“Do I, as an American, have any concerns about whether the NSA is illegally or surreptitiously targeting or tracking the communications of other Americans?”
So begins the open letter NSA Mathematician Roger Barkan published in ZDNet today.
“The answer is emphatically, ‘No.'”
Barkan contends that “Big Data” is just a way of the world, an inescapable truth. He asserts that the NSA — Congressionally mandated to spy on foreign targets — would be foolish not to use it to gain advantage over those who intend to harm Americans.
“We have more than enough to keep track of,” continues Barkan, “people who are actively planning to do harm to American citizens and interests — than to even consider spending time reading recipes that your mother emails you.”
Then in terms of NSA internal monitoring of workers’ activities, Barkan drops this line: “We’re not watching you. We’re the ones being watched.”
Of course it’ll be easy for NSA-critics to dismiss this letter as shilling for the government.
Freelance reporter and former intelligence analyst Joshua Foust, however, says that line of logic enforces a deeply hypocritical double standard on the NSA debate.
In terms of the relationship between NSA fugitive Edward Snowden and reporter and advocate Glenn Greenwald, Foust told Business Insider, “When someone tells [Greenwald] something he disagrees with, he assumes that person is lying, looks for evidence that he is, or just attacks their character,” says Foust, “But when Snowden tells him something, he doesn’t assume he’s lying and look for evidence to the contrary.”
Foust says the same reason someone has credibility — their experience working in government — is often used as an excuse to dismiss what they say as ‘speaking for the government.’ Especially when the particular statement may come off as a sober assessment of current situations.
“If it is determined that the rules should be changed or updated, we at NSA would faithfully and effectively adapt,” Barkan writes. “My NSA colleagues and I stand ready to continue to defend this nation using only the tools that we are authorised to use and in the specific ways that we are authorised to use them.”
“We wouldn’t want it any other way.”
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