The Need to Care | Why the N.S.A. Matters

Germany is pulling back from its ally and Brazil threatens to creates its own internet.  What are you going conclude about the N.S.A. spying allegations?

Several U.S. senators suggest the following:

As members of the Intelligence Committee, we strongly disagree with this approach. We had already proposed our own, bipartisan surveillance reform legislation, the Intelligence Oversight and Surveillance Reform Act, which we have sponsored with a number of other senators. Our bill would prohibit the government from conducting warrantless “backdoor searches” of Americans’ communications — including emails, text messages and Internet use — under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It would also create a “constitutional advocate” to present an opposing view when the F.I.S.C. is considering major questions of law or constitutional interpretation.

And this Op-Doc video makes the case.

Edward Snowden has ignited a debate, and for that I am grateful. But now that he’s done his part, it’s time for all Americans to decide how to respond to his revelations. That is to say, it is no longer his story. It is ours.

via ‘Why Care About the N.S.A.?’ – NYTimes.com.

 

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14 thoughts on “The Need to Care | Why the N.S.A. Matters

  1. trawson7 says:

    I personally think that the NSA is a little bit of a necessary evil. I do not like giving up my own right to privacy, but I do think that national security is vital, especially in this current age of terrorism and information. However, I think that the NSA should be heavily regulated (maybe even moreso than it already is), with specific rules on the kinds of information they can investigate further and the people/countries they are allowed to investigate at all. It cannot be argued though that the NSA has caught and foiled several terrorism plots, so I think its existence is helpful and probably necessary.

  2. oliviaronna says:

    I definitely agree that the NSA is necessary. Sure, they have potential access (with warrants, etc) to our private conversations, but in times of national security, there are certain things we may need to give up. Of course, I highly doubt that they are even remotely interested in what you are talking about with your neighbor, but to make sure, it is important to have some sort of monitoring the officers who actually do the investigations. I do know that no one can listen/read intel without a specific warrant for the specific intel and that there has to be at least two officers listening/reading to make sure that the other is not taking advantage of the system. That being said, I still think there needs to be a better system of regulation. Overall though, I am comfortable with these programs as long as they are effectively stopping threats to national security.

  3. I think that even if the arguments against the NSA turn out to be successful, if they actually result in changing the law and “limiting” this agency’s accessibility to society’s property, this will not make much of a difference. Organizations like the NSA and the CIA work under deep secrecy, we rarely ever know what is really going on. It is only every once in a while that there is some mistake that results in a leak and so some part of reality comes to light. Then what is happening now occurs and people try to change the law. But these organizations will never be eradicated, as trawson7 said above, they are a necessary evil.

  4. kttoolson says:

    I will be the first to admit that I have used almost everyone of those excuses in the video. Who cares if I am this good little Mormon girl minding my own business? I think the NSA is necessary. That is why I have used the excuses. People can communicate so quickly these days that to not keep an upper hand on the situation is going to put our country at risk. That being said, like most things for the United States, it has been blown out proportion. I agree with the statements above that the NSA must be regulated if it is to do its job and make citizens feel safe and secure.

  5. samdittmer says:

    I do not believe the NSA is a necessary evil.

    Here are things I think may be necessary evils: Death. Feeling bloated when you eat too much food. Heartbreak.

    The NSA is not some timeless and inevitable fact of life. Rafael is wrong. If people built the NSA and the CIA, then people can pull them down and build something else in their place.

    I think dangerous tools are often misused, especially in times of crisis when the public is willing to look the other way, and I think the NSA dragnet is a dangerous tool. Senators Wyden and Udall state firmly that there is no evidence the NSA dragnet has been critical in preventing any terrorist attacks, and the Snowden documents reveal that the NSA has been used to spy on foreign countries for political purposes (unless, that is, Angela Merkel is a secret Al-Qaeda sympathizer). That’s enough of a reason to be willing to seriously considering shutting the whole thing down for me.

    • I agree with Sam. I think the day we say there are necessary evils in our government, we lose. The government exists in the form it does because we assent to it. People who say that certain issues are out of our hands have essentially said that the People forfeit their claim to ultimate control over the government’s proceedings. Yes, we elect individuals whom we think will act in our best interest and invest in them a certain degree of liberty to act as they see fit, but this is not carte blanche. If our government has some “evil” to it, we can and must remove it. We would never say that the tumor in the body is a necessary evil with which we must live. Having ultimate control of our person, we do all that we can to excise it. So it is with the government. I refuse to believe that we should just roll over and admit that our government is a runaway freight train of ambiguous morality that cannot be controlled. It is the government of the People, by the People, and for the People, and our responsibility and right to change as we see fit.

  6. ianhesterly says:

    Had this story come out last year I wouldn’t have cared much. As some of the above commenters noted, if you don’t have anything to hide then you don’t have anything to worry about. However, in the aftermath of the IRS scandal, in which a government agency was abusing its power for political purposes, this story scares me much more. The acceptability of the NSA having our information depends on the trust we have in the government, and the government broke our trust (multiple times). For all of this information to be in the hands of the same administration that embarrassingly botched the Fast and Furious operation, illegally searched AP reporters’ phone logs (another huge deal, but that’s another topic), lied about many facets of Obamacare, and lied about Benghazi, is a very scary prospect. As Sam noted above, clearly the NSA has been used for political purposes internationally, and I think at this point it would be naive to think the same isn’t happening domestically.

