Watching the Watchers
NSA Reformers Score a Big Victory
show comments
  • Andrew Allison

    When, one wonders, will our so-called “representatives” in Congress start representing the clear public consensus rather than the intelligence community? As an aside, the strip-and-cavity search of an Indian diplomat arrested on a visa fraud charge is suggestive of an out-of-control police state. Our civil liberties are being steadily eroded in the name of “security”.

    • Corlyss

      Honestly Andrew, as between the intelligence community who know something and the America voters whose ignorance of important policy issues is both lamentable and notorious, which would you rather count on to protect us from the bad guys? IMO its not even close. REPEATING MYSELF ALERT: None of the commenters here, esp. not Herr Professor, has EVER been able to cite a single instance of an identifiable American citizen who has suffered because of the data collection itself. The leaks, yes, those have cost lives in the intel community, fortunes, and reputations. But NOT the data collection itself! It’s the leaks that have to be stopped.

      • Andrew Allison

        Corlyss, you appear to have forgotten the original definition of oxymoron (Military Intelligence). More importantly, if the citizenry prefers less intrusion to less psuedo-security (Exhibit A: the Theater of the Supremely Absurd), it’s their right to do so!
        No matter how many times you repeat yourself, nobody except the intelligence community knows whether an American citizen has suffered. If and when they do, it will be too late.
        It would be easy to stop the leaks (although Big Brother can’t grasp it): give Snowden amnesty.

        • rheddles2

          If an American citizen had been harmed, I suspect they would know. And run right to MSNBC.

          Give Snowden a fair trial. Unless he resists arrest.

          • Corlyss

            I agree, except for the Snowden part. The guy and the fellow who signed off on his background investigation should be flogged nekkid thru the streets. If there’s anything left, I guess they could try the remains.

          • rheddles2

            I wouldn’t object, but I think incompetence doesn’t rise to the level of treason.

          • Corlyss

            That’s okay. Flogging nekkid thru the streets does not require a finding of treason.

        • Corlyss

          “nobody except the intelligence community knows whether an American citizen has suffered.”
          Seriously? How can you say that with a straight face given the ACLU, the media, and habeas corpus? It would be all over the front pages in about 3 nanoseconds.

          • Andrew Allison

            Corlyss, how can you write such a thing when not even the Senate Intelligence (another oxymoron) Committee knows what the spooks are up to?

          • Corlyss

            Experience, Andrew, experience.

          • TommyTwo

            I’m a garden variety peeping tom who doesn’t harm anyone. Why does the Man keep hounding me?

          • Corlyss

            You could lose an eye that way . . .

          • Andrew Allison

            “a policy is defined not by its excellence but by its outcome” is exactly my point. What has been the cost, in treasure and civil liberties, of TSA, NSA, the militarization of the police, etc?
            “The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and
            well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over the
            government.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

          • Corlyss

            Let’s stick to the subject of NSA.

            Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you can measure it, you can improve upon it.” My point is, you can’t measure the cost at all if you’re going to try to address intangibles like civil liberties, quality of life, etc. As long as nobody can measure it, complaining about it is just so much wasted gassing. I like the FDR quote, but as we have discussed before, when it comes to public policy in general, voters knowledge as well as their interest are abysmal. They don’t care enough to know what they are talking about. And when it comes to national security, they know and care even less and that is as it should be. The Boston Marathon is a case in point. The voters just don’t want to be blown up at a hometown marathon and they don’t much care how that is prevented or what it takes to nail the SOB who sets one off. It’s that basic. You and the ACLU and Rand Paul are barking up the wrong issue until and unless you can document real, measurable in identifiable calculations affecting named persons. Until then, this discussion is so abstract as to be pointless.

          • Andrew Allison

            Fine with me. Here’s the latest on NSA’s overstepping it’s bounds: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/20/nsa-gchq-snoopping-because-we-can.
            It they’re this cavalier in choosing their foreign targets, just how scrupulous do you think they are in the USA. We already know the answer; they have acknowledged repeatedly exceeded their authority. And what, pray tell has this achieved? “We can’t tell you because it would compromise our activities” is NOT an acceptable answer. The people are entitled to know what they’re getting for their money and loss of privacy.
            “they don’t much care how that is prevented or what it takes to nail the SOB who sets one off” is wrong on two counts: first, it’s clear from the public opinion firestorm that people really do care about methods, and secondly, I thought we were sticking to NSA, whose job is to prevent the bomb from going off, not finding the SOB responsible.

          • Corlyss

            You’ll have to come up with a source that isn’t as relentlessly anti-American, anti-capitalist, fully blown liberal commie pinko. Recall if you will, that Snowden funneled all his revelations thus far thru a gay man with a grudge against US cutsoms or TSA officials for confiscating his lover’s notebook. I suppose that will rank right up there with the Great Civil Rights causes in history later when we’ve lost all of our moral compasses, but to me it’s a petty vendetta that should count for something in weighing the merits. If you just HAVE to quote me some foreign media, I’ll settle for something from the Ecnomist, with reservations about that too, depending on where the criticism occurs in the paper.

            “just how scrupulous do you think they are in the USA.”

            I’m a lot more worried about their vetting of employees than I am about their scrupulosity. I used to work for the largest data collection agency not related to national security. They accumulate vastly more data than their agents can realistically deal with. That’s why it takes them years to discover a taxpayer isn’t filing and/or paying. Once they discover that, it becomes a different story – they NEVER give up. So I can say with some confidence that as an agency, the NSA is trawling in waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much data for them to be a threat to individual ordinary Americans absent specific names and absent the kinds of red tape countless cases have shown they have to obtain from the FISA court. You guys who want to make a big issue of this want to pretend the process doesn’t exist. You’ll have to have a LOT more evidence that the process has been ignored or violated WITH A SPECIFIC AMERICAN CITIZEN before you’ll compel me to admit you have a case. So far, you have been able to produce exactly nothing. Don’t feel bad, neither have any of the other critics of the NSA metadata collection. That’s because you can’t.

