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
  • Remember the pledge Editor:The county board chairman is not being factual with his recent comments concerning the Public Safety Tax Pledge made by the 2004-2010 County Board.First of all, the debt we were facing was caused by the foolish actions of nine board members of

    July 31, 2014

  • Back to the future for death penalty? The surreal national debate over the death penalty reached a climax of sorts July 23 in a prison execution chamber in Florence, Arizona. Double murderer Joseph Wood was put to death by lethal injection shortly after his lawyers went to the Supreme Co

    July 31, 2014

  • Reduce property tax Editor:The regular July meeting of the Rend Lake Conservancy District Board of Trustees is always interesting, and this year was no different. It is at this meeting that the board makes the annual tax levy for the district. Like every year, the debat

    July 31, 2014

  • Away from the tyranny ‘Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency,” the late poet Maya Angelou reflected in an interview with USA Today in 1988. “We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous or honest.”What a poem Angelou might have written about

    July 31, 2014

  • No Headline Provided House and Senate conferees have agreed on a $17 billion bill to address the scandal over poor health-care service at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The legislation is now on a fast track to pass Congress before its August recess, showing that Re

    July 31, 2014

  • Shackled by 'dead men' In theory, the American people’s elected representatives decide every so often how much to tax the public and how to allocate the revenue among various priorities, both short-term and long-term. In practice, however, Congress and the president have a

    July 31, 2014

  • Close the tax loophole that sends US corporations overseas Since we last overhauled our federal tax code, in 1986, countries around the world have lowered their tax rates, leaving the United States with the highest corporate tax rate in the developed word. At the same time, the system has become full of inef

    July 29, 2014

  • Israel and the U.S.: Whose survival instinct is stronger? There’s something darkly coincidental in the fact that the latest weapon to be deployed against the survival instinct of both Israel and the United States is an alleged “heartlessness” when it comes to children. The people of Israel are castigated in

    July 29, 2014

  • College cost isn't big problem for poor students To judge by this summer’s banner policy proposals, the most important question for higher-education reform right now is giving students easier access to loans. But evidence from Canada suggests those changes won’t address the greater need: Getting mo

    July 29, 2014

  • Ducks, geese a blessing I would like to respond to the “Geese and ducks causing problems in Veterans Park” article that was published in the Mt. Vernon Register-News on July 16, 2014. I must share that I do understand that at times there have been a great number of the Cana

    July 29, 2014

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks