Tin foil hatters are a favorite punching bag for people who have a hard time believing government will overstep its bounds. Those hatters are probably dancing right now as the latest news breaks about the National Security Agency’s ability to spy on 75 percent of Internet traffic in the U.S.
Fox News pointed to disclosures in an article in The Wall Street Journal:
The NSA's system of programs that filter communications, achieved with the help of telecommunications companies, is designed to look for communications that either start or end abroad, or happen to pass through the U.S. between foreign countries. However, the officials told the Journal that the system's reach is so broad, that it is more likely that purely domestic communications will be intercepted as a byproduct of the hunt for foreign ones.
For many, even those of us who advocate a strong national defense, the underlying issue is oversight. As the saga of Edward Snowden continues to unfold, one matter should concern us all. Who makes sure the NSA isn’t used as a political weapon in the manner the Internal Revenue Service has been used?
Who vets the Edward Snowdens in the government? Who vets the agency head whose wife worked with the Obama camp’s political arm? Beyond that, who vets the vetters?
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has been outspoken about the surveillance programs and that has drawn criticism from some who self-describe as conservatives. One individual on Twitter said Paul is an opportunist who could “grossly over exaggerate the NSA programs for personal gain.”
I tweeted back:
Pretty sure Snowden's gonna prove you wrong on that. And maybe Wikileaks too. Much data yet to be released.
Then came the response:
“[M]ake sure you put your tinfoil hat on!”
Maybe that fellow Twitterer could pop that hat on his head for a bit.
In my opinion, we’ve only seen the tip of this iceberg. For the record, I don’t have a tinfoil hat, but I am keenly aware of what technology enables. And I’m keenly aware of the shortcomings of the human condition. That is the reason we must have responsible, reliable oversight of surveillance programs, and it looks like that’s coming up short at present.
There’s another dimension to concerns about the spying, one no media like to talk about.
President Barack Obama campaigned on a theme of change, specifically, even obsessively, targeting the national security protocol of President George W. Bush. Obama promised a different policy.
How did it all begin?
Thank President Bill Clinton for laying the groundwork.
Tin foil hatters actually have a high profile champion—Vice President Joe Biden. In 2006, here’s what the gaffe-master said on a talk show:
"[T]his idea that no court will review, no Congress will know and we’re going to trust the president and the vice president of the United States, that they’re doing the right thing, don’t count me in on that.”
The Wall Street Journal article cited by Fox also noted the Internet spy program is different than “the programs described by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in a series of leaks earlier this summer.”
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/Aug. 21, 2013)
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