The President’s Private Moment

President Obama had one of those 15 minutes in the spotlight situations yesterday.  He gave his much heralded speech on NSA practices and possible overreaches.  His speech was pretty vanilla and drew about the same number of positives as negatives, corrected for those who either hate or adore whatever the President says.  Hmmm.

The President said that technology has made it possible to do almost limitless surveillance and data collection.  Whether this is in National Defense interests or an intrusion of Americans’ Constitutional rights is a matter of what the Government (NSA) does with the collected information.  President Obama insisted that so far there have been no misuses of what has been collected.  Hmmm.

One does not have to think back very far to recall Vice President Dick Cheney’s outing CIA agent Valerie Plame by leaking (through several sources) her “classified” status.  This outing was political pay back for her husband’s opposition to the Iraq War.  What would Dick do now if he could get access to emails and phone conversations of his political adversaries?

Dick Cheneys not withstanding, the world we live in today is not your grandmother’s world.  There are legitimately bad people out there.  Some are common criminals (with exceptional talents).  Others represents foreign States.  And some fall in between, like al Qaeda or other terrorist groups.  One must assume that other modern countries have technology as good as or nearly as good as ours.  So a reasonable conclusion might be that if we do not listen to them, we gain nothing since they will be listening to us.  Hmmm.

Then there is the strange differentiation some make.  The government should be free only to listen to anyone who is not a US citizen because those persons have no US Constitutional rights.  Hmmm.

It seems to me clear that intelligence gathering is a must.  And it is in the US national interest to do it better than anyone else.

In lock step, however, with this intelligence gathering should be a clear and inviolate set of laws detailing for what this collected information can be used.  Dick Cheneys of this world are composed of both “bad” people and those whose intentions are purely patriotic but whose methods go too far.  These are individuals who see black and white clearly but miss all shades of gray.  Ironically, this type of individual tend to concentrate in law enforcement and intelligence gathering largely because they are good at it.  Seeing unintended consequences beyond the assigned mission does not fall neatly into their skill bag.

President Obama had to make a choice between two poor options, spy and violate Constitutional protections, or don’t spy and get sucker punched by foreign elements.  This time he used a lot of words and essential said we need to be careful.

I think he has missed the point by not fully championing intelligence gathering while building secure walls around how the intelligence can be used… and just as important, what happens to the next Dick Cheney who misuses it.

Explore posts in the same categories: Barack Obama, Democratic Party, Dick Cheney, Politics, Republican Party

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