January 8, 2014
President Obama’s anticipated reform of the National Security Agency’s practices needs to go beyond ending the mass surveillance of innocent Americans’ phone calls. He should force the agency to think less about the quantity of information it gathers and more about the quality.
Obama should ignore the choir of apologists singing in lamentation over the beastly way the NSA is being treated. I refer to voices such as that of Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who on Monday accused Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — and, by extension, all the agency’s critics — of “trying to create this paranoia among Americans that the NSA is spying on everyone.”
In fact, the agency is spying on everyone by keeping a detailed log of our private phone calls. This practice was sanctioned by secret court rulings that stretched the words of the Constitution and the Patriot Act beyond recognition. We couldn’t challenge these rulings because we weren’t allowed to know about them. When asked in March whether any such blanket domestic surveillance was taking place, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied to Congress and said no. In what universe is it “paranoia” to be angry about all of this?