NSA (not pictured: our best interests at heart) (EPA/NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY)
NSA (not pictured: our best interests at heart) (National Security Agency via European Pressphoto Agency)

Agencies and elected representatives made their own bed, Dana Milbank writes today, so they really should have known it was a waterbed and would leak. Well, none of Milbank’s analogies was that weirdly literal, but PostScript urges you to go with it in the name of imagery and summarizing and getting through this paragraph.

Apparently the National Security Agency was doing its thing, which involves a lot of secrecy and determining who needs to know what. And nobody else, it seems, was all that interested in challenging the NSA — not the courts or Congress or the White House. So a leaker came to the press with information, because the normal checks-and-balances thing didn’t happen.

Readers argue that there’s a significant party here left out of the blame. Why were the American people (and the press) also content to hope the NSA knew what was good for us? Why would the government assume social-networked Americans value our privacy when we leak our own info so indiscriminately?

Lector37

The notion that the American public was “shielded from the knowledge” is hopelessly naive. Anyone with two firing synapses knew in 2006 that this was going to be the inevitable result of the extension of the Patriot Act. As of March 13, 2013, there were 1.11 billion different active Facebook users, 235 million active Google+ users, 554 million active Twitter users, and God knows how many people using Instagram, Pinterest, etc., but we get our panties in a bunch over government collection of metadata (which we KNEW was going to happen) while we’re “tweeting” naked pictures of each other around the planet?

britlib agrees. Why are we okay with companies, but not governments, seeing our online usage data?

It seems to me very odd that Americans are quite willing to accept “data mining” from un-elected commercial companies, yet get upset if the think the government they elected is doing it. With me, it’s the other way around.

ScienceTim says, technically, the NSA was not collecting our data — and really this is no more intrusive than the companies collecting it in the first place — why would we assume the companies would keep it secret?

Actually, [Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper didn’t lie — or at least, he has a semantic way to argue that he didn’t lie. The NSA does not collect those data on Americans. The phone companies collect the data, then hand it over to the NSA under subpoena. The phone companies already have all those data. I wonder if they are doing more or less what NSA does in the interest of developing phone systems that can operate more efficiently for the majority of calls, improving reliability, and so forth. Or, more likely, because any knowledge that somebody wants is something that, eventually, you can get somebody to pay for.

GinnyCinCO sees this as a problem that goes way back — Americans are sort of used to the idea that they can’t handle the truth:

Thank you, this was sorely needed in the discussion. This country has acted covertly as much as overtly to overturn or depose heads of state in far too many countries. Not to mention aiding and abetting the local rebels to attack, kill, maim etc the local populations. No matter how much we knew, it was always a combination of lies, omissions and denials. When Congress won’t perform the oversight functions, the president is complicit with questionable programs and Justice can’t act because of the secrecy, we are in far more danger than having enough of the facts exposed to spark the discussion we should have had by 2010.

HeiaSafari wants just a little more information in exchange for all this data:

I just wonder if this program has produced any results. I mean, yeah, we all agree that it is intrusive, but so far we’ve only been told the bad stuff. How many plots has it foiled? How many terrorists captured?

patriot17 welcomes the chance to see what the government as a whole is doing, and not just Republicans and Democrats. When the two parties are working together in secrecy, against whom are they working?

I’m glad Milbank has written this article, because it’s exactly what I’ve been thinking. If the Government, all of it, all three branches, Democrats, Republicans, the President, Congress, and the Judiciary, hadn’t colluded to conceal the vast secret surveillance bureaucracy these leaks wouldn’t happen, or if they did they wouldn’t be so damaging. We deserve to know about this wholesale data collection on us, and to have a public discussion on what level of surveillance is necessary and tolerable.

Merlin999 considers this politicial realignment a game-changer, too:

In a surreal CNN moment yesterday, different clips of Dennis Kucinich and Rand Paul, shown 5 minutes apart were almost identical in content. Strange times indeed!

careysub agrees. Game changed:

Strange times, for sure. On this day I find myself in agreement with almost everything Merlin999 is posting.

PostScript loves it when this happens! Rand Paul, Dennis Kucinich, Merlin999 and careysub, all on the same page! The game has changed so much, and PostScript likes weirdly literal analogies so much, she would venture to say it’s not even really a game anymore. Whoa.