For more than a week the lead story on every newscast is the leaked information about the government’s spying on phone records and the Internet. This story also consumes most of the attention of political commentators on both Fox News and MSNBC.
Is this harming our national security? Yes!
Listening to the media, we get the impression that President Obama is listening to everyone’s phone calls, reading their e-mail, and making a list of which Internet sites they visit. That makes good headlines but it is not accurate
It is the media’s right to inform, but it is their responsibility to be factual, accurate, and truthful as they inform. There are many blatant misrepresentations about these programs being spread by some of the press and many commentators.
First the telephone record program and the Internet spying dubbed “Prism” were not initiated by the Obama administration but rather the Bush administration after 9/11. Under Bush, there were warrantless wire taps and widespread reading of e-mails. In 2008, Congress passed a law making some of that legal, but only if the FISA Court authorized it in advance. It prohibited eves dropping on Americans without probable cause and a warrant.
The Obama Administration determined the program was essential for national security. According to the president, they have complied with the law by obtaining warrants from the FISA Court, and briefing the Intelligence Committee of Congress, but not the entire Congress because the information is classified.
Secondly, the government only gets phone numbers, but it does not get names; it does not listen to the calls or get copies of texts. The only calls listened to are done in criminal investigations with a separate specific warrant.
Thirdly the Internet “spying” is on people outside the U.S. and without names.
Republican and Democratic members of the Intelligence Committees of both Houses have come out saying they were briefed and in agreement with these programs, and they confirmed that based on the classified information they are privy to, these programs have prevented at least 100 specific terrorist attacks in the United States.
It is so rare for Republicans to defend Obama rather than attack everything he does, so we need to stand up and take note about this.
Friday President Obama defended the program as absolutely necessary for out security. “You can’t have 100 percent security and also have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. We’re going to have to make some choices as a government,” he said.
After the 9/11 terrorist attack, most Americans and all of the media rightfully asked repeatedly why we didn’t see this coming. Once burned twice prepared. The government put many programs in place to prevent future attacks which were made legal by the Patriot Act. Whether they are appropriate is up for discussion, but the media are sensationalizing it as though it is new.
Here is where the hypocrisy comes in. After the Boston marathon bombing there was not a single news cast, or monologue by political commentators on the right and the left that did not obsess with the question were there clues we should have seen to prevent this. Now they obsess with the NSA’s efforts to look for those clues. They have the right to want it both ways, but it is hypocritical.
Freedom of the press is one of our most cherished rights. With freedom, however comes responsibility. The press has the responsibility to be accurate, to be consistent, and not sensationalize. The media under-reports how vital these programs are for our security.
If this is intrusive, the solution is not to disclose classified information and put Americans at risk. Congress can change the law. of the Internet information the government collects is collected by businesses every day and used commercially. Did you even notice the target ads when you go online?
The only crime committed here was by the leaker.
The media has the right and obligation to report information the public needs to know. It should use discretion on whether that reporting will damage our national security. But they should advise the public the information they are disclosing is classified, and in some cases, top secret. They should point out, in fairness, that they obtained it from sources that at the minimum broke the law, and potentially committed an act of treason.
There is a balance between privacy and security, and a free press and security. We need to strike that balance or prepare ourselves to be victimized by acts of terror like 9/11. Our national security has been irreparably damaged. Was it worth it? Other than terrorists, has anyone really suffered from this?
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