NSA chooses the wrong question

Important piece in ComputerWorld quoting General Keith Alexander, director of the NSA.

  • The NSA’s bulk collection of U.S. telephone records is the “least intrusive” way to track suspected terrorists’ communications with people in the U.S., General Keith Alexander said, defending the NSA’s mass data collection and surveillance programs to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • “If we can come up with a better way, we ought to put it on the table and argue our way through it,” Alexander said. “There is no other way that we know of to connect the dots.”

Clever technique to direct the questioning where he wants it to go. But…

That isn’t where I’d begin the questioning. And I don’t have any questions for a specific US general, rather for the US in general.

Do we want to trade off freedom for security? Because that’s what we’re giving up. Then, if we decide we’d forgo the freedom, and that has to be more than a majority that chooses it, then we can talk about what the best methods are to gather data.

We never had the first discussion. We never decided to take the kinds of risks the NSA is taking, in secret, on our behalf (supposedly) with our freedom.

BTW, I’m no expert, but I don’t think the Constitution gives us the option to forego freedom. Which is wise, because how could we decide to do it? Certainly someone would object.

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About Dave Winer

Dave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.
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