NYPD Commissioner Blasts NSA Secret Monitoring For Being Secret

from the half-right dept

In the wake of the NSA scandal leaks, there have been several examples of government officials and law enforcement coming out to state both that the program is necessary and that its existence ought never have been revealed. Those who espouse the latter often indicate that, as a result, Edward Snowden is some measure of a traitor, and in some cases so are members of the press that reported on the revelations. Not all former and current government folks are in that camp, of course, but those that are not typically argue the polar opposite: that the NSA program is either unconstitutional or unnecessary. Those are sentiments I happen to agree with, but there is a refreshingly original third course of thought.

That comes from NYPD police commissioner Ray Kelly, who has managed to blast the secret NSA program…but only for being secret.

“I don’t think it ever should have been made secret,” Kelly said yesterday, breaking ranks with other US law-enforcement officials. “I think the American public can accept the fact if you tell them that every time you pick up the phone, it’s going to be recorded and it goes to the government. I think the public can understand that. I see no reason why that program was placed in the secret category. Secondly, I think if you listen to Snowden, he indicates that there’s some sort of malfeasance, people . . . sitting around and watching the data. So I think the question is: What sort of oversight is there inside the [National Security Agency] to prevent that abuse, if it’s taking place?”

Now, the easy reaction to this is to write off Kelly’s opinion that the majority of Americans would be okay with data surveillance as long as we were well informed about it. After all, stop and frisk is fairly above board, and people still hate it. But the point is an important one with real implications on how democracy is supposed to work versus how it actually does work in America today.

By that I mean whether secretive programs run by the government that impact the majority or all of Americans can be undertaken without the consent of the governed. Step back a moment from Kelly’s assertion that the public would be on board with the program if we had known about it all along. Isn’t the better point to be taken from his statement that we should at least have been given the opportunity to find out? As a member of a representative democracy, if my fellow Americans were indeed informed and signed off on this program, I have to accept it, whatever my dissenting views. If the government was above board on the checks and balances in the program, they might have a good PR case. But that process was never given a chance to incubate. Instead, broadly worded, vague legislation birthed secretive policies, subject to secretive committees and secretive courts, and it was only by the providence of a humanitarian leaker that the public had any inkling of what was going on. That isn’t how the American concept is supposed to function.

And now we’ll never know whether Kelly is right or not, because the experiment that could have occurred has been foiled. Any complacency by the public now can be written off as apathy born of anger and mistrust. Any dissent is tainted by the same as a result of the secrecy of the program. The method by which the NSA spy program was both initiated, continued, and finally revealed is almost a perfect counter example to the democratic process. I fear that our founding fathers, those men of the enlightenment so often referenced by the career politicians of the day, would be calling for revolution once more.

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Comments on “NYPD Commissioner Blasts NSA Secret Monitoring For Being Secret”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Took the time to read your stuff

You cited law but didn’t cite any interpretations or real world examples so it was rather a pointless exercise. I know Mike can fan the flames but he is pretty level headed. He does make mistakes from time to time. If you have scoured all of Techdirt to show us the worst “mikey” has to offer I am very unimpressed.

DCX2 says:

I kinda agree.

I look at surveillance like drones. It’s going to happen. In fact, it’s already happening. We can’t stop it. So, let’s try to make some good out of it.

I think anyone should have the right to petition a court for information from the NSA database. Imagine the ramifications. You want to prove your spouse was having an affair? Get a warrant for the content of that sneaky phone call they made during your honeymoon, and use it as evidence of fault in your divorce proceedings.

Anonymous Coward says:

That name is familiar, wasn’t him blasting others from trying to make the NYPD more transparent?


Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly have each bristled at the suggestion of an independent monitor throughout the course of the 2-1/2-month trial, which ended in May. They cite the “stop and frisk” policy as instrumental in driving down the city’s crime rate.



Gotta love politics, Raymond there is doing the right thing for the wrong reasons(payback).

Anonymous Coward says:

I agree but...

Reality is that had this been transparent from the start and people had accepted it it would have been completely pointless as anyone who accepted it would be completely not the people they would be worried about. Lemmings are not who they are interested in. They are interested in two groups of people. Those who are the actual threats they claim to be after and those that are only a threat to their power because they see they believe in the Constitution and see the abuse for what it is. Both of the last two groups would quickly move to route around their abilities to gather useful information just as they have begun to now.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Above board?

Wasn’t it just a big racist thing where they would find pot?

Pretty much, but we knew it was happening. He is referring to it as above board because it was not initiated by pulled each police officer aside and whispering in their ear “psst. we are going to have a policy of stopping and frisking anyone you want without giving a reason. don’t tell anyone, just start doing it.”

Beta (profile) says:

where's the camera?

?I think the American public can accept the fact if you tell them that every time you pick up the phone, it?s going to be recorded and it goes to the government.”

In the America I grew up in, this would have been a bad joke, and a Police Commissioner who said this in earnest into a live microphone would’ve been out of a job within days. What the hell is going on?

Anonymous Coward says:

apart from all the obvious things said in the article, something that really frightens me is that there are people in extremely powerful positions, that can make a huge difference to the outcome of all manner of things that actually have the opinion that it is fine, it is ok, to have these secretive policies, subject to secretive committees and secretive courts! well, i say ‘it isn’t ok’! they should not have this attitude! we live in what is supposed to be ‘a democracy’, we are supposed to be and be entitled to be free and have privacy. what has happened here has destroyed that. it has removed all remnants of trust that the government is doing it’s job in protecting the nation and the people. in actual fact, it is making us fear the government! that is how it was years ago in Germany when the world went to war to stop that government and that attitude. regardless of what has happened to change the minds of the leaders, there is no excuse for this sort of treatment. surely it’s better to live a perhaps shorter, happier life, but free, than a possible longer life under fear of constant surveillance and perhaps worse, isn’t it?

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