  7. I agree with the point above. The fact of the matter is that Snowden’s revelations have begun to seriously corrode even the strongest of America’s alliances. If nothing else, we need to consider “doing away with the program” in the interest of preserving our alliances.

    Of course, the program is never really going anywhere. A rose by any other name smells just as repressive and immoral. And now that the American government has crossed the line into such overtly invasive procedures and surveillance, they probably aren’t going to stop any time soon. The worst response that I have heard since Snowden first showed up is that “we all knew this sort of thing was happening deep down, right?” When did this become okay? Until the American paradigm is fundamentally altered to assume that the government works FOR the people, programs like the NSA are not going anywhere. And if we do not undergo that fundamental shift in paradigm, then we deserve to be spied on by our own government. Because we work for them now.

  8. heartleeharman says:

    It is interesting that this article mentions that Snowden’s part in this debate is over. He played his part and now the debate has become ours. Whether you think Snowden is a hero or a traitor, he did bring about a necessary debate on our country’s intelligence system and whether serious reform is needed. But, I agree that Snowden’s part in this debate is over. He is not a foreign relations expert or even a policymaker and he certainly has not been voted into public office. It is up to our representatives to decide what reforms are needed and feasible.

  9. clintkunz says:

    Overall I trust the NSA and their work. In most organizations there are a few bad men/women. It is inevitable for a certain level of shady business to happen in that line of work. I’m not justifying corruption by any means. I am excited for the new level of attention that the agency is receiving, and hopefully a higher level of accountability will be felt by all that are entrusted with such a responsibility.

    • samdittmer says:

      Some of what goes wrong in organizations happens because of individual abuses, and some of it because the organization itself is flawed. Sometimes, it is hard to tell which it is.

      E.g.: Was My Lai the spontaneous outburst of sadistic soldiers, or was it reflective of a broader lack of respect among U.S. military personnel for the lives of South Vietnamese civilians? Were the Catholic child sex abuse cases and cover-ups the result of a few bad bishops who didn’t know how to react to the allegations, or was it reflective of a broader willingness of the Catholic hierarchy to defend itself at any cost?

      These questions are hard to answer. But some questions are easy to answer. Was the U.S. presence in South Vietnam caused by a few bad individuals? No. It was the result of the normal functioning of the U.S. government. Were the various tortures in the medieval inquisitions caused by a few bad individuals? No. They were part of the policy of the medieval Catholic Church.

      In the case of the NSA, a great deal of the activities that have upset so many people fit into the latter category: the metadata dragnet that Senators Wyden and Udall are criticizing, spying on prominent politicians in any and every other country, sabotaging public key encryption standards to give the NSA a backdoor hack, and shielding all of their actions from the eyes of the public and Congress, as much as possible.

      None of these policies were caused by a few bad individuals. They were NSA policy. So when you talk about corruption and “shady business”, I’m not sure if you’re talking about other abuses, or whether you see anything wrong with the list of NSA actions I gave above.

      P.S. I included the Vietnam and Catholic examples only to talk about the idea of organizational vs. individual responsibility. The only real parallel I see between the NSA, the medieval Catholic Church, and the U.S. military during Vietnam is that all three are large organizations. Some people will disagree with me when I implicitly claim that the U.S. presence in South Vietnam was a bad thing, but that really isn’t central to my argument.

  10. shannonmelissa22 says:

    As citizens, we elect our government to make our decisions for us. At some point, I think that it is important to trust the government to make those decisions for us. While it might be difficult to let go of the sense of control of our privacy, we need to trust the people that we have elected to make decisions like that for us.

    • samdittmer says:

      Part of the problem with the NSA is that almost all of the people who work there are not elected officials and do not answer directly to the people.

      Senators Wyden and Udall (who are elected officials) have been upset about the NSA dragnet for years, but weren’t permitted to discuss it publicly or even to criticize it directly in Congress because of how highly classified everything to do with the NSA is. The NSA is subject to a secret court, and sometimes doesn’t even respect that court’s rulings.

      J. Edgar Hoover, when he was the head of the FBI, is said to have so much blackmail material on so many prominent political figures that no one was willing to challenge him (this is pretty well documented, there’s a lot just on Wikipedia). Does the NSA have a similar amount of power? Hopefully not, but we don’t know. It’s classified. They certainly have far more sophisticated techniques for gathering information than Hoover ever did.

      When unelected officials become so powerful and secretive that even the highest elected officials have little say over their actions, then those unelected NSA officials are really not representing the people. I think that is a big problem.

      • ianhesterly says:

        Completely agree Sam. It astonishes me how many people are taking this lightly. With the situation how it was, the NSA had practically no oversight making sure they used their power responsibly. I’m not one who thinks the government is corrupt, but there are certainly individuals within the government that are. When they have the capability to access this sort of information from everyday Americans, that’s scary.

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