The leaking of secrets doesn't serve to keep Americans safer, says former Attorney General Michael Mukasey. Instead, it helps terrorists avoid detection.
Writing in The Wall Street Journal,
Mukasey, who served as the nation's top law enforcement officer during the last two years of George W. Bush's presidency, called claims of pervasive spying "downright irrational."
People from the left and right tend to unite when the government wants to collect data, even for counterterrorism efforts, Mukasey says. But he says their fears are unjustified.
The type of data being collected is not invasive, he argues, and a relatively small number of people have access to it. Add to that the huge responsibility that those people using the data have to keep the country safe -- and the lack of time they would have for using it for improper purposes -- and any reasonable person would have no need to fear, he says.
Still, he admits, it is theoretically possible that information could be misused, something he says would be "both a shame and a crime."
But to deny that information to intelligence agencies because of the chance of misuse makes as much sense "as it does to deny guns to police because they could be turned on the innocent."
The programs don't violate the Constitution, Mukasey says. The Fourth Amendment bars "unreasonable searches and seizures" and states that "no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause" which must be established by an affidavit and must describe "what or who is to be seized, and from where."
The first clause mentioned does not prevent warrantless searches, he says, only "unreasonable" ones. "And the second simply creates a warrant requirement that is read, with some exceptions, to bar evidence at trial if it is obtained without a valid warrant."
For those concerned with the United States seizing foreign communications, Mukasey notes that the Constitution and U.S. laws protect U.S. citizens and not anyone else.
"Foreign governments spy on us and our citizens. We spy on them and theirs," he writes. "Welcome to the world."
Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency contractor employee
, caused real damage when he leaked information on how the United States tracks down terrorist activity, Mukasey says. "Every time we tell terrorists how we can detect them, we encourage them to find ways to avoid detection."
But Mukasey says it isn't just "whistleblowers" who are leaking classified information. President Barack Obama boasted in May 2011 that Osama bin Laden's hideout yielded lots of valuable intelligence, "which alerted anyone who had dealt with bin Laden and thereby rendered much of that material useless."
In June 2012, reports on the United States helping plant the malware Stuxnet in Iran's nuclear facilities included discussions that took place in the White House Situation Room.
Further, Obama has defended the phone tapping and PRISM programs revealed just last week.
"There is little doubt, Mukasey said, "that we will be treated to further disclosures to prove that these programs were successful."
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