Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

November 8, 2013

NSA reform should proceed cautiously

Whatever the National Security Agency was doing with Angela Merkel’s cellphone number for the past 10 years may have been poorly conceived — even reckless — but it didn’t violate U.S. law.

No violation of U.S. law is associated with the collection by the NSA’s Signals Intelligence Directorate (SID) — as disclosed by The Guardian newspaper last month — of phone numbers of foreign government officials and politicians. Nor is it illegal for the NSA to receive from French and Spanish security agencies for storage and possible analysis millions of numbers of their citizens.

Recent public disclosures made possible by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s downloading of thousands of documents have focused on the NSA’s gathering records of foreign leaders or their nations’ citizens. Several disclosures have been timed to coincide with Secretary of State John Kerry’s visits to certain countries.

As Congress considers reforms in the NSA’s collection of electronic intelligence, the focus should be on legislation protecting the privacy of U.S. citizens, not foreigners overseas, no matter who the foreigners are or what positions they hold.

“Reform,” according to Webster’s New World Dictionary, is “to make better by removing faults and defects” or “to make better by putting a stop to abuses or malpractices or by introducing better procedures.”

Lawmakers should realize that they are dealing with intelligence gathering and, in many cases, with spying and other clandestine operations that are illegal in the countries in which they take place. Members should also remember this phrase: “Nations have no permanent friends and no permanent enemies — only permanent interests.”

Under the U.S. Constitution, the president, as both commander in chief of the armed forces and maker of foreign policy, runs the nation’s intelligence operations. Congress has an oversight function and, through legislation, can seek to limit what the intelligence community does, especially when U.S. citizens are involved or the actions are occurring on U.S. territory.

Text Only
Opinion
  • I signed what? When Dr. Sam said, "You've got the prostate of a 16-year-old," it was hard to keep from beaming. This must be how a woman feels when a complete stranger tells her she has a beautiful baby. Well, maybe not quite. Still, it was hard not to feel proud o

    April 19, 2014

  • Obamacare's winning numbers Obamacare's critics have had a bad week. On Thursday, President Obama announced that 8 million people have enrolled in new health insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act's marketplaces, and a significant portion of them are young Americans. Y

    April 19, 2014

  • The rise of big data: A double-edged sword Debates are raging about whether big data still holds the promise that was expected or whether it was just a big bust. The failure of the much-hyped Google Flu Trends to accurately predict peak flu levels since August 2011 has heightened the concerns

    April 19, 2014

  • Only love can re-make your heart Was Jeb Bush right to insert love into a political debate? Such was the gist of a question I was asked on talk radio in response to the former Florida governor's assertion that some immigrants come into the United States illegally as an "act of love.

    April 18, 2014

  • Stop big tobacco from promoting e-cigarettes The tobacco industry is sharply raising spending on advertisements and other marketing for electronic cigarettes to try to make smoking glamorous again and hook a new generation of Americans on nicotine. We shouldn't let them get away with it. If adu

    April 18, 2014

  • A mental health checkup The country's inadequate mental health system gets the most attention after instances of mass violence of the sort that the nation has seen repeatedly over the past few months. Not all who commit these sorts of atrocities are mentally ill, but many h

    April 18, 2014

  • Your new password: sur**nder Have you changed your passwords since the security flaw known as Heartbleed emerged? Have you made sure they're all long, alphanumeric and randomized? Did you use a unique one for every site -- every bank account, every e- mail address, every music-s

    April 17, 2014

  • Hillary leans on Bill, Obama Recently Hillary Clinton gave what appeared at first to be a rambling and unfocused answer when asked to name the proudest achievement of her four years as Secretary of State. The short version is, she doesn't have one. But Clinton's words make a lot

    April 17, 2014

  • If GOP lost culture war, liberals did, too The "culture wars" have been a feature of American politics for almost a century, but recently a number of commentators have declared their end. Conservatives have lost, swept aside by a wave of enthusiasm for marriage equality and sexualized mass cu

    April 17, 2014

  • Cable guys too slow with Internet upgrade Remember the good-old 1990s, when you could make a pot of coffee while waiting for the screeching dial-up modem to connect to the Internet at a leisurely 9.6 kilobits per second? Two decades later, the average American household's connection is 1,000

    April 16, 2014

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks