Reforming the NSA [Letter]

The implications of your editorial on proposed reforms to the National Security Agency are scurrilous and highly offensive ("Who will watch the watchers?" March 25).

Since its inception in 1952, the NSA has possessed a highly moral, patriotic workforce dedicated to following the rules. They are overly conscientious about citizens' privacy rights and overly conscientious concerning any warrant they would send to the FISA court.

Since CIA leaker Edward Snowden's acts of treason, it has become de rigueur to assume the NSA is spying on innocent citizens, listening in on their phone calls, trampling civil liberties and otherwise running amok. All this is without a sliver of evidence.

This was undoubtedly the intent of Mr. Snowden and whoever is actually behind him. It has been easy for Mr. Snowden and his journalist cohorts to condition Americans to believe this. The vast majority of people are already frightened of what their cyber footprints may be revealing. Since the Internet is such an amorphous mass, they can't put their finger on whom to blame. The NSA is a convenient scapegoat – even though it is probably the only entity on the Internet that is not actually profiling them.

The importance of a robust, agile and responsive intelligence collection system in these treacherous times is clear. You are right that "the NSA insists that it needs access to massive amounts of electronic data in order to analyze calling patterns that might be linked to suspected terrorists," and any researcher knows that the richer the data set, the richer the result.

Even Mr. Snowden recognized this when he took a lower-paying job in order to get greater access to U.S. intelligence capabilities. This allowed him to "scrape" everything in sight and do maximal damage to the U.S. intelligence apparatus.

But your suggestion that NSA analysts would hack into telephone companies when restricted from doing so by law is both unconscionable and unfounded. Your further suggestion of another leak to "watch the watchers" is irresponsible.

Rather than stay up at night worrying about an NSA analyst reading their email, citizens should be staying up at night worrying about what the NSA is missing due to the wholesale and continued destruction of our intelligence capabilities.

Eva Shidle, Ellicott City

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