Ruth Marcus concluded her Aug. 23 op-ed column, “ More NSA deceptions ,” by alluding to “hopeful signs” of change, but she cautioned that “they do not erase the ugly history.”

When the high-level review panel conducts its investigation of the National Security Agency, I sincerely hope there will be recognition of the dedication and extraordinary achievements of the thousands of people who have spent their careers in its employ.

While technology may outpace standard means of oversight, the basic premise with which employees are imbued will remain constant: to preserve and protect. I fear a “brain drain” of technical experts who become disillusioned by the hammering from Congress and editorial attacks about “violations.”

The agency is the finest intelligence force of its kind, and its achievements are the stuff of legend (even if many are highly classified). While taking the organization apart, let us recognize the splendid workforce and remember why it was created in the first place.

Transparency is a delicate balancing act. It must be handled with foresight and prudence. Too little may lead to overextending authorities (always with honorable intentions). Too much will adversely affect morale and impair the effectiveness so carefully constructed and continually refined. Don’t pull down the house while examining its foundations.

Bernard G. Elliker, Laurel

The writer was chief of the operations intelligence staff at the National Security Agency when he retired in 1997.