NSA, PRISM, FISA, Democracy and National Security

So we have now learned a few more things going on about the NSA surveillance. We will not repeat the information what is already published somewhere. Instead we will present some thoughts about how these programs affect national security, America’s reputation in the world and the like.

For instance, the PRISM program is supposed not to target US citizens at home or abroad. So, first of all, how does the NSA know whether a target abroad is a non-US citizen? There are many US citizens living abroad, not just for vacations.

And how does it sound anyway? We look at everyone that is not a US citizen. We look at everyone who is Canadian, British, German, French, Mexican, Australian, Japanese, Israeli etc.

The majority of customers of Google, Facebook are non-US citizen. In other countries the privacy concerns are taken more seriously – Google and Facebook have to deal with privacy concerns much more over there than here. People and companies there might view that as espionage. They might turn away from Google and Facebook, hurting those companies. Does this help national security?

And what are we telling to the world? We do anything we want with your data, because, you’re not a US citizen and therefore we  don’t care.

How does this improve our reputation? How does this help the national security? By making everyone else an enemy?

How effective is the democratic control anyway?

Obama has told us that these programs are under supervision of Congress. Now we know that Obama had problems with Congress but certainly not here. You see, the Congress, known as do-nothing Congress, has a approval rating of around 10%, and there is a reason for this. Mostly, members of Congress are more worried about their re-election next time and the money they would have to raise, not so much how to serve the general public (remember the recent gun restriction debacle?).

But more importantly, not every member of Congress knows about the details, only some committee members are fully briefed. And they not are not supposed to discuss anything of it publicly. Some are saying, however, that the American public would be shocked  if they would learn how the administration interprets the law.

And the supervision by federal judges? Well, that court, named FISA, short for “Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act”, holds only non-public (i.e. secret) sessions, listens only to the arguments made by the government, and rarely publishes its decisions. No wonder, that the NSA got permission from FISA to collect data from Verizon and others for now over seven years.

So much for public control. Or not so much.

That’s why it is really important to have whistle blowers, who once in a while reveal what is really going on. It is a necessary balance to anti-democratic institutions and behaviors. Likewise is the media, reporting about these things.

Anyone saying that the reports hurt the national security should think about how these programs actually hurt the national security. Anti-democratic in nature and uncontrolled by the public it is a cancer in a democratic society. If allowed to grow, it could destroy the fabric of a democratic society – and at the end the terrorists would have won.

The good news is there is no way to keep it under cover for ever. It always will come out one day. Every scandal has. There are people like Edward Snowden, who have a conscience, and won’t continue to participate in questionable actions.

I know the administration is mad about the revelation, but it is good for the democracy, so they really should embrace it. and it should stop prosecution whistle blowers under a WWI area law. And everybody could see what democracy is all about, and that will be good for national security.





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