The year in letters 2013: Surveillance

  • Updated: December 31, 2013 - 6:26 PM

Tim Lee/News & Observer/MCT

Photo: Tim Lee • News & Observer/MCT,

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Looks like Al-Qaida is winning

At Heathrow Airport, the British national security police detained the partner of a journalist who had written stories based on leaks by former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden. George Orwell’s “1984” is almost 30 years late coming, but the intrusion of our government into the lives of American citizens is now rampant. If Al-Qaida forces us to relinquish our cherished American liberty in the so-called interest of national security, it has accomplished its purpose of destroying freedom in America.


Save the outrage, Euro leaders

Let’s not get too overwrought by the feigned outrage of European leaders over U.S. spying. Every single one of those countries has espionage agencies like the CIA and NSA. Every single one of them spies on the United States, too. Every one of those countries spies on every other country, friend and foe alike. It’s de rigueur. So, ignore their pompous, self-righteous hypocrisy. Oh, and you can ignore the hypocritical denials by the United States that it’s happening.


But where will it end?

NSA of the USA, KGB of the USSR. Not much difference, is there? Never thought we would get there, but we have arrived.


Update laws to fit digital times

Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks and the Edward Snowden cases raise questions: Shouldn’t Congress now be taking pains legislatively to broadly distinguish between espionage/spying and leaking information? Should it establish meaningfully different penalties for each? Are espionage and spying to be seen as the same? In the digital age, when much can be shared so easily, we must take pains to clarify our laws.

DENNIS DILLON, Minneapolis

Can we trust our government?

Let’s assume the best-case scenario: The government is truly collecting and storing a billion private conversations a day solely for the purpose of fighting terrorism and keeping us safe (despite the fact the system failed to stop Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the man already on the terrorist watch list). Perhaps the NSA is staffed completely with professionals who would never think of doing anything inappropriate with your personal conversations or sent pictures (despite numerous accounts of Transportation Safety Administration agents groping folks, and at least one count of an agent “inappropriately touching himself behind the X-ray machine). Perhaps the Obama administration is truly using its power in our best interests. What about the next person we elect? Or the one after that? Will you continue to trust your government the next time we elect a right-wing president?

LUKE POWELL, Circle Pines, Minn.

Where’s proof it stops terror?

Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the NSA, claims that surveillance of e-mail messages has prevented more than 50 terrorist plots. If this is true, there must be dozens of criminals and terrorists who have been arrested and charged with crimes. Who are they, and where are they imprisoned? What is the status of their criminal trials? I understand that the NSA plans to present “classified evidence” to Congress. Why classified? If attacks were prevented, isn’t the specific threat ended?



    With the help of news researchers Sandy Date and John Wareham, we’ve compiled excerpts of letters to the editor on topics that drew the most response last year. Enjoy, and keep sharing — in 250 words or fewer — by using the “Submit a letter or commentary” link or via e-mail to

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