Well here is an interesting opinion piece over at The Christian Science Monitor. Former NSA Chief, Retired General Keith Alexander and law professor Geoffrey Stone ask what, on the surface, seems like a fairly provocative question in the post-Snowden era: If an ex-NSA chief and ACLU adviser can agree on surveillance reform, why can’t Congress?:
As Americans, we share these bedrock principles: that freedom, privacy, and individual liberty are fundamental American values; that a core responsibility of our government is to keep our nation and our people safe; that the collection of intelligence is essential in the modern world to protect our nation’s security; and that, at present, the trust of the American people has been eroded and needs to be reestablished with new safeguards that ensure that the agencies charged with carrying out the collection of intelligence do so in a manner that is consistent with our deepest national values.
That is not to say that the nation’s intelligence agencies have abused their authority. To the contrary, the NSA and other intelligence agencies have worked conscientiously to operate within the express authorities that Congress, the White House, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court have given them. Indeed, the men and women who work at NSA and other national security agencies deserve our admiration and support. Although intelligence agencies often operate out of necessity in secret, in our experience they adhere to the rule of law and comply with multiple layers of effective oversight.
I am not sure “NSA and other intelligence agencies have worked conscientiously to operate within the express authorities that Congress, the White House, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court” is an entirely forthcoming admission. It has been exposed time and time again that either the NSA has outright lied to the FISA court, fails to disclose information, or has been found by FISA to be operating outside their authorities.
The whole opinion piece smells funny and reads like a word-game.
As mentioned in the article, it has been fifteen years since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, but what good have all the terrorism-related intelligence laws afforded the American public? The country is no safer because of so-called operational effectiveness of the counterterrorism tools Congress has provided to the intelligence community. Quite the contrary.
The only reason America is safer today is because there was an attack on American soil, killing American lives, and this opened our eyes to the very real possibility that we need to be more vigilant. American intelligence agencies have yet to prevent a single real terror plot thanks to these tools. Fifteen years of pointless mass surveillance and other authorities granted to the intelligence community have proven these tools unnecessary.
This is why it is time for reform – because things like section 215 of the Patriot Act, and section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act do nothing to make the country safe. Besides, because of how the intelligence community works, all these capabilities will ultimately fall back on the Reagan era Executive Order 12333 – what amounts to a catch-all intelligence community authority allowing for just about any type of spying, including surveillance of American citizens.
Now that is something in need of reform.