Truman National Security Project

NSA: Let’s calm down and have a real conversation

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Went on MSNBC’s Jansing & Co. this morning to debate an aide to Speaker John  Boehner about the NSA leak and ended up only mildly disagreeing about whether congress was providing effective oversight. It’s not, but the Speaker’s mouthpiece disagreed. Mildly.

What we now know about the NSA’s surveillance programs is that it operates much like the police’s power to tap phones. They need a court order to track which phones are calling which, and another court order to listen to the contents of your call or to read your email. Congress has been briefed on this. No one lied. No one broke the law. And if you don’t think this is an important tool in tracking terrorist networks, or if you think FISA courts should not operate in secret, then you probably don’t think our government should be spying on our enemies at all. Spies do their work in secret.

Much of what caused the hysteria among my liberal brethren has already been corrected by the Washington Post and debunked here and here. The government is not tracking your movements. It has no direct access to your email, and your email host does not and never has knowingly participated in ongoing and unfettered spying on you.

What was revealed was not new, illegal, or an abuse of power. What leaker Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old intelligence contractor, revealed was merely his callowness. In a fit of pique every bit as immature as his wispy beard, Snowden substituted his judgment for the national security interests of this country. I don’t think that makes him a traitor or a hero. I think that makes him a criminal, albeit an uncommon one. 

In case you want to see who voted to expand Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 2008, here’s a link to the roll call vote.

Jason Stanford is a Truman Political Partner. This post originally appeared on Behind Frenemy Lines.