I'm going to try again to keep a thread on this topic -- of professional interest to airmen -- on the Air Force Forum. Many of the Air Force people here performed duties that served the National Security Agency and have comments on how it affected them in the Air Force.
Again, this is an Air Force topic and it seeks comments from airmen. If it gets moved again, I'll give up.
The following comments are from retired Air Force Col. Mike Gallagher and appear here with his permission:
The revelations in the news about NSA programs which were leaked to the press by a government contractor employer have sparked a lot of comments. Here are some thoughts from my perspective:
1. The nature and scope of these programs should never have been a secret. Clearly their roots go back to government reactions to 9/11 some of which were found to violate privacy rights.
2. Had the scope, cost, and other details of the program to track phone and other communications been debated in an open forum and approved by the Congress (not just a few selected members briefed in secret), there wouldn't have been anything to leak!
3. History is filled with examples of just how quickly people will give up fundamental freedoms in exchange for a promise of more security. History is also filled with examples of how this is a fool's bargain. The freedoms tend to be lost forever, and the promise of safety is often illusionary.
4. When government programs run against fundamental understandings of what is correct and what is not, the risk of a concerned person coming forward and revealing secret information is greatly increased. One of the good things about people is the nagging voice we often call a conscience which serves to limit just how far a person will go in "following orders." Again, had the general outlines of this program been publicly debated and approved, it is far less likely that a person would divulge legitimately classified details of the program.
5. Senior officials are publicly wringing their hands about the grave damage this leak has done for national security without offering much in the way of explanation. Seems that the result might be just the opposite. With the knowledge that phone and internet communications are being recorded and tracked, evil people will have to come up with alternatives such as codes which are cumbersome and anything but foolproof. Again, a great reason for not cloaking these programs in secrecy.
6. Demands to punish the leaker for treason could be counter-productive. Last known location was Hong Kong. That is pretty close to a number of countries that might offer the individual some attractive alternatives to a U.S. trial with a further risk of damage to our security interests.
7. How this individual was given a security clearance in the first place should be a matter of considerable interest.
8. I am surprised at the number of people who expressed horror at the government having access to medical records, but seem to be perfectly willing to trust the government not to abuse security programs.
9. Beyond this specific situation, I think we should be careful to keep the threat we face in perspective. While every life lost and person harmed is of serious concern, the actual number of lives lost and property destroyed is not great compared with the impact of natural disasters and traffic accidents. The threat is real, but we are ill served by exaggeration. Part of the "price of freedom" is the risk of living in a society where free choice is valued. Some will abuse that with tragic results, but the alternative (say N. Korea) is far worse.
If you took the time to read this, thanks. I think this is a complex matter and thought I'd open a dialog.
My comments are still germane from the previous thread on this subject. Seems kind of redundant to start all over again anyway.
Last edited by BURAWSKI; 06-15-2013 at 10:47 PM.
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