Foreign Policy examines the revelations concerning the National Security Agency’s extensive surveillance programs and considers the effect on privacy rights:
While the NSA collects data against foreign intelligence threats generally, the type of data that effectively requires massive collection and storage of individual communications has been presented, for example by Gen. Keith Alexander, in terms of the need to connect the dots to stop another 9/11.
So the extent of NSA surveillance corresponds logically to the extent of the ill-defined successor to the war on terror: When the enemy can be anywhere, the state looks everywhere.
The boundary of the U.S. response to terrorism is the critical frame through which to view the vast impressionistic canvas upon which the NSA attempts to connect the dots: The root issue is not the balance between national security and civil liberties but defining the boundaries of the U.S. response to terrorism.
President Barack Obama’s speech at the National Defense University on May 23, his major national security speech of 2013, seemed to represent a shift in a different direction. “We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us,” he intoned, “mindful of James Madison’s warning that ‘No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.'” […]
Obama identified external and internal risks to freedom; both make sense. Indeed, we tend to think of the two in terms of a proportional relationship in times of war, that one is balanced against the other.
The problem with applying this balancing model in the context of the “struggle” to which the president referred is the fragmentation of the enemy as a clearly definable concept.
Read the full article for a consideration of the privacy issues, including a discussion of the FISA Court.