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The NSA has broken our social compact

As one of the lucky people who attended National Security Agency Gen. Keith Alexander's talk in Baltimore last week, I was struck by his sincerity and commitment ("Reining in the NSA," Nov. 3). And he really believes he is "surrounded by great people" who have all taken an oath to "defend the Constitution and to defend and protect this country."

But while the National Security Agency may be technically in compliance with the Constitution, it is not in step with our national "social contract" — that concept of the legitimacy of those in authority over an individual's rights.

The threat of radical Islamic jihad is real; I was in Washington during the 9/11 attacks. We all should be willing to surrender some personal data. But the government surveillance activities that have been exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and others go way beyond the acceptable.

General Alexander went on to stress the importance of "partnerships," and one audience member asked about "the partnership with the American people." Today we see a population decidedly tuned out and addicted to an alternate reality in cyberspace. Everywhere you look folks are locked onto some electronic device that separates the individual from the world around them.

The NSA doesn't want to "hold the hornet's nest" should there be another huge terror attack. But it must understand that it can't win the war on terror by declaring war on law-abiding citizens.

Rosalind Nester Ellis, Baltimore

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Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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