Article submitted by guest contributor Ezra Van Auken.
In the wake of Edward Snowden’s National Security Agency (NSA) information dump, the only possible result coming from his leak, for civil libertarians, is NSA reform – but looking to rain down on the parade is former CIA acting director Michael Morell. The NSA review board member opposed any dream of NSA reform but went on to advocate for more domestic surveillance while he claimed current spying works.
Morell explained that e-mail data absorbed by the NSA is most likely more valuable than telephony data. And, the former Obama administration official made sure to add that practices by the NSA are only saving American interests from another 9/11-styled attack. Openly admitting that the effectiveness of NSA spying isn’t relevant to what the future brings, Morell then said that the 2001 attacks could’ve been stopped, with the help of NSA spying.
Trying to move around the influence of civil libertarian advocates, Morell also told press simply that NSA officials were not spying on Americans. He said, “[the agency] is not reading the content of your phone calls or [his] phone calls or anybody else’s phone calls. It is focused on this metadata for one purpose only, and that is to make sure that foreign terrorists aren’t in contact with anybody in the United States.”
Confidently, Morell noted that since the NSA’s spying overhaul, not one terrorist plot has been executed in the US. However, the media constantly pushed the Boston bombing, which occurred in April of this year and led to the injury of over 200 people, as being a terrorist attack. Not only did an attack occur in the US, but also many NSA analysts said that the acclaimed number of attacks that the NSA thwarted is a farce.
Overall, the five-member panel weighed to reform provisional spying, but it was Morell who wouldn’t accept the idea. Morell argued that reformation would only slow down the data collection and sifting process, and got the review board to at least agree that an emergency situation scenario needed to be added in order for NSA officials to collect and sift without waiting for third party companies and providers to adhere to court orders.
Of course, the other problematic area for change and openness is the court, which has been neither; hence, why pundits and policymakers have stuck to calling the FISA courts “secret courtrooms”. In the end though, the five-member review board offered little clean-ups here and there, while continued to praise the very programs over which whistleblower Snowden got so many people upset.
Also, last week around the time of the review board’s diagnosis and cure was President Obama’s NSA fumble. Reuters’s Mark Felsenthal asked Obama if “[he was] able to identify any specific examples when it did so? [If he was] convinced that the collection of that data is useful to national security to continue as it is?” Completely throwing away any attempt to answer, Obama resorted to emotional appeal by bringing up the 9/11 attacks.
In the mix of back and forth debate over NSA spying lies the mastermind behind it all, the one who even fueled the debate: Edward Snowden. Epically, Snowden declared a victory last week. He said, “[He] already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that [he] had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, [he] didn’t want to change society. [He] wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.” Indeed, Snowden has changed the outlook on governments in everyday society, enrolling the common individual in the idea of questioning the unquestioned, through the thick and thin.