Two interesting posts surrounding the greater NSA debate caught my eye recently. The first is an Op-Ed in The LA Times by Andrew Liepman, titled “What did Edward Snowden get wrong? Everything”. Don’t be confused though (as easy it would be with that headline), because the article is not refuting the validity of the leaks that Snowden made, it is a refutation of how necessary those leaks were/are.
Here’s the resume that The La Times bills for Liepman: “Andrew Liepman, a senior analyst at Rand Corp., was a career CIA officer and is a former deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center.” The gist of Liepman’s argument is:
But the intelligence community — always a less sympathetic protagonist than a self-styled whistle-blower — actually has a good story to tell about how seriously the government takes privacy issues. We should tell it.
Liepman’s argument is probably true, as I highly doubt that people work for any three-lettered U.S. agency and don’t have a very patriotic sense about their duty and job. I highly doubt that these agents of the U.S., like their military brothers in arms, have any ill-will towards Americans in general — I truly believe they are out to do good and protect us. Liepman is over stepping though, I agree the claim should not be that these agency want to violate American rights, but I don’t agree that you can lump that as the larger “government”. The problem is not with the tactics used by these agencies, but the laws that allow for their use passed not by the agencies, but by the executive branch. 1
More specifically, the problem is not PRISM or XKeyscore, the problem is that there was, and is, no open debate of the passing of the laws that allowed for these programs. The American people are not at odds with the NSA, CIA, FBI, DEA, etc, they are at odds with the idea that secret laws, secret debates, and secret opinions are now what passes for ‘democracy’.
Which brings me to the second post on Techdirt by former deputy chief of staff for Ron Wyden, Jennifer Hoelzer — Wyden being one of the largest critics of these secret laws. Hoezler’s post very much echoes my concerns:
I think it’s understandably hard for the American people to trust the President when he says his Administration has the legal authority to conduct these surveillance programs when one of the few things that remains classified about these programs is the legal argument that the administration says gives the NSA the authority to conduct these programs.
Yes the collection, and analyzing of American records that the NSA and others are doing is simply outrageous — but even more outrageous is the sheer fact that our publicly elected President is so unwilling to share the legal basis, or even allow for debating, these programs with all elected officials — let along the public.
Again, from Hoelzer:
That’s right, supporters of a full scale reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act put out a press release explaining why this was a good thing, while explicitly barring the Senator who voted against the legislation from explaining his concerns.
There’s an argument to be made that the legislative branch is to blame, but nothing more than my guy says this is more of an executive branch strong arm, so I place blame there. ↩