How is it that “public” officials have conversations behind “closed doors”? Or asked in a different way. How can publicly held offices hold private secrets…from the very people they are supposed to be serving? The answer? They cant. And thus the scam of the entire system.
This is what the Snowden episode has revealed and made abundantly clear. The “public” officials are in fact, not public, and what we assumed to be private, is not private. The whole model has been turned upside down. As Statism is apt to do.
Which brings me to an article I stumbled across this morning that I find to be…disturbing. The article, written by Michael Cohen, is attempting to correct all of our misgivings about the Snowden episode, and how, though being evil, is NOT evil for the reasons we think. Case and point:
Can [Snowden] point to a single American who’s been harmed by the NSA’s actions?
One of the more striking takeaways from a year of stories about the NSA is that they have turned up no evidence to suggest that Americans’ privacy rights are being systematically violated or that NSA-collected metadata is being used to target political enemies. None.
Oh my. I have said it many times in the last year, but it bears repeating: There is dignity in privacy, regardless of what, if anything, I have to “hide”. After all, even NSA employees have curtains on their windows.
And it is the dignity of privacy that has been taken from me, and you, and you, and you. Making matters worse, it was done SECRETLY, by a PUBLIC agency.
This is one of the great paradoxes of the Snowden story. Public attention has been focused, by and large, on a domestic data-gathering program that is legal, well-regulated and constrained by judicial oversight. While there are legitimate and very real concerns about the potential for NSA abuse, what we’ve learned so far is that no actual abuse is occurring. If anything, the system, by and large, has been shown to work. “What impresses me is that when nobody was watching, the NSA caught big mistakes, reported them and had a significant dialogue with the FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] Court on fixing them. The process is not perfect, but it has integrity,” says Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. (emphasis mine)
GO. TO. HELL.
In fairness, Cohen does admit that the NSA has gone too far regarding foreign intelligence gathering:
What is disconcerting, however, is how far the NSA has pushed the envelope.
The agency remains an essential tool for protecting U.S. national security, but the disclosures of the past year also suggest that its zeal in pursuing its mandate risks undermining the same interests it is seeking to protect. In an era of rising privacy concerns, more frequent and larger leaks of classified material, and diminishing confidence in public institutions, the NSA and its political overseers must do a better job of weighing the need for security versus the growing perceptions of a surveillance state out of control. In short, the agency and its political bosses must do something that hasn’t been done enough since 9/11 — think not only of the benefits of stopping the next terrorist attack but also of the costs. (strikethrough mine)
Only to unravel his ball of yarn here:
When it comes to gathering domestic intelligence, the NSA must follow a very clear set of rules and legal mandates. But internationally, it can and does operate with far fewer legal constraints and virtually no significant congressional or judicial oversight. In the spying game, any piece of intelligence is considered fair game — and that’s been the agency’s modus operandi.
Blah blah blah blah blah. The United States of America is no longer qualified to have meaningful conversations regarding what is “legal” and what is not. (Slavery, Trail of Tears, Japanese Internment, Sedition Act, Alcohol Prohibition, etc etc etc). Legal or not, the violation of privacy is immoral. But in this upside-down world that we live in, legality trumps morality.
And I just can’t let this one pass:
It begs the question: Were the benefits of, for example, tapping Angela Merkel’s phone or weakening the encryption standards in ways that could potentially be used by “bad guys” really worth the costs? Did the NSA put its many legitimate intelligence-gathering programs at risk by too great a willingness to get chalk dust on its cleats? Were politically accountable leaders in the White House — whose job it is to think about the potential implications of exposure — asking these questions? Or rather were they concerned about the intelligence they were receiving and indifferent to how the sausage was being made?
You, Michael Cohen, are not using “begs the question” correctly. Please stop. It may “provoke the question”, but it does not “beg it.” Infuriating.
Let me land this plane:
“Blame,” says Thomas Rid, a professor of security studies at King’s College, “is being applied to the NSA, when it should be applied to public officials for failing to put proper restrictions on what the NSA was doing.” It’s a bit like heaping all the criticism for the Iraq War on the U.S. Army rather than the civilian leaders who sent them there in the first place.
Good try, but no. If we learned anything from the Milgram Experiment it is this: spineless cowards with no moral compass will always do what their puppeteers demand of them. You would think that a Jewish writer would be more sensitive/aware of this phenomenon. #NurembergTrials
The patsies pulling the levers are just as much to blame as the administrators calling the shots. Go ahead and include myopic media sorts that dismiss the injury and enable the cause. (Looking at you Cohen).
There is plenty of blame to go around, from every one of the politicians to the voters (of all parties) that keep the machine humming. But make no mistake, the NSA, in its charter is evil and must not be tolerated.