeed they are purposefully obtuse at best and total lies at worst.

In the next few paragraphs I will show why that is the case and leave it to the readers to decide whether their government is lying to them to protect their lives or to increase its power.

Obviously, these two goals aren’t mutually exclusive and it could be that Washington is doing both but even if that was the case it still wouldn’t make them either morally correct or constitutional.

Let’s first consider the president’s claim that these programs function under proper legislative oversight. Even if we ignore the fact that the legislation that authorizes these programs was created under the shadow of the September 11 attacks when the US Congress gave an increasingly expansive executive branch everything it wanted, no one can hide the truth that Admiral James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), in an earlier appearance lied to the Congress when he said that the NSA was not collecting data on innocent Americans.

The US president seems to be oblivious to the notion that if a representative of the executive branch lies to the Congress then that is both against the law and counter to the notion of proper legislative oversight.

Now, let’s focus on the argument made by the IC that this information has helped thwart up to 20 attacks. First of all, there’s no way to prove this since most of the information that would support this contention is classified and won’t be released to the general public. Secondly, given the DNI lied to the US Congress, how can we trust anything the IC says? Finally, when one reviews the IC’s statement, it’s clear that even the IC credits other actions (talking to sources, etc) in addition to the NSA programs in preventing these so-called plots.

Therefore, how effective are these programs? The answer lies in the second sentence of the previous paragraph: Since its classified so we don’t – won’t – know.

Would we have known these things without Edward Snowden? Clearly, that is not the case. That makes Mr. Snowden a whistleblower. The US government contends that he committed espionage in releasing this information by aiding the enemy.

There are two problems with this statement: First, espionage is defined as “the act or practice of spying or of using spies to obtain secret information.” There is no evidence that Mr. Snowden was being used as a spy to obtain this information. Secondly, he did not release any information on the persons who were targeted hence he did not put any lives directly in danger. This means that he wasn’t a spy and therefore is a whistleblower. Finally, if the US government thinks that the “bad guys” didn’t know it was listening to them then we are in even more trouble.

US IC agencies are drowning in information and cannot connect the dots on data they get from other sources – such as in the case of the recent Boston Bombers. So, is it smart or effective to collect more information, lie to the Congress about your actions and trample the constitution? It only makes sense if the purpose is to increase the government’s power and reach; it doesn’t for anything else.

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3 comments on “United States: NSA Plays the Herring Game

  1. yahoothom
    June 29, 2013

    “Americans have always cherished our privacy. From the birth of our republic, we assured ourselves protection against unlawful intrusion into our homes and our personal papers. At the same time, we set up a postal system to enable citizens all over the new nation to engage in commerce and political discourse. Soon after, Congress made it a crime to invade the privacy of the mails. And later we extended privacy protections to new modes of communications such as the telephone, the computer, and eventually email. Justice Brandeis taught us that privacy is the “right to be let alone,” but we also know that privacy is about much more than just solitude or secrecy. Citizens who feel protected from misuse of their personal information feel free to engage in commerce, to participate in the political process, or to seek needed health care. This is why we have laws that protect financial privacy and health privacy, and that protect consumers against unfair and deceptive uses of their information. This is why the Supreme Court has protected anonymous political speech, the same right exercised by the pamphleteers of the early Republic and today’s bloggers. Never has privacy been more important than today, in the age of the Internet, the World Wide Web and smart phones. In just the last decade, the Internet has enabled a renewal of direct political engagement by citizens around the globe and an explosion of commerce and innovation creating jobs of the future. Much of this innovation is enabled by novel uses of personal information. So, it is incumbent on us to do what we have done throughout history: apply our timeless privacy values to the new technologies and circumstances of our times. I am pleased to present this new Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights as a blueprint for privacy in the information age. These rights give consumers clear guidance on what they should expect from those who handle their personal information, and set expectations for companies that use personal data. I call on these companies to begin immedi- ately working with privacy advocates, consumer protection enforcement agencies, and others to implement these principles in enforceable codes of conduct. My Administration will work to advance these principles and work with Congress to put them into law. With this Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, we offer to the world a dynamic model of how to offer strong privacy protection and enable ongoing innovation in new information technologies. One thing should be clear, even though we live in a world in which we share personal information more freely than in the past, we must reject the conclusion that privacy is an outmoded value. It has been at the heart of our democracy from its inception, and we need it now more than ever.”

    —President Barack Obama

    “We must REJECT the conclusion that privacy is an outmoded value” Barack Obama…I never counted on Republican to defend my privacy…I always trusted that the Democrats would….I have been disappointed so far by MSNBC

  2. renal failure
    July 23, 2013

    I had to refresh the particular page times to watch this page for some reason, however, the information here was worth the hold out.

    • AHB
      July 24, 2013

      Thank you for your comment.

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This entry was posted on June 29, 2013 by in International Affairs, US Politics and tagged , , , , , .
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