Over the past week, I've been amused by the main stream media's treatment of James Snowden, the hero/villian of the NSA surveillance leaks. In what amounts to a media game of Where's Waldo?, the media seems less concerned about the important and difficult issues raised by Snowden's leak and far more focused on where he is and where he's going.
Let's take a look this.
Although I was an supporter of the Patriot Act as it was originally proposed under the Bush Administration (you remember, back when Barack Obama was a staunch critic of surveillance programs), there are now very real reasons to be concerned about the newly-disclosed NSA surveillance program. There's no question that we need continuing intelligence to manage the threat posed by Islamist terrorism worldwide. But we need targeted intelligence, focused on those who (dare I say it) fit a specific profile. But do we need to establish a full network of every American's communications, email, phone calls, etc, even if it's at a meta-level? I think not.
What we do need is the ability to track communications once a clear threat has been established and clearly vetted by extra-governmental authority. The details of all of this are very complex, and there are no easy answers, but at their core is the following problem (enunciated by Glen Reynolds):
The problem is, it’s hard to trust the people who are supposed to use that data to protect us to do so, when they abandoned their own in Benghazi [and then lied about the reasons for the attack and stonewalled the events that occurred afterward]. And it’s hard to trust them not to use that data to oppress us, when they’ve already abused their powers that way in other connections. Which is why abuse of power is itself a kind of treason: It weakens the fabric of the nation like nothing else, by undermining the trust that is essential for the system to work.We allow government intrusion into our lives because we trust that the intrusion will be used in very limited ways. If we are to believe Obama apologists (and I do not), the IRS scandal was the work of "rogue" IRS agents in some backwater office far, far away from Washington, DC. Just for laughs, let's take that ridiculous claim as the truth. If the Obama administration can't manage a bunch of G-11s in Cincinnati, how on earth can they manage the sophisticated techies at the NSA. And if, as most rational folks believe, the IRS abuses were politically motivated, not by G-11s, but by people unknown in Washington, DC, it is hardly far-fetched to believe that similar politically motivated abuses could be performed by "rogue" NSA employees. And that's the problem—trust is no longer there.
Even worse, as Barack Obama and the Democrats seek to further expand the size of government, the danger of abuse [and fraud and waste] only grows in direct proportion to size—bigger is absolutely NOT better.
But instead of looking at the reasons why the NSA program might run amuck or why abuses that have already occurred are a harbinger of even more ominous abuses as the government grows, the media plays Where's Waldo? Why am I not surprised?