Posts Tagged ‘NSA Surveillance’

General Keith Alexander’s star-flights of fancy

September 16, 2013

sbiblahGeneral Keith Alexander, who heads the U.S. Cyber-Command and the National Security Agency, commissioned an Information Dominance Center patterned on the bridge of Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s Starship Enterprise.  Architect’s drawings are shown above.

Foreign Policy magazine reported:

When he was running the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command, Alexander brought many of his future allies down to Fort Belvoir for a tour of his base of operations, a facility known as the Information Dominance Center.

It had been designed by a Hollywood set designer to mimic the bridge of the starship Enterprise from Star Trek, complete with chrome panels, computer stations, a huge TV monitor on the forward wall, and doors that made a “whoosh” sound when they slid open and closed.  Lawmakers and other important officials took turns sitting in a leather “captain’s chair” in the center of the room and watched as Alexander, a lover of science-fiction movies, showed off his data tools on the big screen.

“Everybody wanted to sit in the chair at least once to pretend he was Jean-Luc Picard,” says a retired officer in charge of VIP visits.

via Foreign Policy.

I wouldn’t trust anyone, myself included, with the power to monitor the electronic communications of any American, including the public officials who vote his budget, and no accountability as to how this information is used.

But I especially would not trust anyone who uses public money to act out personal fantasies.  There is something to be said for getting in touch with your inner weirdness, but not in mixing it with public policy and national security.


Six lies about NSA surveillance

August 4, 2013

Edward Snowden, a profile in courage

August 1, 2013

It took a lot of guts for Edward Snowden to go up against the United States government, when the examples of Bradley Manning and Julian Assange showed him what he might expect.

President Obama regularly signs death warrants of persons he deems threats to national security.  He has authority under U.S. law to order fugitives seized and brought them back to the United States even if this violates the laws of the country they’re in.   Obama has prosecuted more whistle-blowers under the Espionage Act than all his predecessors put together.

Recently Attorney General Eric Holder assured President Vladimir Putin that if Snowden was given over to U.S. custody, he would not be executed or tortured.  Imagine—the highest-ranking law enforcement official of the United States gives assurance to a former officer of the Soviet KGB that the United States will not torture a wanted fugitive.  What does it say about the United States that Holder has to give such an assurance?

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden

Now the fact that Edward Snowden is brave does not prove that he was right.  Maybe you believe that the National Security Agency is exercising its just powers when it puts all the world’s electronic communications under surveillance and keeps the fact that it is doing so a secret.  If you’re right, then Snowden is in fact a criminal and should be brought to justice.

But not everybody thinks that way.  The governments of France and other European countries that object to NSA surveillance do not think that way.  The editors of the Washington Post and other newspapers that made use of Snowden’s leaks do not think that way.  If they’re right, Snowden is not in fact a criminal.

But they nevertheless agree with treating Snowden as a criminal and bringing back to the United States.  This is a profile in cowardice.


It’s the Democrats who back NSA spying

June 18, 2013
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Back during the Bush administration, many Democrats, including Senators Barack Obama and Joe Biden, opposed warrant-less wiretapping.   But now that the Democrats are in power, there has been a change of mind.

It is a great example of how much politics is a matter of group loyalty rather than loyalty to principle.  Obamaphiles are in favor of whatever President Obama favors, and Obamaphobes are opposed, no matter what.

Presidents Ronald Reagan was noted for “dog whistles”—phraseology that the general public didn’t notice, but that reassured conservative Christians that he really was on their side.  President Obama has a genius for liberal dog whistles.  Liberals believe he is on our side at heart in spite of all the things he actually does.

Click on Majority Views NSA Phone Tracking as Acceptable Anti-Terror Tactic for the complete results of the Pew Research poll.

Click on Americans Disapprove of Government Surveillance Programs for the complete result of the Gallup poll.

Both Pew and Gallup found that the NSA surveillance program gets more support from Democrats than Republicans.


What do Americans think about NSA spying?

June 18, 2013

Source: Huffington Post

Different public opinion polls show widely different results on what Americans think about National Security Administration surveillance.   I think the difference is explained partly on how the questions were worded, and partly on when the questions were asked.

If you asked me whether I think the NSA should spy on suspected terrorists, I would answer, yes, of course, if they have good reason to think somebody might be a terrorist, they should put the person under surveillance.  That is a different thing from having the NSA gather up phone records of all Americans, or on having Homeland Security agencies spy on Americans who are exercising their constitutional right peaceably to assemble or to petition the government for redress of grievances.

My reaction to Edward Snowden’s report on the NSA PRISM program was immediate and negative because of my pre-existing belief that the Obama administration is not acting in good faith.  If I had not been following the question, I would have been much slower to make up my mind.

I’m glad there still are many Americans who value the right of privacy, and who have not been stampeded into giving up this basic right.

Click on Majority Views Phone Tracking as Acceptable Anti-Terror Tactic for Pew Research’s summary of its polling.

Click on Americans Disapprove of Government Surveillance Programs for Gallup’s summary of its polling.

Click on Actually, Americans aren’t shrugging off NSA surveillance for a report from the Christian Science Monitor.