What Happened to NSA Reform?

What Happened to NSA Reform?

Monday saw Rand Paul’s NSA reform come to a screeching halt.

Pending an appeals court ruling on a similar issue, Rand Paul’s attempt at NSA reform has been put on hold. This hasn’t stopped similar legislative efforts in Congress though.

The NSA was once built to protect American interests abroad – you know, the good stuff. It battled Communism, gave our spies on the ground valuable intelligence, helped us decrypt our enemies’ communications and generally acted as the eyes and ears of the American intelligence community. That was the “good old days” of the Cold War.

Nowadays, things have gotten more complicated. It’s no longer the Russians versus the free world – Us verses Them. And the NSA has had to adapt to a changing world. But the NSA has always been a rather free-wheeling, do-what-you-have-to-do agency. And it has recently come into the limelight for its business as usual mentality.

The crux of the problem is that threats to the U.S. are far more close to home now. We used to worry about communists in some foreign country. What is more often the case now though are threats within the U.S. regarding such things as religious extremists. You’d think the NSA is still well equipped to deal with such things. And, strategy-wise, you may very well be right. But here’s the problem.

When our enemies are no longer external threats but things of a homegrown nature, we start calling into question the wide, largely unchecked powers we’ve given the NSA – a group intended originally to survey external threats to the U.S., not our own citizens. We’re starting to see what the effects of this agency are when they turn their attention inwards, collecting massive amounts of metadata from private citizens without the need for warrants.

As they’ve continued largely unchecked, our Congress has started turning their attention to their tactics and the reach of their influence. Sen. Patrick Leahy has introduced a bill this year to curb the powers of the NSA, citing that “the current storage of bulk metadata creates potential risks to public trust, personal privacy and civil liberty.” (USA Today)

As for Paul, his message has been loud and clear:

“What you say or do on your cell phone is none of the government’s damn business.”

As always, while the old parties try to find some extreme stance to take, Libertarians and the Tea Party, that so often coincide with Paul, are seeking that middle ground. We know the nature of threats against our country have shifted. You’ve only to look to such things as ISIS to see that is obvious. But there is a line, and the NSA threatens to cross it. And Americans understand that because it resonates on an instinctual level. Are you a liberal? Then I give you Bob Marley:

“Better to die fighting for freedom then be a prisoner all the days of your life.”

There. I’ve done my duty for the left side.

As to the right. I give you Jefferson:

“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.”

What does that mean? The NSA cannot decide on their own what must be monitored. They cannot decide alone what people can and cannot know about national security. Our decision must be collective regarding how we monitor ourselves and how we balance freedom and security.

Do you support the Paul’s demand for NSA reform? Let us know in the comments via Twitter or Facebook.

Written by Mark Davis

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