Must-Read Op-Eds for Tuesday, June 11

Updated
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n_mj_mustread_130611

BIG BROTHER REALLY IS WATCHING US

RAND PAUL

WALL STREET JOURNAL

No one objects to balancing security against liberty. No one objects to seeking warrants for targeted monitoring based on probable cause. We’ve always done this. What is objectionable is a system in which government has unlimited and privileged access to the details of our private affairs, and citizens are simply supposed to trust that there won’t be any abuse of power. This is an absurd expectation. Americans should trust the National Security Agency as much as they do the IRS and Justice Department. Monitoring the records of as many as a billion phone calls, as some news reports have suggested, is no modest invasion of privacy. It is an extraordinary invasion of privacy.

BIG BROTHER ISN’T WATCHING YOU

MARC A. THIESSEN

WASHINGTON POST

Terrorists don’t have armies or navies we can track with satellites. There are only three ways we can get information to prevent terrorist attacks: The first is interrogation… But thanks to Barack Obama, we don’t do that anymore. The second is penetration, either by infiltrating agents into al-Qaeda or by recruiting operatives from within the enemy’s ranks. This is incredibly hard… That leaves signals intelligence — monitoring the enemy’s phone calls and Internet communications — as our principal source of intelligence to stop terrorist plots. Now the same critics who demanded Obama end CIA interrogations are outraged that he is using signals intelligence to track the terrorists. Well, without interrogations or signals intelligence, how exactly is he supposed to protect the country?… The programs exposed in these leaks did not begin on Barack Obama’s watch. When Obama continues a Bush-era counterterrorism policy, it is not an outrage — it is a victory. And when those programs are exposed by leaks, it is not whistleblowing — it’s a felony.

THE SOLITARY LEAKER

DAVID BROOKS

NEW YORK TIMES

But Big Brother is not the only danger facing the country. Another is the rising tide of distrust, the corrosive spread of cynicism, the fraying of the social fabric and the rise of people who are so individualistic in their outlook that they have no real understanding of how to knit others together and look after the common good. This is not a danger Snowden is addressing. In fact, he is making everything worse. For society to function well, there have to be basic levels of trust and cooperation, a respect for institutions and deference to common procedures. By deciding to unilaterally leak secret N.S.A. documents, Snowden has betrayed all of these things.

EDWARD SNOWDEN’S NSA LEAKS ARE BLACKLASH OF TOO MUCH SECRECY

DANA MILBANK

WASHINGTON POST

As the administration and some in Congress vent their anger about leaks to The Post and to Britain’s Guardian newspaper, officials have only themselves to blame. It is precisely their effort to hide such a vast and consequential program from the American public that caused this pressure valve to burst. Instead of allowing a democratic debate about the programs in broad terms that would not have compromised national security, their attempts to keep the public in the dark have created a backlash in which the risks to national security can’t be controlled. Edward Snowden, the leaker, did the honorable thing in revealing his identity; it would be more honorable if he would turn himself in and face the consequences for his law-breaking. But there is little honor in the way administration officials and lawmakers have avoided responsibility.

EDWARD SNOWDEN’S NSA LEAKS SHOW WE NEED A DEBATE

EUGENE ROBINSON

WASHINGTON POST

[Snowden] paints what he did as an act of civil disobedience, but he has decided to seek political asylum abroad rather than surrender to authorities and accept the consequences. In published interviews, he comes across as grandiose to the point of self-parody, a legend in his own mind. He is an imperfect messenger, to say the least. But his message should not be ignored. … In its 34 years of existence, the [secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance] court has approved more than 30,000 government requests for surveillance authority while rejecting a grand total of 11. That is not what I’d call oversight. … In the coming debate, someone should explain why a mid-level computer guy working for a private contractor had access to so many of the NSA’s most closely held secrets. Someone should explain why the intelligence court is evidently so compliant. … Is that paranoia? Then reassure me. Let’s… decide, as citizens, whether we are comfortable with the direction our intelligence agencies are heading. And let’s remember that it was Snowden, not our elected officials, who opened this vital conversation.

SNOWDEN’S CONSCIENCE

EDITORIAL

WALL STREET JOURNAL

At least Mr. Snowden has the courage of his misguided convictions. Most national security leakers are willing to endanger the country but not their careers… Mr. Snowden’s motives appear to be political paranoia and righteous good intentions. His unlikely career path took him from community college washout to NSA security guard to Central Intelligence Agency IT specialist to consultant with the defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Only in America. … Mr. Snowden has so far revealed not a single abuse of power, much less illegality. … As for NSA, its main offense so far seems to be the quality of those it trusts with security clearances. … The Government Accountability Office reports that 4.8 million federal employees and contractors hold clearances, without “clearly defined policy” for determining which positions need them, leading to “inconsistent and improper” designations. It’s also time to heed the warning of the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan that the government keeps far too many secrets. Then perhaps it will be able to do a better job of protecting what really should be secret.

Must-Read Op-Eds for Tuesday, June 11

Updated