The Christmas season is finally here, that festive time of egg nog and good cheer, where it’s better to give than to receive.
OK. Scratch that last one, for two big constituencies would disagree.
The two? Kids, since there’s nothing better than ripping open presents from Santa. And every country on earth, all salivating at receiving the mother lode of U.S. government intelligence operations, courtesy of Mr. “Secret” Santa himself, former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
At first, Snowden’s exposure of the NSA’s massive domestic spying operations merited him a big Christmas gift, but as the extent of his security breeches become known, he deserves nothing but coal and a jail cell.
The true scope may never be known, but it is clearly the largest exposure of intelligence secrets in history. Unfortunately, many of this story’s major points are being overlooked, and worse, actions are now being contemplated which shouldn’t even be on the table, from amnesty to curtailing U.S. intelligence capabilities.
The NSA is wrong to spy on Americans without probable cause. It is unacceptable that the Agency hacked into (or outright demanded) the private data of technology companies for domestic intelligence gathering. If government agencies need information related to an investigation, they should use the proper, legal channels. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court (FISA) was established in 1978 for just that purpose.
Trolling through records of law-abiding citizens should unequivocally be a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s unreasonable search-and-seizure provision. And it’s unnecessary, as FISA courts are highly effective: In 33 years, only 11 of 34,000 FISA warrants were rejected.
Ironically, there’s significant doubt the NSA’s efforts are even productive. Just this week, a federal judge, in stating that the NSA’s actions were likely unlawful, concluded that the government didn't cite a single instance in which the program "actually stopped an imminent terrorist attack,” according to the AP.
When our government becomes as intrusive as those we fight, it’s time for major changes. No more unregulated domestic spying.
Everyone else is fair game. There should be no restrictions on foreign intelligence operations, including on even our staunchest allies.
It is dangerously naïve to believe that our friends will always do the right thing. Self-interest and greed are powerful motivators, and can quickly erode the integrity of otherwise reasonable people.
Because national security and the lives of millions hang in the balance, the NSA must adhere to a “trust but verify” approach, achieved through 24/365 operations eavesdropping on everybody.
If it hadn’t been doing so, we might never have known about the companies and governments who jeopardized global security by deliberately violating treaties and laws, such as those who secretly helped build Iran’s nuclear program.
And just last week, numerous entities, from Ukraine to the Philippines, were nailed by the U.S. for violating sanctions placed on Iran. That type of information doesn’t come out of thin air, but from aggressive, hard-nosed spying, both human and electronic. Any changes in how we collect and share intelligence as a way to mitigate international fallout from the Snowden leaks would be disastrous.
Hey allies, stop whining! So you got spied upon. So what? Be honest. You attempt to spy on America. You’re just not very good at it.
Of course, our status as world leader also makes us your protector, not because we have to, but because it’s the right thing to do. Much the same way that America saved you — and all of humanity — by winning two world wars, protected you from the Soviet menace, and freed millions by winning the Cold War.
No one ever looks to China to save the day, so how about this? If any country steps up and fully takes over America’s place on the world stage, we’ll stop spying on you.
How Snowden (not even an NSA employee), was permitted access to so many classified documents is something that needs thorough investigation, as well as why his computers were configured to hide his movements.
That aside, had he exposed the domestic spying operations only, one could make the case that his actions were rooted in patriotism. But he didn’t.
Instead, he has put the security of the world in serious jeopardy, and without question needs to be brought to justice.
And that would be the best present of all.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, Freindly Fire Zone Media. Read more reports from Chris Freind — Click Here Now.
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