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The Costs and Benefits of the NSA

The data-collection debate we need to have is not about civil liberties.

Jun 24, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 39 • By REUEL MARC GERECHT
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We may be on the cusp of a new wondrous counterterrorist tool; or we may be seeing American officials, once again, looking for a technical solution to a problem that actually requires intensive human labor, some of it morally challenging and bloody. Given the volatile state of Islamic militancy, the imminent nuclearization of the Islamic Republic, whose ruling elite has terrorism in its DNA, and the likely coming defeat of the United States in Afghanistan, which will probably supercharge jihadism, a big attack inside the United States in the coming years wouldn’t be surprising. We should want to assess PRISM’s capacities thoroughly and critically. It may be a great technology—or it may be an overpriced dream whose promise was just too appealing. What we shouldn’t do is throw it away over unwarranted fears of snooping.

Reuel Marc Gerecht, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former case officer in the CIA’s clandestine service, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.

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