The Edmond Sun


July 10, 2013

Who wants to debate NSA spying?

CNHI News Service — President Obama made the following comment recently regarding revelations the National Security Agency has been scooping up vast amounts of raw data from America’s telephone systems and Internet providers.

“I welcome this debate and I think it’s healthy for our democracy.”

While I agree such a debate is healthy for democracy, I don’t believe for a moment that Obama welcomes it. To the contrary, I think he’s lying through his teeth.

Here is a man who has been president since January 2009. He went into office supposedly skeptical of the expanding national security apparatus set up by the outgoing Bush administration.

If Obama wanted a debate, and believed it would be healthy, it would have started back then.

The only reason the president is saying this now is because the cat’s out of the bag.

As I write this, Edward Snowden is supposedly ensconced in Moscow’s airport, looking for a country that will give him sanctuary and protect him from U.S. extradition. It’s fast becoming a dubious proposition.

Snowden first made headlines a few weeks ago by revealing how far the NSA was going to collect phone and electronic data produced by millions of Americans. He said he had done so because he was concerned the government was going too far in terms of monitoring the activities of average citizens.

The news sparked a firestorm of reaction from across the political spectrum. In Washington, however, while some officials expressed relatively mild concerns about the whole thing, most were quick to defend what the NSA was doing — even if they didn’t know what that was.

You see, information on this data gathering program is on a need-to-know basis. And even most members of Congress don’t need to know.

The collection of all this information supposedly is quite legal. It’s even approved by a special court. Of course, that court and its actions are secret, and traditional notions about probable cause and the like don’t apply.

So how, Mr. President, is America supposed to have a healthy debate about what the NSA is doing when we really don’t know what it’s doing? Meanwhile, we are forced to get our information from some kid who didn’t have much of a game plan when it came to telling us.

Then again, it’s worth noting that other sources besides Snowden have approached reporters with concerns about NSA actions. While these sources offer fewer details, they worry the government is going too far when it comes to meddling in the private lives of individuals. Plus, they think efforts to obtain meaningful intelligence is lost when it becomes a virtual needle in a data-gathering haystack.

Amid the controversy, government officials basically are saying we should trust them, that Big Brother knows best about such things. After all, their track record proves this.

Of course, to reach that conclusion you have to ignore the fact no one thwarted the Boston Marathon bombers, even though Russian intelligence officials gave prior warnings about one of the suspects. Where was the security in that instance?

And let’s talk about Snowden. No matter what you think of him, it appears he was motivated to right what he believed was a wrong.

Yet how did this guy working for a private company come to know so much about America’s deepest secrets? And how many other people like him are out there?

Are they being tight-lipped and security conscious? Are they using their access to spy on old girlfriends and the neighbors? Or maybe they’re quietly selling what they know to some foreign power.

Trust these guys? Why?

MITCHEL OLSZAK is a columnist for The New Castle, Pa., News.

Text Only
  • Healthier and Wealthier? Not in Oklahoma

    Increased copays, decreased coverage, diminished health care access, reduced provider budgets and increased frustration are all the outcomes of the Legislature’s 2014 health care funding decisions. Unlike some years in the past when a languishing state economy forced legislators into making cuts, the undesirable outcomes this year could easily have been avoided.

    July 26, 2014

  • Medicaid reform a necessity

    Historically, education spending by the state of Oklahoma has been the largest budget item. This is no longer the case. In recent years, the state of Oklahoma spends more on Medicaid (operated by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority) than common education and higher education combined, according to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

    July 25, 2014

  • Remembering lessons from 1974

    This week marks the 40th anniversary of an important milestone in America’s constitutional history. On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court voted 8-0 to order the Nixon White House to turn over audiotapes that would prove the president and his close aides were guilty of criminal violations. This ruling established with crystal clarity that the executive branch could not hide behind the shield of executive privilege to protect itself from the consequences of illegal behavior. It was a triumph for the continued vitality of our constitutional form of government.

    July 25, 2014

  • RedBlueAmerica: Is parenting being criminalized in America?

    Debra Harrell was arrested recently after the McDonald’s employee let her daughter spend the day playing in a nearby park while she worked her shift. The South Carolina woman says her daughter had a cell phone in case of danger, and critics say that children once were given the independence to spend a few unsupervised hours in a park.
    Is it a crime to parent “free-range” kids? Does Harrell deserve her problems? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.

    July 24, 2014

  • Technology that will stimulate journalism’s future is now here

    To say technology has changed the newspaper media industry is understating the obvious. While much discussion focuses on how we read the news, technology is changing the way we report the news. The image of a reporter showing up to a scene with a pen and a pad is iconic but lost to the vestiges of time.
    I am asked frequently about the future of newspapers and, in particular, what does a successful future look like. For journalists, to be successful is to command multiple technologies and share news with readers in new and exciting ways.

    July 23, 2014

  • New Orleans features its own “Running of the Bulls”

    On July12, the streets of the Warehouse District of New Orleans were filled with thousands of young men who were seeking to avoid being hit with plastic bats wielded by women on roller skates as part of the annual “Running of the Bulls” that takes place in New Orleans.
    The event is based on the “Running of the Bulls” that occurs in Pamplona, Spain, that is  part of an annual occurrence in which a group of bulls rampage through the streets of Pamplona while men run from them to avoid being gored by their sharp horns. That event was introduced to the English-speaking world by Ernest Hemingway, who included scenes from it in his critically acclaimed 1926 novel “The Sun also Rises.”

    July 22, 2014

  • OTHER VIEW: Newsday: Lapses on deadly diseases demand explanation

    When we heard that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had created a potentially lethal safety risk by improperly sending deadly pathogens — like anthrax — to other laboratories around the country, our first reaction was disbelief.

    July 22, 2014

  • Holding government accountable for open meeting violations

    A few weeks ago I wrote about the recent success of three important government transparency proposals which will go into law this year.

    July 21, 2014

  • GUEST OPINION — Oklahoma GOP voters want educational choices

    A Braun Research survey released in January showed that Oklahoma voters — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike — favor parental choice in education.

    July 21, 2014

  • HEY HINK: IRS interferes with citizens’ rights of free speech

    The patient is gravely ill. We have detected traces of a deadly venom in the bloodstream. We don’t know how widespread the poison is, but we know, if not counteracted, toxins of this kind can rot the patient’s vital organs and could ultimately prove fatal.

    July 19, 2014


If the Republican runoff for the 5th District congressional seat were today, which candidate would you vote for?

Patrice Douglas
Steve Russell
     View Results