There is still much we don’t know about the just how far the tangling tentacles of the post-9/11 national security spying apparatus reach. But there’s no longer any doubt: Big Brother is watching you.
In the wake of these revelations, the debate of how to reconcile security with civil liberties is exploding. Here’s what the pundits and editorial boards are saying.
The New York Times
The New York Times‘s ran a scathing editorial saying the Obama administration has far overstepped in its spying on Americans, saying doing so “repudiates constitutional principles governing search, seizure and privacy.”
The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive branch will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it.
The Wall Street Journal
On the other end of the spectrum, the Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board has praised the surveillance programs in as piece they titled, “Thank You for Data-Mining”, calling such programs legal and necessary.
We bow to no one in our desire to limit government power, but data-mining is less intrusive on individuals than routine airport security. The data sweep is worth it if it prevents terror attacks that would lead politicians to endorse far greater harm to civil liberties.
The Washington Post
The Washington Post ran an editorial wondering why Americans are just finding out about such programs and suggests that we need to know much more about the extent of such programs.
The legitimate values of liberty and safety often compete. But for the public to be able to make a reasonable assessment of whether these programs are worth the security benefits, it needs more explanation.
The Atlantic’s Bruce Schneier
Bruce Schneier at the Atlantic strikes a similar tone, writing that the scariest part of this story is what we don’t know.
Knowing how the government spies on us is important. Not only because so much of it is illegal — or, to be as charitable as possible, based on novel interpretations of the law — but because we have a right to know.
The National Memo’s Joshua Frost
Joshua Frost at the National Memo says that the real scandal is not just what the NSA is doing, but the fact that Congress ultimately let it happen.
The NSA spied on Americans without even seeking a warrant, but instead of punishing them or the companies who assisted them, Congress instead gave them the go-ahead. In other words, they set a new norm that made it okay for an intelligence agency to seek data about Americans.
The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald
Glenn Greenwald, who broke this the story about the NSA collecting Verizon records, writes in the Guardian, that the disclosure of these stories is necessary to democracy:
No democracy can be healthy and functional if the most consequential acts of those who wield political power are completely unknown to those to whom they are supposed to be accountable.
Foreign Policy’s Stewart Baker
It’s difficult to find many people on either side of the political spectrum offering full-throated defenses of these programs, but Stewart Baker at Foreign Policy says people need not be too worried and that the government needs new tools for protecting Americans:
Those who want to push the government back into the standard law enforcement approach of identifying terrorists only by name and not by conduct will have to explain how it will allow us to catch terrorists who use halfway decent tradecraft — or why sticking with that model is so fundamentally important that we should do so even if it means more acts of terrorism at home.
Slate’s William Saletan
William Saletan over at Slate tends to agree, saying that government surveillance is necessary process that is limited and supervised.
Is government surveillance worth worrying about? Sure. But even broad surveillance, per se, isn’t outrageous. What’s important is that the surveillance be warranted by real threats, appropriately limited, and supervised by competing branches of government. In this case, those standards have been met.