Tone Deaf NSA Officials Tell Reporter It's Time To Reform The First Amendment

from the how-about-reforming-the-nsa-out-of-existence dept

Daniel Drezner has a fairly incredible short blog post over at Foreign Policy magazine about his experience visiting the NSA as the organization is seeking to ramp up its PR campaign about how it’s not actually evil. We’ve already covered the 60 Minutes debacle, but in many ways this piece is just as enlightening, as he notes just how incredibly tone deaf NSA officials appear to be — unable to understand why people are upset about what they’re doing.

The NSA’s biggest strategic communications problem, however, is that they’ve been so walled off from the American body politic that they have no idea when they’re saying things that sound tone-deaf. Like expats returning from a long overseas tour, NSA staffers don’t quite comprehend how much perceptions of the agency have changed. The NSA stresses in its mission statement and corporate culture that it “protects privacy rights.” Indeed, there were faded banners proclaiming that goal in our briefing room. Of course, NSAers see this as protecting Americans from foreign cyber-intrusions. In a post-Snowden era, however, it’s impossible to read that statement without suppressing a laugh.

It might be an occupational hazard, but NSA officials continue to talk about the threat environment as if they’ve been frozen in amber since 2002. To them, the world looks increasingly unsafe. Syria is the next Pakistan, China is augmenting its capabilities to launch a financial war on the United States, and the next terrorist attack on American soil is right around the corner. They could very well be correct — except that the American public has become inured to such warnings over the past decade, and their response has been to tell politicians to focus on things at home and leave the rest of the world alone. A strategy of “trust us, the world is an unsafe place” won’t resonate now the way it did in the immediate wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

But, perhaps the most tone deaf of all, was the statement from one NSA official suggesting that it’s time to reform the First Amendment, because he’s not at all happy about how reporters have covered the NSA recently. As Drezner notes, he’s not sure if it’s a joke or not, but it really doesn’t matter. That seems like something you should not joke about if you’re an NSA person, given everything that’s going on.

The NSA’s attitude toward the press is, well, disturbing. There were repeated complaints about the ways in which recent reportage of the NSA was warped or lacking context. To be fair, this kind of griping is a staple of officials across the entire federal government. Some of the NSA folks went further, however. One official accused some media outlets of “intentionally misleading the American people,” which is a pretty serious accusation. This official also hoped that the Obama administration would crack down on these reporters, saying, “I have some reforms for the First Amendment.”

It seems that the public might have some reforms for the intelligence community as well. And those would actually be constitutional, unlike what that particular NSA officials had in mind for free speech and the press. There’s even more in the Drezner piece that is well worth reading, including the how the NSA was unable to properly manage his own personal information which he had to send them in order to get his pass to come for a visit…

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Comments on “Tone Deaf NSA Officials Tell Reporter It's Time To Reform The First Amendment”

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Rekrul says:

Re: Good thing...

That no matter how much the government wants it, they can’t just reform the Constitution or the Amendments without the states agreeing to it.

You mean like passing a law that blatantly violates parts of the Constitution, like the 5th and 6th amendments?

Ninja (profile) says:

I have some reforms for the First Amendment.

I think the Constitution was built with the idea of universal rights that would be impervious to the ages. What changed from there is that people seemingly devolved to mindsets ruled by fear and intolerance to different opinions and ideas in which they don’t accept such ideas and want to censor them, oblivious to the fact that this can come back to bite them once their opinion is no longer that of the majority and they are willing to trade such freedoms for shallow and ephemeral security that will also be turned against them at some point. For the founding Fathers also enshrined protections in the Constitution against the abuse of power by the Govt in the name of security.

What needs reforms is the Government itself. Not the Constitution.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

In this case you see a military institution with no clearly defined enemy:
“If no single powerful organisation or country is a clear enemy, everyone is a suspect!”
Military organisations live and die by the sword. It needs an enemy to operate. That is why this is not specifically a problem of government being tonedeaf (it is tonedeaf too, but that is more a result of soft corruption linedrawing problems), it is a problem of a very pervasive military presence in a partly civil organisation and how the lack of a clear enemy is turning the organisation into an omnipresent surveillance machine.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

i will take this opportunity to remind kampers of two factoids:

1. we are STILL being (mis)governed under a ‘state of emergency’ that has been continued every since nine one one…

2. for the few pollyannas out there: kongresskritters HAVE PASSED various ‘COG’ (continuation of gummint) bills for quite some time now…
needless to say, kongresskritters are the number one kritters to be served and protected in case this house of cards collapses, or the sheeple bare their fangs…

further, given the VERY EXISTENCE of so-called ‘executive signing statements’ (read: Emperor’s Proclamations), never mind secret executive signing statements, WHO THE FUCK KNOWS what ‘laws’ we are being governed under…

traitors to the constitution, the whole washingtoon swamp of them…

Outraged Citizen says:

Re: Re:

If government officials aren’t supporting and defending the Constitution and Bill of Rights, they no longer belong in any government positions. If they are searching for rhetorical arguments to empty the words in these documents of their meanings, then they are attacking what they swore to defend. They have committed a much more basic type of treason. They should be tried for treason during time of war. They have joined the enemies cause even if their philosophy is different.

