December 29, 2013

Walter Pincus [“In Snowden’s wake, an unprecedented ‘rule’ to consider public opinion on intelligence gathering,” The Fed Page, Dec. 26] reports the dismay of senior intelligence officers at the possibility that public approval may be considered in deciding whether to undertake covert actions.

In my university teaching career, I have often profited from the campus residencies of senior diplomats, intelligence officials and military officers. They taught faculty and students a good deal, and I would like to think that they learned something before they left our idyllic circumstances to return to the harsh world.

Might I suggest that the intelligence officers so worried that public opinion could constrain their activities would profit from studying a historic document they have not, apparently, recalled for some time? It is called the Constitution, and its intellectual and moral origins are quite fascinating. Surely, there is some quiet college that could offer our public servants warm hospitality and rigorous instruction.

Norman Birnbaum, Washington

Walter Pincus’s Dec. 26 column provided a better discussion of the privacy and security implications of National Security Agency (NSA) data-gathering than I’ve seen.

The NSA’s gathering of data itself is not what individuals need to fear; the analysis and potential for misuse should be the real concerns. If the data are not collected, then it would be impossible for the NSA to track contacts from terrorists to others in the United States and elsewhere. These data searches are subject to legal controls, though better ones might be needed. Given that large corporations are multinational and do not necessarily have any loyalty to the United States, it seems ludicrous to trust such data to them rather than to the U.S. government.

Timothy Barnum, Severna Park

Regarding the Dec. 26 news article “Spying worse than in ‘1984,’ Snowden tells Britons”:

Edward Snowden may be well-intentioned, but anyone who has read George Orwell knows the United States today is hardly a “1984” society. While all Americans can and should be concerned about the protection of their right to privacy, the revelations to date do not indicate the violations of that right and certainly do not point to massive and pervasive illegality on the part of the intelligence agencies. There is no solution to the problem of balancing privacy and security that will satisfy all citizens, and I hope more readers will consider both sides before rushing to condemn and defame the efforts of the intelligence community to protect our country.

Ken Schiffer, Aldie, Va.

Regarding The Post’s comprehensive coverage of the National Security Agency’s extra-constitutional activities, I say: Give the NSA a break. It is perfectly clear to this homeland patriot that the NSA has been forced to destroy the United States  in order to save it.   

Steve Adkins, Fairfax