            “The people are entitled to know what they’re getting for their money and loss of privacy.”
            You have a limited point about the $$$. You have no point about a hypothetical “loss of privacy” until you can demonstrate there has been one. Google knows more about you and me than the government ever will. With respect to the money, complete openness in the matter of intelligence gathering would utterly defeat the purpose. You might as well lobby for a law banning all intelligence gathering from anyone at any time anywhere as to demand complete transparency. It’s worse than stupid. It’s naïve. You think other nations are going to be so punctilious? Hardly. It would amount to unilateral disarmament for what purpose? To inform an electorate who has shown remarkable interest in the subject for the last 7 years? I don’t think so. The main reasons the public is roiled about it now are two: 1) because they DIDN’T pay any attention to it when it was disclosed 7 years ago under Bush, and 2) because Mr. Bright Shiny First Black American President made such a freaking big deal about how morally superior he is to the schlubs who have gone before him and how morally superior his ambitions for “transforming America” to how Americans have functioned for the last 230+ years. I’d suggest to all of you that you have an incredibly naïve and unrealistic grasp of how the real world works, at least in this area. I know most of you to be pretty sophisticated or you wouldn’t be regulars here. So it’s puzzling and amusing to see the size of this mote in your eyes.

          • Andrew Allison

            Glad we’re agreed on the disingenuousness of our ever-scrupulous government in excluding one-third of Federal employees from the report :<)}.
            Unhappily, we remain miles apart on civil liberties. First, while The Guardian is, indeed, left-wing (although not as far left as you assert), they are simply publishing information from NSA's files.
            I treat your homophobic comment regarding post-facto acts with the respect it deserves.
            Big Bro has failed to document a single case where an attack has been prevented. Until it can do so, the burden of proof in on it, not me.
            You are entitled to your opinion, but I feel impelled to point out that it's a minority one.
            And, last but not least: "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? (Matthew 7.3)
            LOL

        • TheCynical1

          Many trust Big Government not to harm us. They’re entitled to that opinion, which is deeply and sincerely held, in the face of all counterarguments. But, take heart: more people in the “middle” may now be starting to reconsider that view in light of the many scandals of 2013. We will see.

      • circleglider

        Apparently you don’t consider situations like these to be cases of “suffering.”

        • Corlyss

          Where’s the connection the NSA metadata program? That’s the subject here.

          • circleglider
          • Corlyss

            Thanks for the links. If you see Reuters reporting on a govt. rebuttal, please let me have it, even if it’s OT in another subject. I believe serious propaganda is being committed on both sides of the issue. I am eager to see how far this gets in the court vis a single identifiable, named American being prosecuted for crimes that were disclosed solely thru surveillance of said American by the NSA. If they catch some American drug dealer for dealing with a foreign surveillance subject, I won’t give a rat’s posterior. But if the govt is in fact using NSA taps to catch Americans unconnected with any foreign security threat, I might be interested.

    • free_agent

      My observation is that “NSA reform” is progressing because people on both the Right and Left want it to happen. It’s a situation where there is agreement across the political spectrum, and Surprise! the politicians notice and start to act on it.

  • rheddles

    Personally, I find the daily transgressions of the TSA far more offensive to my liberty than what the NSA was doing. And the NSA has never been accused of misusing its power, unlike the TSA. Fortunately after these meaningless reforms are proclaimed with florid fanfare, the NSA will find a way to legally do what it was doing before because that is what spies do. And the American people will continue to accept the ridiculous theatrics of the TSA.

    • Andrew Allison

      Part of the disturbing pattern referred to below. he militarization of the police, TSA, NSA and the IRS being used for political ends should be of concern.

    • Corlyss

      Rhed,
      Have you seen the GEICO commercial spoofing both the TSA and the Pillsbury doughboy? I think it’s as good as a SNL skit.

      • rheddles

        I have not. I gave up on TV 30 years ago and airline flight 10, so I’, pretty well out of the loop, but I’ll check YouTube.

  • mgoodfel

    Hopefully, the revelations about the NSA will lead to a more thoroughly secured internet, with more use of encryption. Whatever the U.S. does as a policy response, it’s clear the the current internet is an invitation to abuse by governments worldwide.

    I’m not sure anything can be done about phone metadata — you have to go through a phone company and they have to know this stuff to bill you — but internet traffic could in principle be made secure. It’s going to be a lot of work though, and techies will have to stay motivated. I’m not sure that will happen.

  • Corlyss

    It ain’t a win till the thing gets reflected in revisions to directives and practices. Personally, I don’t see much difference between the old solutions which served us well and the new solutions which have a realistic chance of adoption. As between NSA and the phone cos., I’d rather the NSA had the data, provided they and the military beef up their background checks to prevent any more Bradley Mannings and Edward Snowdens. The concept of moving background checks out of private hands might sound appealing but that will mean one of two things: 1) they won’t get done at all; or 2) the government will do them with another phalanx of government employees (o fraptious joy!) who will be undermanned and underfunded. The problem with background checks is not that they are done by contractors. It’s that they are required for too darn many jobs, period. That’s because too many government officials think their operations so important that way too many have classification authority.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.