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Defending US stand against Snowden

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 June, 2013, 4:18am

Much of what has been said by commentators in these columns about the Edward Snowden affair seems to have been driven by the kind of knee-jerk anti-US sentiment that has become bon ton in certain circles (and which the US has done much to deserve), bandying about buzzwords like "hacking", "snooping", "freedom", "hypocrisy", "transparency" and "human rights" in support of foregone conclusions.

One hopes that with the departure of the self-styled whistle-blower from Hong Kong, a more calm and reasoned discussion can take place.

Critics of the National Security Agency programmes should first take the time to understand them better. What the NSA and other similar agencies do is the electronic equivalent of looking for a needle in a haystack. Inevitably, you must sift through the haystack to find the needle, and with global terrorism networks using a variety of communication channels, the haystack is scattered all over. Looking at the largest possible pool of metadata is therefore the essence of such programmes; calling it "overreach" misses the point.

Some don't believe that the NSA only looks at metadata, expressing concerns about "abuses", such as targeting domestic political enemies (as China does). Without a single known case of such abuse, they resort to the history of police states and warn that "it could happen here too". Well, yes, it could. The US army could also send tanks through Houston tomorrow; hasn't Bashar al-Assad just done that in Qusair? While technically possible, it is beyond anything anyone but the most paranoid US right-wingers (and apparently left-wingers too) finds plausible.

Snowden supporters have to be intellectually honest and tell us what their alternative is.

Do they think they have a better system for collecting effective intelligence which will zero in on the bad guys without looking at anyone else? Do they expect the NSA to have a Facebook page and tweet its activities? Or do they think we should dismantle the NSA and just accept terrorism as collateral damage to absolute "freedom"?

It is telling that even committed liberals like Barack Obama and Senator Dianne Feinstein, when sitting in a position of knowledge and responsibility, accepted the imperfect current situation as the best option.

Let's hope intelligence agencies continue collecting and sharing vital information to keep the world a safer place.

This should be done within the bounds of local laws, and under the discreet judicial and parliamentary oversight of well-informed and responsible officials.

Oren Tatcher, Sheung Wan

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reubenm
"Critics of the National Security Agency programmes should first take the time to understand them better"? How about the USA quits hacking Chinese targets, denying it, and squealing for China to stop?
bolshoi
"It is telling that even committed liberals like Barack Obama and Senator Dianne Feinstein, when sitting in a position of knowledge and responsibility, accepted the imperfect current situation as the best option."
I'm not least surprised - in terms of US foreign policy liberals and conservatives have very little difference if any at all... As a Chinese citizen, I can't care less about their political spectrum because it's meaningless to us.
captam
@"The US army could also send tanks through Houston tomorrow; hasn't Bashar al-Assad just done that in Qusair?"
The Yanks would do precisely that if they faced an armed insurrection against the state. So what's your real point?
And @ "Let's hope intelligence agencies continue collecting and sharing vital information to keep the world a safer place."
Safer place? In the Middle East?
How incredibly naive you are!
blue
"Or do they think we should dismantle the NSA and just accept terrorism as collateral damage to absolute "freedom"?"

Of course the NSA should be dismantled. More people die from traffic accidents each year than terrorist attacks. Stop using terrorism to justify broad and overreaching violation of the law! The only person who's not intellectually honest is you.

Furthermore, as it has been said many times now: The Boston bombings weren't stopped with the NSA's surveillance program. This is an overpriced white elephant that violates the right to privacy of Americans and foreign nationals while providing zero tangible benefit. What a burden it is to the US tax payers!

Also I wouldn't be surprised if the NSA's surveillance program is a convenient way to snoop on a federal FISA court judge, catch him doing something he shouldn't be doing, and then extorting him to ensure a favorable ruling by the secret FISA court he sits in.

After all, the CIA extorts people regularly as part of its foreign intelligence gathering work. They have all the hardware in place to do the same in the USA and successfully affect the independence of the US judiciary!
 
 
 
 
 

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