Throwback Non-Thursday: NSA Hazy, Try Reform Later

With 2013 coming to a close, plenty of reflections on the big news this year include the massive NSA revelations exposed by Edward Snowden and reported by Glenn Greenwald, Barton Gellman, Laura Poitras, etc., and so for this Throwback Non-Thursday, I thought it appropriate to revisit a column I did for in June on the ridiculous logic of the NSA’s defenders.

Because honestly, there is a kind of painful ignorance to the idea that had Edward Snowden gone to someone in the NSA or in the U.S. government to voice his concerns instead of taking documents and giving them to journalists, everything would have been fixed.

So the NSA is a democratic institution where all you have to do is chat with your immediate superior and PRESTO CHANGE-O IT’S REFORM TIME? Let’s all take a few seconds to think about what would have happened if Snowden had brought his concerns to his supervisor or the guy above that or the guy above that et cetera, et cetera into a near-infinite hierarchy. There are any number of things that could have transpired, not one of which would have been “Hmm, you know what? This Snowden kid may be onto something. Let’s make this thing public!”

It was a ridiculous argument then, and it’s even more ridiculous now, considering how a federal judge ended up vindicating Snowden’s actions, but somehow people are continuing to make this insanely illogical argument.

Do the people making these arguments honestly believe that one day, everyone in charge of these programs will suddenly do a 180? Government employees are not the Grinch who stole Christmas, their hearts don’t suddenly grow three sizes and make them do the right thing in the end and everyone dances and eats figgy pudding and debates the merits of the surveillance state. At least be honest and say having this debate at all compromises national security. Because if you’re saying we should have a dialogue about this, but not as a result of leaks, what you’re really saying is that we should trust the government to eventually do the right thing and be honest with us.

The full column is available here.


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