Anonymous Coward says:

Ok, we’ll remove the 1st amendment, and the NSA will still be 100% guilty of violating the 4th amendment, and will eventually suffer deep consequences for that law breaking.

Oh, and while we’re at it, if the first amendment should be removed, lets also ban speech that encourages violating the other 9 amendments in the bill of rights, including all the NSA’s defenses of their illegal practices of violating the 4th amendment.

out_of_the_blue says:

Mike utterly DEAF to the globalist source:

“Foreign Policy: A Trusted Advisor for Global Leaders
When the Stakes are Highest”

Anything from that official pro-globalist, pro-corporate source should be taken with LARGE amount of caution. Its only use for the truth is to plant poision pills. — Here, my bet is this Drezner is just helping float a trial balloon.

And if Mike doesn’t suspect this source enough to give them NO credibility, then Mike is a corporatist in cahoots. — As all signs unilaterally point.

The Rich are not ideologues: any “-ism” is fine by entrenched elites (especially American “conservatives” who favor fascism) so long as THEY are entitled to live off laborers in practical feudal-ism.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: NSA worried about job security....

Obviously the NSA is worried about job security, I mean if the media can “intentionally mislead the American people” better than the NSA, they will be out of a job…

I’m not saying misleading the American people is their “only” job, but obviously it’s the one they feel they are doing the best and are willing to defend the strongest when they see any competition.


art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re:

ex-freaking-actly ! ! !

fuckers, THEIR WHOLE AGENDA is to ‘mislead the amerikan people’, and it is ONLY because of the mannings/snowdens/kiriakous/browns/etc that we have the slightest of clues what evil shit they are up to…

dog damn, NOW i know why those spooky pricks NEVER like anyone to know who their work for (’cause it sure AIN’T the american people they work for): ’cause they’d get the shit beat out of them EVERY DAMN DAY someone found out what the scumbags were up to…

(…and that would be the patriotic and RIGHT thing to do!)

maybe that should tell them something, but it won’t…
none so blind…

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

The NSA AND the Government must be ALL TONE DEAF because the United States Supreme Court would never allow any bill, resolution or Amendment to weaken or undermine the First Amendment.

While Democrats and Republicans have continued to try to weaken the First Amendment by discussing it, it would signal the end of that politicians career if he or she EVER decided to introduce such a bill.

I just don’t see anyone’s career surviving the anger of the American People if anyone ever decided to try MUCH less that any such bill, resolution or amendment would EVER survive a constitutional challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court. There isn’t a single justice on the high court that would ever let such a thing stand and the Federal Courts would definitely grant an injunction against any such bill, resolution or amendment, thus preventing it from even being implemented.

The First Amendment is simply untouchable and that there was a reason why our founding fathers made it the First Amendment because they understood that the protections included in the First Amendment were the most important constitutional rights for the entire country, not just a selected few.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The Bill of Rights came later because they needed more time than was available to hash out the details for those items. They did the Constitution in two stages: get the government working first, then add the limitations later. The signers considered the Bill of Rights to be equal to the main body of the Constitution in importance — that’s why they have a special name.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The Bill of Rights came later because?

The Bill of Rights came later because Federalists and Anti-Federalists. Here’s a top Google result. This site appears to be aimed towards students:

Federalists and Anti-Federalists

? Basically, people divided into two groups, the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. Each of their viewpoints is worth examining, as they both have sound reasoning.

The Anti-Federalists did not want to ratify the Constitution. Basically, they argue that:

? ?
? There was no bill of rights.
? ?

Of these complaints, the lack of a bill of rights was the most effective. The American people had just fought a war to defend their rights, and they did not want a intimidating national government taking those rights away again. The lack of a bill of rights was the focus of the Anti-Federalist campaign against ratification.

The Federalists, on the other hand, had answers to all of the Anti-Federalist complaints. Among them:

? The separation of powers into three independent branches protected the rights of the people. Each branch represents a different aspect of the people, and because all three branches are equal, no one group can assume control over another.

