Alan M. Dershowitz continues his five-part series with a discussion on surveillance, privacy, and the case of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
The recent disclosure by Edward Snowden of the US government’s wide net of surveillance has stimulated an emotional debate about security, privacy, and secrecy. We have learned from Snowden that the National Security Agency engages in virtually unchecked monitoring of all sorts of communications that were thought to be private but that we now know are maintained in secret government databases.
Three fundamental issues are raised by these disclosures: Was it proper for the government to conduct such massive surveillance and to maintain such extensive files? Was it proper for the government to keep its surveillance program secret from the public? If not, did this governmental impropriety justify the unlawful disclosure of so much classified information by Snowden?
There are no simple or perfect answers to these questions. All governments, even those that respect the right to privacy, must engage in some surveillance. The nature and extent of permissible intrusion on privacy will always depend on the nature and extent of the threats posed and the value of the information sought in preventing these threats from materializing. A delicate balance must be always struck between security and privacy.
We don’t know precisely what sorts of information the NSA has gathered and from whom. (This lack of knowledge in itself is part of the problem.) But we know enough to be concerned that our phone calls, e-mails, and even oral conversations may be subject to governmental monitoring and collecting. The government denies that it is listening to or reading the content of private communications between ordinary citizens, claiming that the NSA collects only the “metadata,” specifically the identifying features of the persons who are communicating; the times, durations, and locations of such communications; and other “externalities.” The massiveness of such a collection process tells the government a great deal about the substance of terrorist plans. But it also tells the government a great deal about the substance of our private lives. That is why there is so much controversy about a program that gathers so much with so few checks and so little accountability.
The real question in a democracy is not whether a balance must be struck — of course it must — but who should get to strike that balance. Which brings up the secrecy issue. If the governmental programs of gathering information are kept secret from the public and from most of its elected officials, then the balance will be struck, if it is struck at all, by intelligence officials who have a far greater interest in security than in privacy.
The NSA sent someone bearing the nametag “Neal Z.” to the University of New Mexico’s Engineering and Science Career Fair today, in the hopes of recruiting young computer geniuses to help manage the yottabytes of data it is collecting about you. But instead of eager young applicants, Mr. Z. encountered University of New Mexico alumnus Andy Beale and student Sean Potter, who took the rare opportunity of being in the room with a genuine NSA agent to ask him about his employer’s illegal collection of metadata on all Americans. Mr. Z. did not like that one bit.
In two videos posted on YouTube—each shot from a slightly different perspective—you can watch Beale politely question Mr. Z. about NSA programs, and watch Mr. Z. attempt to parry those queries with blatant falsehoods like, ”NSA is not permitted to track or collect intelligence on U.S. persons.” As Beale continues to attempt to engage the recruiter on the legality of the NSA’s mass surveillance initiatives, Mr. Z. becomes increasingly angry, calling him a “heckler,” saying, ”You do not know what you’re talking about,” and warning, “If you don’t leave soon, I’m going to call university security to get you out of my face.”
Textbooks, free lunches for everyone, teachers and safe buildings up to code cost too much, but expensive military equipment that never needed to be built to begin with are acceptable and freely available in the United States.
Steven Zipperman, Chief of the Los Angeles School Police Department, told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO the department will give back three grenade launchers while keeping a a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) armored vehicle and dozens of rifles it received through the program.
While much of the military hardware at the disposal of LAUSD police officers – including the 20-foot-long, 14-ton armored transport vehicles, much like the ones used to move Marines in Iraq combat zones – has never been used, Zipperman defended the decision to hang on to the MRAP.
“It is a vehicle that is available for a rescue in the event of a catastrophic incident that may occur within our region,” said Zipperman. “I believe it’s better to have some type of rescue vehicle than none at all.”
Does anyone else get the feeling that schools now are just training grounds for compliance and prison?
LA Unified is among at least 22 school systems across eight states that have received surplus military equipment, The Los Angeles Times reported.