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Rogue Panel Reports on Non-Rogue NSA Program

3:01 PM, Dec 21, 2013 • By GARY SCHMITT
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But, stepping back from the particular recommendations made by the president’s panel, the fundamental problem with the report is that it is attempting to fix a problem that doesn’t exist. For all the headlines produced by Snowden’s treasonous leaks, there still is no smoking gun to suggest that the NSA collection program is some massive breach of American privacy, that it’s a violation of 1st or 4th Amendment rights, or that it’s been run without adequate oversight by the courts, the executive branch, or Congress.  If anything, as a product of the Snowden materials and the resulting efforts by NSA, the administration, and the congressional intelligence committees to explain the program, we’ve learned just how limited in scope the use of the metadata has been and how microscopically the program is managed to avoid precisely the kinds of abuses now being bruited about but which have no basis in reality.

What’s particularly galling is the argument that, even though the accusations of abuse lack substance, these changes are needed to address the perception that there might be a problem.  At least in the case of the major reforms made to intelligence in the 1970s one could point to some specific problems in how the FBI and CIA were going about their business that needed addressing. Instead, now, we have a president who, while admitting in his presser that there is no evidence that NSA “acted inappropriately,” says “the environment has changed” and it “matters more that people right now are concerned.”

If press accounts are accurate, the president didn’t expect this report.  But the unexpected is sometimes the price you pay for passing the buck to a panel of “outside experts” instead of making more of a personal and public effort to defend ongoing programs that, by any reasonable standard, are appropriate and constitutional. As in so many other cases, “leading from behind” just won’t cut it.

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