NSA defense of French, Spanish spying irrelevant


The National Security Agency (NSA) has been contorting itself willy-nilly to defend its non-spying practices on France, Italy and Spain.

But the organization does not seem to get the bigger picture.

While the agency seems to think its own actions become justifiable if allied nations are also invading the privacy rights of its citizens, it either does not comprehend or is choosing to ignore the diplomatic jeopardy the actions it has already taken have put the country in.

The NSA needs to acknowledge the fact it has already screwed up.

The agency has already done itself enough international damage through its domestic program of intrusive monitoring of its own citizens’ records, its spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone records since 2002 (Did it really never get over the days before the fall of the Berlin wall?) and its overall lack of transparency with the public.

The intense paranoia demonstrated by these actions, which President Barack Obama claimed to be unaware of until recently — perhaps, an even scarier thought — is one that is unhealthy for the U.S. as it looks to heal its international reputation in the post-Iraq and Afghanistan war eras.

While indeed, metadata may provide much valuable information to thwart acts of terrorism through network analyses, it is unlikely that the value the intelligence provides, in comparison to information that other far less intrusive methods of intelligence can reveal, is worth the estimated $10 billion, according to an article on CNN Money, in government funding and international distrust that the agency will bring.

The indignation with which the NSA director has condemned reporters and leaker Edward Snowden for misinterpretation of the classified documents is unwarranted in light of the damnation the agency has already brought upon itself. It does, however, bring up an interesting question as to the role of news outlets in reporting and promulgating information obtained through independent sources without proper verification.

But the organization’s reaction in emphasizing the lack of involvement it had in these particular countries as an effort to detract from its more nefarious activities should not be tolerated, and perhaps it’s time for public dialogue on what role big data already plays in the lives of citizens and what role U.S. citizens would like it to have in their lives.