First things First, Mr. President
It seems a little premature for the president to outline reforms for the NSA when we don't even know what it is exactly the agency is collecting. Every week, it seems, there's a new revelation about the extent of surveillance.
On Thursday, the Guardian newspaper unveiled documents from Edward Snowden showing that back in 2011, the NSA was collecting nearly 200 million text messages a day. That's not just metadata, it's content -- something other whistleblowers have been saying for a long time. Is there any reason we shouldn't be listening to them now?
Russell Tice worked as an analyst at the NSA for two decades. He was dismissed in 2005, after sharing his concerns about the agency's domestic spy activities with higher-ups. He later made the rounds on television talk shows saying, among other things, that the government was spying on journalists. He was labeled a loon by many. Yet, we learned last year from the AP spy scandal the government was, in fact, spying on journalists.
In an interview with CNN last May, following the Boston bombings, former FBI agent Tim Clemente was asked how the government was able to get the content of phone calls made by the suspect.
"There's a way to look at digital communications in the past," he said. "And I can't go into detail of how that's done, or what's done, but I can tell you that no digital communication is secure."
After seeing that interview, Tice said he contacted some former colleagues at the NSA and asked them what he'd suspected all along -- if the agency was now collecting everything. The answer came back, "Yes,"the NSA was now collecting and storing "word for word, everything of every domestic communication in this country."
Should we be dismissing these allegations outright or investigating them further?