Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Friday, August 16, 2013

Can Reform Happen?

I can't say for sure that the NSA is as out of control as the CIA was before the Church Committee, but it certainly seems like it's a great big heaving mess.

Consider this revelation:

The big news in The Washington Post on Friday was Barton Gellman’s huge scoop about the thousands of times the National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority in recent years.

It appears that a lot were accidental, some were just NSA agents screwing around and some were official actions made by the NSA.

The accidental "invasions of privacy" are not really a big deal, because the NSA corrected that as soon as it found out.  The big deal is simply the number of times this happened.  Because this suggests a TON of requests for internal surveillance.

The NSA agents screwing around seems to be what Snowden was talking about, when he said he could access anyone's email account.  This sort of behavior should be prosecuted or the people doing it should lose their jobs.

The policy part, where the NSA just did shit without asking, is obviously the most troubling thing.

As the piece above explains:

Under Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the government is required to immediately notify the court if it believes court orders have been violated. But Gellmen’s article on Friday pointed to at least one instance in which the court did not learn of a new collection method used by the agency until it had been in use for a number of months. After learning of the new method, the court deemed it unconstitutional.

You have to fix that.

And you have to fix what's happening in the culture of the NSA that allows that to happen.

I'm a little worried that the Obama Administration is starting to dig in their heels too much on this and other issues (Larry Summers).

Obama is Center-Left, not Left and not a Marxist-Socialist-Muslim.  But he needs to throw his base a bone or two.  Shit-canning some top guys at the NSA and nominating Yellen would go some ways to mollifying his base.

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