Two on the NSA

Cass and I are having a discussion about the NSA, and the concentration of Federal Power generally, that some of you may be following.

On point is this piece on a NYT revelation about the NSA. This particular program (unlike many of the ones we have heard about lately) seems to have been correctly targeted and specific. The piece argues that its revelation harms national security without any counterbalancing benefit to the American people.

That's a good point, and in tackling the issue it's one we should consider. On the one hand, self-government requires knowledge -- and it requires ensuring that there is a capacity among the competing branches of government to oversee one another. On the other hand, many of these capacities are really only of use if they remain genuine secrets. It's a problem.

Another piece argues that we should protect not privacy but anonymity. This author is coming with a solution, so consider it carefully. What do you think?

UPDATE: NBC reports on a former NSA member who, at the National Press Club, said that during his tenure his agency spied on Congress, the rest of the military, and a candidate for the US Senate named Barack Obama. Saying it doesn't make it true, of course, but ought we -- or our representatives, at least -- not know?


Cass said...

I think what bothers me most about this story is the filtering that's going on.

I read about all these people saying Snowdon is a whistleblower and a hero (and I realize that you have NOT said this), completely ignoring the fact that he nonselectively dumped TONS of classified information out where our enemies would have access to us before fleeing into the waiting arms of... our enemies.

I don't think doing one "good" thing (and the jury's out with me as to whether disclosing the metadata stuff is even "good") cancels out a gazillion "bad" things. The left are continually maintaining that one or two "bad" things the military has done outweigh all the good.

Neither argument makes any sense to me.

I also don't think two wrongs make a right - especially when other means exist of redressing the original wrong. I am seeing a lot of, "This is the ONLY path left to us (it's not), and anyway they did a bad thing, therefore somehow we get to do a bad thing" arguments. Abuses of power will occur so long as people have power. Abolishing power isn't really the right remedy for that problem. I don't see any simple or sure fire fixes.

I don't feel particularly inclined to defend the NSA, but some of the things I'm reading just strike me as wrong on so many levels.

I'll read these pieces and think about them before commenting further. Thanks for picking this up, Grim. I do think it's worth discussing.

Eric Blair said...

Well, if nothing else, Snowden pretty much demonstrated that yes, the USA is a police state, in pretty much every sense of the word.

Cass said...

No, the US is not a police state. There are real police states out there, but we're not one of them by any definition I've read.