Dianne Feinstein, Senator for California and Head of the Intelligence committee, just sent out an email supporting the NSA surveillance programs. I put her email in the comments section and the PDF she attached can be found here, if you want to read the full text. This is my reply.
With all due respect, the beginning line in your second paragraph has already been proven untrue.
“First, please be assured that the NSA does not conduct mass surveillance on U.S. citizens.”
It is well known now that the NSA conducts varies degrees of dragnet data collection. If you are limiting the definition of surveillance to only information that is being looked at now by human eyes, then you would be correct. I believe that dragnet data collection is surveillance. My actions, my words, my emotions – everything – is collected. It may not be scrutinized now, but it can be scrutinized later. Any such program removes ones freedom to act – people act different when watched. Usually for the better, I’ll admit, but that is certainly not for the Government to decide. The Sedition acts of the 1800s are a prime example, and I believe this to be of equivalent importance.
Americans need liberty. The world needs liberty. It is a constitutional requirement that my liberty be protected, and unfortunately, I see it slipping away week by week as select people claim there is no surveillance. How far will you go to fight for my liberty?
I only ask one thing: please ensure you understand the issue from this perspective – the perspective where definitions are a bit more cloudy than Merriam-Webster. The perspective where pure data collection is a form of surveillance and must be stopped in all forms of dragnet operation. When you vote or propose legislation moving in that direction, you re-affirm a vote from me and thousands of others. When you vote for dragnet data collection, you are voting to limit liberty in all its forms – the antithesis of American pride and power.
Precedent is important and I understand the kind of position you’re in is not only complicated, but career-threatening. As the head of the Intelligence community, it may seem that many advocates promoting the same things as me aren’t listening to your side. That might be true, but I sincerely hope that doesn’t lead towards an overall generalization clouding the righteous passions of many citizens. That would be a travesty.
I want my children to live in a United States of America that promotes peace and, instead of pushing forward the status quo of “us vs them” and “terrorists are inherently evil at birth”, does its best to resolve these issues through intelligent foreign policy and humanitarian aid. I want to live in an America that is a shining city on top of a hill – one that strives to take the high road at every possible moment. Terrorism is a tricky issue – the issue of the century – but it cannot be solved by brute force means. Terrorism is deep-seated anger, hate, and revenge. It is irrational, yet that doesn’t mean it has to be fought with irrational or impure means.
The founding fathers said that freedom is achievable when liberty is balanced with order. I believe strongly in order, but we also must try different approaches to achieve it and hold each program underneath a spotlight that ranks effectiveness and efficiency. The net loses for Americans through the NSA programs severely outweigh the benefits we derive if, and only if we can maintain order and security through other means.
What are these other means? I’d like different answers explored through our great legislative and governmental processes. Please make that happen.
Have a good day, Zach