June 23, 2013

(h/t Heather at VideoCafe)

There's a famous saying that the biggest oxymoron out there is "Military Intelligence". I think there's a very strong argument from Face the Nation that 'National Security' is quickly becoming an even bigger one.

Senate Intelligence (yet another oxymoron!) chairman Dianne Feinstein appeared on Face the Nation to continue the defense of the NSA program and denigrate whistleblower Edward Snowden, saying that the "chase is on" to extradite Snowden to face charges.

But Feinstein also mentioned something in passing that I think gets to the real heart of the issue that isn't getting discussed at all:

Snowden, who Feinstein argued is no "whistleblower," as some libertarian supporters have termed him, coule (sic) be in possession of more than 200 additional pieces of classified information that she said could "really put people in jeopardy." "Whatever his motives are - and I take him at face value," Feinstein said, "he could have stayed and faced the music. I don't think running is a noble thought."...He has taken an oath, and these oaths mean something," she continued. "If you can't keep the oath, get out. And then do something about it in a legal way."

On July 10, Feinstein said the committee will meet with Army Gen. Keith Alexander, National Security Agency director, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to discuss possible adjustments. "From the point of view of our committee, something that concerns me more is that we get an understanding in this nation that what this is all about is the nation's security," she said.

Did you catch it? Feinstein admits that she has absolutely no idea what information Snowden has in his possession. National security, indeed.

And herein lies my problem with the Snowden story. Whether or not you think Snowden is a hero whistleblower, how Snowden got access to the information in the first place is worrying. He worked for a private contractor (and no one has ever been able to assure me that Booz Allen's hiring and work practices didn't compromise Americans' right to privacy). Why are we giving for-profit corporations so much access to compromising data? Do we really want someone with Top Secret clearance to be able to access the private email of every single American, including the president, as Snowden claimed he had? Do we know that access won't be misused? Isn't it inherently insecure in the hands of a private contractor? And why are there no redundancies or cross-checks to know what information Snowden might have?

I find all this discussion of whether Snowden is a criminal or a hero a distraction from the real issues of national security that we should be having. And the calls of "ZOMG! Obama is worse than Bush!" misses the point as well. The department of NSA is self-perpetuating and larger than an individual executive. These issues will not stop when Obama leaves office and therefore, it's disingenous to focus so much energy on him and not the congressional oversight and laws that curtail executive power beyond this administration. It's easy to claim that the NSA surveillance has protected us from potential terrorist attacks (because it's impossible to prove with the absence of an actual act and we've documented before how terror threats have been 'created'), but can we actually say that this MIC-confirming conflation of national security and corporate profit is actually making Americans safe?

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