One of the key talking points from defenders of the NSA surveillance program is that they had to implement it after the 9/11 Commission revealed "holes" in information gathering that resulted in 9/11. This is a misstatement of what that report actually indicated -- in that it showed that more than enough data had actually been collected, it's just that the intelligence community didn't do anything with it. Either way, it seems that the leadership of the 9/11 Commission -- Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, who were the chair and vice chair of the committee respectively -- have now spoken out against the NSA surveillance efforts
. And they don't hold back:
The NSA's metadata program was put into place with virtually no public debate, a worrisome precedent made worse by erecting unnecessary barriers to public understanding via denials and misleading statements from senior administration officials.
When the Congress and the courts work in secret; when massive amounts of data are collected from Americans and enterprises; when government's power of intrusion into the lives of ordinary citizens, augmented by the awesome power of advanced technologies, is hugely expanded without public debate or discussion over seven years, then our sense of constitutional process and accountability is deeply offended.
Officials insist that the right balance has been struck between security and privacy. But how would we know, when all the decisions have been made in secret, with almost no oversight?
The article goes on in great detail about the problems and calls for a truly public debate. As they note:
We are stronger as a nation when we understand what the government is doing. This does not mean sharing sensitive intelligence with the public. A public debate poses challenges when it involves classified information that dribbles out, obfuscated by misinformation. But there is certainly far more we can discuss openly.