I’ve not been in a kerfuffle over NSA revelations for a number of reasons. The first of which is, I assumed it was going on beginning quite some time ago. If a school district can turn on the camera on your computer, I was reasonably sure the NSA could do it as well. In the second case, Google, Amazon and Facebook profile you and your behaviors on a minute to minute basis. Granted we comport some degree of voluntary action but they as well gather information, market it, create profiles and monetize their innovations: gathering information for resale and market analysis is a crucial part of their business plans. In some ways they do what the NSA does. Private sector players know what you’re buying trends are; what kinds of books you read and the music you like. Credit Card companies know where you’ve been. Facebook can trace who you associate with and how you communicate. Third an objective review of the information we give away either voluntarily or as a mandatory part of opening a bank account, getting a drivers license, a mortgage etc, must lead to the perception that traditional views of privacy have long since gone the way of the Dodo Bird.
Want to evaluate where ‘privacy’ stands today? Try to figure out what you’d have to do to ‘drop off the grid’ and the privacy issue will rise up like Godzilla in Tokyo harbor. No bills, no credit cards, no bank accounts, no job and no connections to the energy grid, barrels of cash and potentially a false identity, just to name a few.
Finally, I’m a national security hawk, 9/11 made me that way and I’ve spend over a decade carefully studying the threats that face us, they’re history and the motivation for those threats.
Those threats maintain my attention and what is currently scary is the politicization of the issue and the intelligence community writ large. Edward Snowden scares me as he ran into the arms of Vlad Putin. American operatives put in harm’s way by exposure scares me, missing the critical link that connects dots scares me. Waiting for the DOJ to go to court while the next evolution of the Tsarnaev brothers lights the fuse scares me. What scares me the most is the President’s comprehensive inability to handle the issue with a scintilla of courage, consistency or leadership ability.
The President will bestow American Constitutional protections on ‘foreign’ entities and persons because they whined. Apparently whining gets the job done, unless you’re an American. He will add ‘protections’ which in common language is a political fig leaf that may actually inhibit the NSA from doing its job’ as efficiently as possible. More regulations will arise that are inherently unnecessary and motivate an expanding bureaucracy; this, in the absence of a single known case where an innocent American was harmed by NSA intelligence gathering. If we want to look for harm, we should look to the N.Y. Times that has exposed American secret programs three times in recent years with the only tangible benefit being to the bad guys who changed their tactics making it yet harder to deal with them.
What is really at issue here is the President’s leadership ability and integrity. He railed against NSA programs as a Senator and candidate. He castigated those who would engage in surveillance calling it illegal, unethical and un-American. As he came to office he expanded the very programs he railed about, but he didn’t know anything about until Mr. Snowden exposed the programs and the President read about it in the papers.
Stop right there! Logical disconnect alert; how did candidate Obama know enough about NSA programs to label them as illegal and un-American when he supposedly knew nothing about them until he read about it in the papers. He doesn’t want the NSA to store the data but has not a clue who should when there are only two choices; the NSA or the telephone companies. Once again, the Presidents integrity is in question as his ability to lead on nearly any issue related to American Security.
He should have simply made the case for robust national security capabilities. But, he opted for the ‘kissing your sister’ approach. It’s a kiss but it doesn’t really mean anything. He did the minimal amount that could be done to quiet the political waters and make life, potentially, more difficult for the intelligence gathering infrastructure. He will put the DOJ in the middle of the process; please no! Oh no; not the DOJ, what could possibly go wrong with Eric Holder at the helm and in a position to inflict his prejudices on the process?
He should have told leaders such as Chancellor Merkel to ‘stand down’ and seriously think about putting their ‘big boy’ pants back on. Spying is endemic, everyone does it, including those crying blue murder. I can’t decide if they’re offended at the spying or jealous of the capabilities. If the President were to offer anyone a guarantee it should have been elected officials in the U.S. That apparently was less important that Ms. Merkle.
He should have told us that the specter of terrorism does in fact reside here in America and that it is motivated in large measure by foreign sources. The ability to connect those foreign sources to individuals in America is a crucial capability.
The President has bestowed upon those that rail against the most fundamental of American values and beliefs, in particular Islamists, social cover, religious cover, political cover and cover from being profiled by Federal law enforcement. Shall we now bestow freedom from being held accountable for dangerous foreign associations?