? A listing of rights can be a dangerous thing. If the national government were to protect specific listed rights, what would stop it from violating rights other than the listed ones? Since we can’t list all the rights, the Federalists argued that it’s better to list none at all.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Federalists/anti-federalists

The trouble is, many of the antis (who now call themselves libertarian/minarchist) have gone the other way and want to revert to the Articles of Confederation. That’s why they want to kill all funding to the government. They’re aiming for that.

But the Articles of Confederation were only meant for the 13 original states and didn’t meet its intended purpose, which is why we now have a Constitution. And a Bill of Rights. And if we wanted to go back to the bare-bones state we were in prior to the Constitution, both that and the Bill of Rights would have to go. That means no rights and no governance.

But they don’t care about that, they just want to not have to pay taxes any more.

I’d rather have what we have, faulty as it is, than get rid of the Republic altogether and hope our society doesn’t devolve into a state reminiscent of Mad Max while an assortment of armed groups vie for control of the mess left behind.

While I’m not keen on being micro-managed by the government, I recognize the need to have public services in place, paid for by our taxes, with officials kept accountable to the people they serve.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“the United States Supreme Court would never allow any bill, resolution or Amendment to weaken or undermine the First Amendment”

Patriot Act is a good first step – limiting the 4th.

“A gun in the first act, always goes off in the third.” Or in this case “An Act on the 4th amendment also goes off on the 1st.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Two can play that game....

” “I have some reforms for the First Amendment.”

Ooooh, ooooh, ooooh! Me too!

No longer does the First Amendment only talk about an American citizens right to say what they want, but it also talks about the governments requirement to tell the American people what it’s doing. (No more closed doors back room deals, secret interpretations, or “least untruthful answers” to Congress/public)

Anonymous Coward says:

This makes plenty of sense. First, all people holding security clearance are forbidden from viewing classified information they have no “need to know”. The Snowden docs are still classified (even though they’re public), so they’re forbidden from viewing them … they’ve been reminded of this numerous times after the Snowden disclosures started. Most people with clearance I know are afraid they’ll lose their job if they even read news about those docs.

Second, working for the government requires a strong trust the government does the right thing. If they were to admit the NSA was wrong, they’d be undermining the whole reason they choose that career, so there’s a very personal stake in believing the government at all costs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If they were to admit the NSA was wrong, they’d be undermining the whole reason they choose that career, so there’s a very personal stake in believing the government at all costs.


This perfectly illustrates why the NSA needs independent and COMPETENT oversight. Let them police themselves, and this mentality will permeate every single “audit” (using that term both loosely as well as sarcastically).

Anonymous Coward says:

We see here in this tone death part the same thing that was mentioned over lip syncing at concerts. It had been done so long that it was pretty much and unspoken industry standard. When caught and exposed to the public, the sound engineers couldn’t understand what the problem was. They had made sure not to tell the public that the concert they paid good money for had canned sound they could have heard with the same notes from the recording rather than paying for a ticket. It had become so institutionalized that it was the way things were done and no other method should be considered.

Here we have the NSA, having isolated itself from courts, politicians, and oversight, can not now comprehend that its industry practices are not approved automatically by the public at large nor by the global population as being acceptable. There is never any dawning that they have exceeded their mandate and broken the intents and purposes of the Constitution. Instead it is the way things are done and everyone and every law needs be changed so they can continue what they are doing. There is not the slightest recognition that possibility what they are doing is illegal when dealing with the public.

But notice the mixed message. We’re legal but need the laws changed. They know but won’t acknowledge their fault. The administration knows, the DOJ knows, and this is why it has been fought so hard to prevent any of this from being in court where the challenge could change it. What has happened is the dirty little secrets are out and there is no where to run and no where to hide. Playing ostrich is not effective.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I think that elements in the government has believed that for a very long time. I also think that they’re wrong. However, history shows us that things have to get very, very bad before outright revolution becomes possible. How bad? Worse than living in a place that is going through a revolution.

We have a ways to go, probably. Hopefully. Any revolution is not likely to end up with something better than we have right now.

On the other hand, revolts are funny things. They can go from “unimaginable” to “blood running in the streets” in literally a matter of days.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Re:

Voted insightful. I’m sick and tired of people running around like mad dogs declaring that bullets are better than the ballot box. No, they are not. See the French Revolution for details.

Read all about the Reign of Terror.

