Former NSA Boss: Mass Surveillance Is Very Important, But Perhaps NSA Should Stop Lying About It
from the baby-steps dept
The Guardian has an interesting interview with former NSA boss Bobby Ray Inman, who argues in favor of broad NSA surveillance efforts, but does feel that perhaps the federal government should, you know, stop lying about it:
In an extensive interview, Inman, a legendary NSA director, strongly defended the agency’s bulk surveillance of phone records and internet communications, and criticized members of Congress who want to restrict it as ignorant of the way the programs operate.
But he also warned that intelligence officials have an obligation to tell the truth about surveillance in their public statements.
Well, as they say: baby steps, right? Yes, let’s start by telling the truth, and then perhaps we can have an honest and open debate about what’s going on.
Of course, some of Inman’s claims just come across as silly:
“I would urge that if you’re going to do that, [you have to] look at privacy issues in the private sector, not just the government. I personally find it offensive that it’s fine for X corporation to have everything on you but not the government to know. That’s a basic don’t-trust-your-government argument, which I think erodes democracy.”
There are some pretty big differences. When you share information with a corporation, that’s your choice, not the government’s — and it often involves an exchange of values. You provide some attention, information or data, and they give you information or something else of value in response. It’s an exchange. A voluntary one. When the government swoops in and just collects all that data it’s quite different.
Oh yeah, also, there’s this: the companies don’t have a police force and an army with guns, nor prisons in which to lock you up. The government does. That kind of makes a big difference.
As for “don’t trust your government,” well, it would be a hell of a lot easier if the government actually deserved our trust. Yes, it erodes democracy when we can’t trust our government, but there’s a reason we can’t trust our government, and it’s not because “X corporation” doesn’t want to share its users’ information with the government.
Inman also insists that Congress has the ability to understand what’s going on with the NSA, totally ignoring the fact that House Intelligence Committee boss specifically has blocked access to information from those who requested it and, much worse, chose to withhold pertinent information from Congress prior to a vote on re-approving the FISA Amendments Act, despite the strong urging from the White House that the information be widely shared with elected officials. Inman pretends none of that happened:
Inman criticized legislative skeptics of the bulk surveillance – who came close in the House of Representatives in July to ending NSA’s bulk collection of American phone records – as intentionally and self-servingly ignorant.
“The current process would allow the doubters within the government, those who are members of Congress, to know what’s what. They don’t want to spend the time,” Inman said.
While Inman said he had “enormous admiration for Dianne Feinstein and Mike Rogers,” the intelligence committee leaders in the Senate and House, both of whom strongly support the bulk surveillance, he said he had “no sympathy for any member of Congress who says they’re uninformed or didn’t understand.
He has no sympathy even when information was deliberately withheld from them? And when they did seek it out they were denied? Really?
All in all the interview is pretty weak, but at least he’s willing to admit that lying to Congress is a mistake.