After all that indignation over “government spying,” there are signs that a true public airing of the tradeoffs is coming.
For a start, Pew finds “56 percent of Americans regard “NSA Phone Tracking as Acceptable Anti-terror Tactic...Even If It Intrudes on Privacy,” a snap judgment that will no doubt be modified as details emerge but a promising openness to hearing argument on both sides.
That debate is not well-served by Rand Paul’s predictable outburst about Big Brother and his vow of a “class-action lawsuit to overturn the decisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court...I will take the fight all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.”
Maybe Sen. Paul didn’t get the memos, but the Administration reveals 22 briefings over 14 months for Congress on the law to justify the National Security Agency's email monitoring program under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act, giving the attorney general and director of national intelligence authority to gather intelligence on non-U.S. citizens for up to a year.
Rand’s colleague, Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, has paid closer attention and now wants to prosecute whistle blower Eric Snowden for treason as she schedules open meetings about the NSA in the coming months.
The President, while deploring the Snowden leak, has responded by calling the ensuing debate “healthy for our democracy.” But it won’t be easy to counter demagoguing the subject with material that has to remain classified.
Grown men in Washington should be up to doing the work on the balancing act that public safety vs. individual privacy requires.
I am encouraged by a term paper written by my 17-year-old grandson, exquisitely analyzing the benefits of drone observation against their intrusions into individual privacy, with sound suggestions for reconciling those contradictory goals.
In a couple of decades, his generation will take over the job of governing, but can we afford to wait?