Professor John Proctor
November 7, 2013
The Age Old Cry of the Oppressor
This week’s On The Media, a segments discussed the NSA’s justification of it’s use of mass surveillance after the Edward Snowden leaks. The focal point of the segment is the NSA’s claim that it’s surveillance has contributed to the understanding of or prevention of 54 terrorist threats worldwide. So what’s the problem? The problem is, the NSA isn’t accountable to normal checks and balances, and public discourse most of the government is subject to and that creates a big problem in identifying the truth, especially when the NSA’s actions are considered by many, a violation of the 4th amendment of the United States Constitution.
Because of the secrecy and classified nature of many of these threats, the media and public are more or less in the dark. Edward Snowden not only informed the media but apparently many member of congress including Alan Grayson, a rep from Florida who says he’s learned more about the NSA from the media than he has in any government briefing or hearing. So there might be people in congress who know just as about as much as you and I about the NSA.
The segment also discusses the ambiguity surrounding the number 54. The NSA isn’t claiming it led to the direct prevention of 54 terrorist attacks but to the ‘understanding of terrorist actives and possible terrorist attacks’. NPR played audio form a GOP rep in a town hall claiming the NSA led to a prevention of 54 attacks on US Soil. An exaggeration of the truth as only 13 of those 54 attacks were related to the United States, which the NSA director admitted in a hearing saying that not all of the 54 example were ‘plots’ and confirming that only 13 were related to the US.
The only specific example of the story is an AP article that discussed the planned NYC subway bombings. And while ‘illegal’ surveillance was used to stop the attack, NPR claims the case could be made that going through the proper legal channels would have yielded the same result as no judge would deny a warrant on an Al Qaeda email address. That’s a bold claim but if true, does help the NSA justify it’s mass surveillance program.
Oddly enough, this story makes me think of Star Trek when Captain Picard as his inquiries are blocked by the old ‘security’ excuse. Picard says, “ ‘A matter of internal security’, the age-old cry of the oppressor.” And I couldn’t agree more