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  1. David Swaim permalink

    This is exactly the article I would have written if I was working for the “government” in support of national security. Good job.


    • What a perfect illustration of my opening point about Americans not liking nuance!

      David Swaim sees my post as a categorical defense of the NSA’s surveillance programs, as if someone at the NSA had written it. But here’s some of what I really said:

      “I am generally opposed to government collection of data about Americans’ private lives for national security or law enforcement purposes that is not supported by both individualized suspicion and court-issued search warrants.”

      “It’s completely unacceptable that neither the Bush administration nor the Obama administration felt it necessary to put these programs out for democratic discussion and debate, not even in broad and general terms.”

      “The government [should have] to order searches from the phone companies’ databases only based on court-issued search warrants.”

      “The [NSA’s e-mail surveillance] program raises big issues that demand democratic debate and discussion.”

      “It’s clear that we overreacted [after 9/11, and] we need to find a new balance of privacy and security.”

      In other words, I started by declaring that if I were king there would be no NSA surveillance of Americans without individualized suspicion validated by a court-issued search warrant. But America has no king, whether in favor of or opposed to NSA surveillance. So repeatedly throughout the post, I called for public disclosure and democratic debate. And in recognition that everyone does not agree with my policy preference on this issue, I called for nuance – and, implicitly, for compromise. In hopes of a more nuanced and therefore more productive debate, I then tossed out some of the more simple-minded reasoning that’s been given by people who happen agree with my conclusion.

      Perhaps someone who disagrees with my conclusion – someone more inclined to the security-trumps-privacy side of the argument – might like to toss out some of the more simple-minded reasoning being given by people who happen to agree with that conclusion.

      So let’s have a debate. But if you’re not interested in nuance, Mr. Swaim, do it on someone else’s blog.


  2. Thomas Sheckler permalink

    I’m new to this blog, so I’m reading backwards from the end to the beginning. I came upon you via a Comment on an NYT article today.

    This is refreshingly rational, clear-thinking writing. Especially the explanations about “data-mining” of phone metadata, intrusiveness of email surveillance, etc.

    If something like this had been written earlier in the Snowden revelations (I’m an avid Guardian reader), I suspect there would have been less hysterics about NSA invasions of privacy.

    I look forward to more of your writing.


    • Wow. And thanks for the high praise. I doubt that anyone except me has ever read my entire blog, much less all in one sitting. You’re a trouper.

      As to the NSA, much more has been disclosed since I wrote this post in August. Turns out the NSA was checking in on everything from Angela Merkel’s cell phone to a bunch of pimply teenage boys’ video gaming. Some of the foreign outrage has been hypocritical – countries who spy on us are all shocked, shocked, that we spy on them. More to my surprise, the domestic push-back on the NSA has been muted and ineffectual.

      Thanks for writing. I hope to hear from you again.


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