Regarding the Oct. 30 editorial “NSA spying unbounded”:
The National Security Agency’s tapping of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone has unquestionably harmed relations between the United States and one of its closest allies. It is not, however, illegal. U.S. law explicitly permits surveillance related to the “conduct of foreign affairs.” This is a feature, not a bug, of our sweeping surveillance laws. Whether the United States should use this authority to spy on friendly countries is a matter of policy, and, as the editorial correctly pointed out, the policy is plainly wrong. But it missed the larger point: The same “foreign affairs” authority that ensnared Ms. Merkel can be used to broadly collect the communications of ordinary people around the world with no ties to terrorism. That is a matter of human rights.
The Post’s call to make a sharp distinction between surveillance of world leaders and the NSA’s collection of bulk foreign Internet and phone data falls woefully short. Why should the conversations of Greek citizens organizing a protest against Ms. Merkel’s monetary policies be fair game while Ms. Merkel’s conversations are not? The answer, of course, is that they should not be. Our surveillance laws must be reformed, not just to protect our relationships with allies but also to protect the human rights of everyone.
Leslie Harris, Washington
The writer is president and chief executive of the Center for Democracy & Technology.
So we have an agency of the federal government that cannot set up and run a Web site because it attracts too much traffic [“Sebelius: Blame me for Web site’s flaws,” front page, Oct. 31]. We have another agency that taps into vast torrents of Internet traffic and deftly records, categorizes and stores data with ease [“NSA taps Yahoo, Google links,” front page, Oct. 31]. It seems that expertise and resources are not evenly distributed within the government. Perhaps the National Security Agency could lend some of its cyber-experts and gigantic capacity to the Health and Human Services Department. They’d get that site humming in a heartbeat.
Richard L. Lobb, Fairfax