What if I told you that the most pertinent social science subject -- one that affects every single one of us every single day -- is taught to only a select few? That would be absurd, right? Well, unfortunately this is no fiction. It is the state of legal knowledge in America, and it is profoundly troubling.
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U.S. Relaxes Gag Order, Permitting Google, Facebook et al to Disclose Scope of NSA Access -- But What if the Firms Don't Know?
US Relaxes Gag on Google, Facebook et al, Allowing Firms to Discuss NSA Access. But Disclosures Not Likely to Reassure Customers
The debate over the NSA's data collection should lead to a better balance between rights of privacy and requirements of foreign intelligence. But whatever the outcome of that debate, it has failed to acknowledge inherent deficiencies and risks in "foreign intelligence" and the transcendent role of foreign policy in the defense of our national interests. Our foreign policy failures and dilemmas reflect failures of a cerebral sort of intelligence, including a lack of experience in the real world away from Washington, its arm chair polemicists, its ideological think thanks, and too little experience in military ground forces where you learn to expect the unexpected. Policy has been driven by ideologues, militarists, and amateurs, including Members of Congress who are little noted nowadays for real world experience.
The President showed an understanding of the problems created by surveillance, but bolder leadership and strong action are required. We have no doubt those assigned to protect U.S. security want more information to do their job better, but that insatiable zeal for more information is where we get into trouble.
President Obama's proposal that Congress authorize "outside government" public advocates is doubly useless: (1) Congress legislates almost nothing; and (2) such advocates would be too slow and limited to provide balance between intelligence needs and constitutional protections. The FISA Court can provide the rules.
President Obama should not allow the NSA to convince him that its comprehensive program is merely an idealistic wishlist that ignores the endless threats of the 21st century. He should treat the reform initiative as the constitutional minimum required to keep the high-tech dynamo from spinning entirely out of control.