Former NSA and later CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden is one of the people in the best position to discuss the NSA programs that aggregate vast amounts of "meta-data" on phone calls in, to and from the U.S. Here he is on the Fox News Sunday show, speaking of their use, value, and alluding to safeguards:
In the WSJ,former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey wrote today in full throated defense both of the NSA program and to assure that it is not being misused, drawing contrasts to the IRS. He also takes pains to point out that the type of meta-data being gathered by the NSA does not violate Article 4 of the Constitution.
I am inclined to agree that the NSA program is probably valid and legal. It is unfortunate for the nation that the exposure of this program comes on the heels of real scandals of government abuse of power. It is more unfortunate that this reveals yet more of our intelligence methods to those who would do us harm.
The leak of this information came from Edward Snowden, a 29 year old described in the WSJ:
Mr. Snowden told the Guardian he grew up in Elizabeth City, N.C., though his family later moved to Maryland. He described himself as having been a poor high school student who eventually obtained a GED. He enlisted in the Army in 2003, but left the military after a training accident. He started working as a security guard at an NSA site, went on to work for the CIA, and left that job in 2009, he told the Guardian.
I have real questions about how this joker got a top secret clearance. That aside, Snowden claims that he leaked the information on the NSA program because he was concerned with privacy and government overreach. But then he seeks asylum with . . . China? Well, Hong Kong, which is today a province of Communist China. Given Snowden's avowed motives, his choice of places to defect ought to be raising, well, red flags. This from former CIA agent Bob Baer on CNN today.
Update: The Daily Beast has a primer on how to keep "NSA at bay. Do government surveillance disclosures have you fearing Uncle Sam’s reach? Winston Ross looks at PGPs, secret phone apps, and burners like The Wire to cloak your digital trail."
Update 2: Dafyyd at Big Lizards agrees that the NSA program was probably Constitutional and non-intrusive to ordinary Americans. Says he, "Nevertheless, I have a very strong feeling (I'll make it a prediction) that, strangely enough, this non-scandal will turn out to be the most devastating scandal of the Obama administration." I concur in the reasoning he lays out in his post.
Law prof. William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection expresses the disquiet I and probably most feel about this massive gathering of data:
But I’m also concerned with what could be done with the information gathered about American citizens not suspected of a crime if put into the hands of politicians and political groups, and bureaucrats who work for or are sympathetic to such politicians and political groups.
That really is the crux of the issue as exists now. From Benghazi to Fast and Furious and, most importantly, to the IRS's multiple scandals, I have no trust that this information will not be misused by the left to punish political "enemies," as Obama has previously classed us on the right.
Also at Legal Insurrection, Mandy Nagy points out that the Snowden leak was largely already made public by NSA cryptologist Bill Binney in 2011 and even earlier than that by NSA employee Thomas Drake. The only thing that is new, really, is that the MSM and the left (to the extent there is a distinction) have taken note and are up in arms about all of this.