DEWY HARRISON: Beware the security v. freedom debate
NSA....no, that’s not the National Snooping Agency staffed by President Obama’s Chicago-way advisers. The National Security Agency is an organization within the Department of Defense which collects and analyzes data on foreign and counter intelligence.Following World War II (1949), the Armed Forces Security Agency was formed to collect and analyze intelligence data, but AFSA’s failure to share and communicate data with the CIA, FBI and State Department led to its centralized reorganization as the NSA in 1952 under President Harry Truman,With more than 30,000 employees, data collection centers and storage facilities around the globe, the NSA has a larger budget than either the Central Intelligence Agency or the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is a massive agency designed to identify hostile foreign intent.The NSA has long been the brunt of criticism with its highly publicized failures and abuses. Agent defections and selling of data to Russia in the ’60s would give NSA power, with overwhelming support of Congress, to fire at will any employee on the basis of anonymous allegations without opportunity for the employee to defend himself. The NSA intelligence ship Pueblo was captured (1968) by the North Koreans. Today, the Pueblo sits in Pyongyang harbor as a propaganda tool for the North Koreans. The ship nor the intelligence data has been returned to America. Just as disturbing, was the investigation and discovery of NSA’s secret wiretaps of targeted American citizens during the ’70s. This abuse of power led to the formation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.FISA is an 11-member court which oversees procedures for electronic surveillance and collection of intelligence information against foreign suspects, American citizens and permanent residents of the United States. There was no bigger intelligence failure than Sept. 11, 2001. A nation watched helplessly and in horror as Islamic terrorist flew planes into the Twin Towers and Pentagon — killing thousands of Americans. Nine-eleven would fundamentally change the scope and authority of the NSA. President Bush would ask for and receive from Congress (Patriot Act) new powers to combat those who would harm Americans. Vice President Dick Cheney would be instrumental in seeing the legislation put into law and the NSA would play an important role of data collection on American soil.Congress acted quickly. Six months following 9/11, President Bush had sweeping powers that included: indefinite detention of immigrants, home or business searches without owner consent, expanded search authorization of telephone, email, financial records, business records, library records and roving wire taps without a court order.America’s leaders had made a decision to limit Bill of Rights freedoms for “security.” These same leaders made a decision that the degree and scope of data collection against Americans would be kept secret.Last month Eric Snowden, a lower-tier NSA contractor leaked classified information which exposed the secretive data collection of citizens and the evolution of surveillance authorized by the FISA court, triggering a national debate with respect to limiting Bill of Rights freedoms for security.National debate also focused on Snowden’s character. Coffee shops, pundits and politicians were voicing their opinion of Snowden as a traitor, patriot, whistle blower or law breaker. However, the intellectual debate centered around sacrificing freedom for security.This is an easy one for me.The NSA has a checkered track record of abuse, targeting and systemic failures since its beginning. The Obama Administration, with help from the intelligence community and attorney general, has continued this practice of reprehensible conduct toward citizens and groups who disagree with the president.In a scandal-plagued Obama second term, we have witnessed Attorney General Eric Holder signing off on a warrant to search Fox News reporter James Rosen and his parents’ emails, IRS Chief Counsel William Wilkins targeting tea party groups and candidates for political gain, IRS Director Lois Lerner taking the Fifth rather than explain her role in targeting tea party groups, and National Intelligence Adviser James Clapper perjuring himself before Congress when asked if American citizens were being surveilled. The National Security adviser, CIA and State Department concocted a narrative of spontaneous rioting caused by a video critical of the Prophet Mohammed, when, in fact, the Benghazi attack that left four Americans dead was planned and carried out by Jihadists with allegiance to al Qaeda. Benghazi survivors were forced to sign non-disclosure forms. Personnel were transferred or retired to prevent sunshine on these scandals. Congress is scrambling to shield the president and prevent further disclosures.Our president, Congress, courts and government professionals have demonstrated they are incapable and/or unwilling to honestly and transparently inform the American people of full disclosure surrounding citizen surveillance. To believe they will not use your health records, financial data and personal-private conversations — well, that’s for you to decide. Me — I believe the NSA and intelligence community track record speaks for itself. Beware the freedom v. security swap. “People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.” Ben FranklinPray hard America. Dewey Harrison of Poteau is retired educator from the Pocola School system. He is also a tea party supporter, occasional fisherman and perpetual pessimist about the current state of affairs. To contact Harrison email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.