Opinion roundup: U.S. surveillance revelations

  • Article by: VARIOUS WRITERS
  • Updated: June 10, 2013 - 9:00 PM

Reactions to revelations of government’s surveillance activities from across the country.

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A sign outside the National Security Administration (NSA) campus on Thursday, June 6, 2013, in Fort Meade, Md.

Photo: Patrick Semansky, Associated Press

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The following are excerpts from commentaries and editorials regarding the National Security Agency's data-gathering practices:

 

CHARLES M. BLOW, New York Times:

The Obama administration is taking unprecedented steps to make sure that government secrets remain private while simultaneously invading the privacy of its citizens. This is a “Papa knows best” approach to security policy.

We are told that this has helped to keep us safe, and that any loss of civil liberties and sense of privacy is inconsequential. It’s a digital stop-and-frisk.

Even if you trust these “papas” — and I fully trust no politicians — what happens when they are replaced by new ones, ones you do not trust, ones with whom you do not agree?

That’s the problem: Beyond the present potential for abuse, these policies establish a dangerous, bipartisan precedent, spanning all branches of government.

Imagine what damage the power to indiscriminately collect endless amounts of private data on innocent citizens could do in the hands of men and women of ill intent. The world is no stranger to that kind of abuse.

This is not a right-left thing. This is a right-wrong thing. This is one of those rare moments where the left edge and the right one can meet: This government overreach is a threat to liberty.

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CHARLES A. SHANOR, New York Times:

Hold it just a minute. From what has been made public, we know that the FBI used its powers under the Patriot Act to seek these records; that judges with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved these searches, and that members of Congress with oversight powers over the intelligence community were briefed about the searches. It is evident, then, that all three branches of government were involved in the records search. The authorizations were approved by life-tenured federal judges who are sworn to uphold the Constitution, including the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. On the surface, our system of checks and balances seems to be working.

We cannot rule out the possibility that the voluminous records obtained by the government might, some day, be illegally misused. But there is no evidence so far that has occurred. No contents of phone conversations are being provided to the government. The Supreme Court long ago authorized law enforcement agencies to obtain call logs — albeit on paper rather than from a computer database — without full probable cause to believe a crime had been committed.

I will take my chances and trust the three branches of government to look out for my interest.

• • •

FARHAD MANJOO, Slate:

Edward Snowden sounds like a thoughtful, patriotic young man, and I’m sure glad he blew the whistle on the NSA’s surveillance programs. But the more I learned about him, the angrier I became. Wait, him? The NSA trusted its most sensitive documents to this guy? And now, after it has just proven itself so inept at handling its own information, the agency still wants us to believe that it can securely hold on to all of our data? Oy vey!

Let’s note what Snowden is not: He isn’t a seasoned FBI or CIA investigator. He isn’t a State Department analyst. He’s not an attorney with a specialty in national security or privacy law. Instead, he’s the IT guy, and not a very accomplished, experienced one at that.

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