The dirty little secret about the scandal involving the National Security Agency (NSA) is that there is no problem with the agency. The so-called “razor-thin 205-217 vote” in the U.S. House of Representatives and the “rescue” by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi were mostly for show. Pelosi “privately and aggressively lobbied” her fellow Democrats in an effort to defeat an amendment that would limit the ability of NSA to collect data on our telephone records.
Alan Grayson, Democratic congressman, led “a bipartisan group of congressmen” to organize a hearing. He was concerned about the fact that Congress was receiving “constant misleading information” from the intelligence community and wanted to hear from “critics.” “I have been concerned about the fact that we have heard incessantly in recent weeks from General Keith Alexander [director of the NSA] and Mr. James Clapper [director of National Intelligence] about their side of the story. We have barely heard anything in Congress from critics of the program.
“We have put together an ad hoc, bipartisan hearing on domestic surveillance in the Capitol. We plan to have critics of the program come in and give their view – from the left and the right.” This hearing was scheduled to take place at the same time as the Senate hearing into the NSA’s activities.
In spite of what I read in the media – both mainstream and alternative, I believe that the so-called “scandal” should stop concerning us. You may wonder why I came to this conclusion; therefore, I will share my understanding of the situation.
I have a personal relationship with an employee of NSA, one who has worked at NSA for many years. I know him to be an honest, God-fearing, church-attending, temple-attending, and law-abiding man. I had a difficult time connecting what I know about him personally with what I read about his employer in the media and sought an opportunity to speak with him. He, of course, could not share any classified information, but he did stop my fears.
According to my contact, the NSA is not collecting information on citizens of the United States or anyone living within the borders of our nation because their focus is on intelligence coming out of foreign nations. This is why they did not have information on the bombers of Boston. The FBI is responsible to monitor the people living within the United States. If the government is spying on us, the agents are probably from the FBI, and the FBI investigates only those people suspected of committing crimes. He told me that the Director is always a four-star general or a three-star general who can be promoted to four stars. The second in command is always a person who has come up through the ranks of NSA. There are no political appointments in the NSA.
I gained my greatest relief when my contact told me that Mr. Obama does not like the NSA and has no control over the organization. Even though George W. Bush visited the NSA often, Mr. Obama has been there only one time. He was there because he had to be there to give General Keith Alexander his fourth star. The second bit of information that made me feel better was his statement that the NSA answers directly to Congress, and Congress regularly calls the NSA leadership to report to them. In fact, members of Congress already know everything the NSA is doing and are “investigating” what they already know.
My contact sent me to the web site for the National Security Agency to find a statement made by General Alexander to the NSA employees on June 25, 2013. I have included almost all of the statement in case the web site is taken down.
“NSA’s primary responsibility is to defend the nation. After 9/11, we acknowledged our failure as an intelligence community to `connect the dots.’ To address this shortfall and protect the nation from future terrorist attacks like 9/11, we made several changes to our intelligence efforts and added a number of capabilities. Two of these capabilities are the programs in the news. They were approved by the Administration, Congress, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. With these exceptional authorities came significant oversight from all three branches of the government.
“On 21 June we provided over 50 cases to both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees that show the specific contribution of these programs to our understanding and, in many cases, disruption of terrorist plots in the United States and over 20 countries throughout the world. These results were achieved consistent with our responsibilities under the law. A report issued by the Senate Judiciary in June 2012 emphasized that the government has implemented its intelligence authorities in a responsible manner: `Through four years of oversight, the committee has not identified a single case in which a government official engaged in willful effort to circumvent or violate the law.’ More than 50 disruptions with zero willful failures in the protection of civil liberties – that’s an incredible record and is a testament to NSA’s staunch commitment to protecting and upholding the privacy and civil liberties of the American people even as we keep our nation safe. This has been accomplished by the extraordinary people at NSA, the real heroes, working alongside our partners within the Intelligence Community.
“The ongoing national dialogue is not about your performance. The NSA/CSS work force has executed its national security responsibilities with equal and full respect for civil liberties and privacy. The issue is one that is partly fueled by the sensational nature of the leaks and the way their timing has been carefully orchestrated to inflame and embarrass. [Emphasis added.] The challenge of these leaks is exacerbated by a lack of public understanding of the safeguards in place and little awareness of the outcomes that our authorities yield. Leadership, from the President and others in the Executive Branch to the Congress, is now engaged in a public dialogue to make sure the American public gets the rest of the story while not disclosing details that would further endanger our national security. From my perspective, this issue should note be viewed and debated as a ‘political issue’ but rather as a `national security issue.’ Please do not let this distract you from your work or cause you to worry that your work is not valuable, valued, and honorable. It is all three.
“Let me say again how proud I am to lead this exceptional workforce, uniformed and civilian, civil service and contract personnel. Your dedication is unsurpassed, your patriotism unquestioned, and your skills are the envy of the world….
“We will move forward from this and by dint of solid strategy, hard work, and partnership will continue to protect the nation from harm. Along the way, we will remain committed to the defense of the Nation and all that it stands for – security and liberty. The Deputy Director, the Senior Leadership Team and I will continue to work this hard and take the heat. We need you to focus on our primary mission of defending our nation and our allies. Thank you for all you do to support our mission every day of the year.”
WOW! The NSA leaders are willing to take the heat rather than pushing the buck to the lower levels of authority! I wish the leadership of the State Department, the Internal Revenue Service, etc. would take the heat and answer the many questions we have. My contact told me that the NSA leadership regularly and constantly indoctrinate their employees on the importance of obeying the law as well as write policies that keep employees far from breaking the law. They are adamant about their employees respecting the rights of Americans. They also encourage an atmosphere where employees are free to tell leadership when they feel something is wrong in a proposed policy. His own employees told him they did not like a proposed policy and said they would not follow it.