Now read up on every violent revolution ever. They all end up in pretty much the same way; almighty bloodbath to oust old rulers followed by a reign of terror to keep the revolution on track and get rid of dissenters and anyone who might threaten the new status quo. During these times, neighbors turn on each other and rat each other out. People disappear and heads roll. The new state becomes paranoid and very aggressive, requiring shows of strength and acts of violence to keep itself together. It can take decades to restore those freedoms we take for granted.

What makes you think that wouldn’t happen in a nation already divided on partisan lines, AC? Because we’d all be under the thumb of the party that wins, which would be constantly fighting off terrorist/freedom fighter (take your pick) attacks from bitter splinter groups from the losing side. Is that really what you want for our country?

Wouldn’t it be better to take more of an interest in how this country is governed and work for reform via the political process instead?

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Wouldn’t it be better to take more of an interest in how this country is governed and work for reform via the political process instead?

Sure would.

But how do you propose we get the political process back from the corporations/organized criminals that now own it and run it like a business to insure the profits of its membership at the expense of the genral public??

Or did you not notice that the “authorities” no longer pay attention to the public’s outcries, complaints and concerns.

The only way you’re going to get “reform via the political process” is if you create that political process from scratch and manage to install it while being fired upon by federaly trained corporate paramilitary forces, the federaly owned military and any ex-military mercenaries that happen to be in the neighborhood and short of income.

Your government is long gone, bought out and replaced by criminals and their wealthy corporate masters. What you see as the political process, is merely the shadow play they present, that keeps folks like you trying to do the “right thing” via that very same now disfunctional “political process”.

You can get just as much accomplished by throwing balled up socks off a bridge while whistling old Beatles’ tunes.

Anonymous Coward says:

What fucking balls on these assholes!

One official accused some media outlets of “intentionally misleading the American people,” which is a pretty serious accusation. This official also hoped that the Obama administration would crack down on these reporters, saying, “I have some reforms for the First Amendment.”

SHOULD have read:

One official accused some high ranking NSA members of “intentionally misleading the American people, as well as lying to Congress while under oath” which are pretty serious accusations. This official also hoped that the Obama administration would crack down on these criminals, saying, “I have some reforms for those who feel that lying to Congress and the American people is a “standard operating procedure.””

FTFY, you lying fucks!

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

Anonymous Coward posts: “Patriot Act is a good first step – limiting the 4th”

Uh, AC, if you would have actually read my post, I was posting in regards to the First Amendment, NOT the Fourth Amendment. Perhaps you should concentrate on actually reading what people post instead of making dumb comments.

Oh, and by the way, the idiots you voted for passed The Patriot Act. Just because YOU don’t think it’s constitutional doesn’t mean it isn’t. Until the Federal Courts rule that The Patriot Act and all related legislation is unconstitutional, these are our laws and there they will stand until either our government repeals them, or the American People rise up and overthrow the petty dictators that we elected to run our country persuant to our interests.

How many times when people realize that politicians ignore the people 99% of the time. The only time they listen to the people is during that 1% of the time when they are up for re-election. This republic exists for one reason and one reason only, to TAX everyone unequally, to ignore the people equally, protect the wealthy industries that each party receives campaign donations from and to order us to do what they tell us to do.

Whoever said that this is the land of the free, that America is a free country, obviously has been brainwashed by the very politicians who continue to live under the false belief that they know better than we do on how we should be living our lives.

Anonymous Coward says:

United Soviet Socialist States Of America

America resembles the former USSR. The CIA, NSA, FBI, BATF, DOD, DEA and the DHS are the embodiment of communism and it’s totalitarian enforcement stratgey very similiar to KGB.

America was never invaded by soviet spies during the cold war. Instead America founded it’s own brand of communism after world war two as did other western nations. To compete with the Soviet Union and later on with Cuba, China, Bolivia, Chile & North Korea.

It’s geopolitical game

anon says:

Just remember, Scalia doesn’t believe the constitution has privacy protections for regular people in it, and has said if we want any privacy protect, we have to legislate it.
Didn’t you read his interview?

NSA is sworn to uphold the constitution. That is why the only things they have released is legal opinions showing that what they have done is lawful. Otherwise they HAVE been treasonous acts. That is part of the reason they have routed much of the info highway thru Canada, so they can “lawfully” intercept it.
Oh yeah, the contractors and law enforcement doesn’t have to swear to uphold the constitution.

The chilling effect is already in effect.
Many who are dismayed by the extension of the police state, are afraid to speak out about it.
For a lot of them, it is because one of their kids has a security clearance, and they don’t want to endanger their employment.

Anonymous Coward says:

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