Over the last few weeks, critics have spun a myriad of misinformation regarding the National Security Agency.
After Edward Snowden, a defense contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton, leaked classified information regarding the collection of data from Internet providers and phone companies, many politicians, pundits and citizens have called the NSA’s actions “unconstitutional” and “Orwellian.” After the NSA scandal, George Orwell’s “1984” sales went up 6,021 percent in a single day.
These claims, however, are far from the truth.
The NSA has gathered a multitude of intelligence, but they are not actively searching through the records of millions of Americans. By law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act forbids spying, either domestically or internationally, without approval from the Foreign Intelligence surveillance Court. The NSA obtains judicial permission, whereby protecting them from violating the Fourth Amendment, which forbids warrantless searches.
As with any law, though, FISA can be violated, as it was in 2002 with former President George Bush’s order to spy without court warrants.
Moreover, the assertion that these revelations equate to an Orwellian society shows just how willing NSA opponents are to exaggerate.
In Orwell’s “1984,” those that provided any hint of disloyalty to Big Brother were tortured until they began to believe that the government was infallible. The conversions are followed by executions. In reality, can the NSA be compared to telescreens that monitor and punish even the slightest portrayal of anti-government thoughts? Any argument that tries to forge this point relies on a slippery-slope logical fallacy. In fact, the NSA scandal has no impact on nearly 100 percent of Americans,.
However, the NSA is far from infallible. They should not broadly obtain the data of millions of Americans, even if they do not intend to analyze most of it. The NSA and the rest of the federal government should also clarify which forms of declassification are legal, who can lawfully leak information to the press and what types of classified data are permitted to release.
The NSA is not an unconstitutional, Orwellian entity, and Snowden’s reckless and unlawful leaks should land him in court.