, Gloucester, MA

July 15, 2013

Letter: Nothing surprising about NSA info project

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

There has been something almost comical about the media circus surrounding young Edward Snowden, the alleged leaker of the National Security Agency’s “secret” domestic surveillance program.

The big “secret” Snowden is accused of exposing really wasn’t all that “secret,” at least not to anyone who’s been paying attention over the last 10 years. Since 9-11, there have been numerous reports and revelations about the government’s monitoring of cell phone and on-line communications.

A year or two after 9-11, for example, it was revealed the government had gained access to the records of the nation’s cell phone companies and that those companies had cooperated with the government’s actions.

We have long known that the use of certain words in phone calls and e-mail transmissions can serve as red flags that prompt the government to investigate a person simply for using such language. Not long after 9-11, Donald Rumsfeld set out to create a new domestic intelligence gathering unit to be housed in the Pentagon — under his direct control.

The new unit was to be called the Office of Total Information Awareness — TIA for short. The proposed mission of TIA was to compile a dossier on every single American citizen. Those files would have included, among other things, our medical, financial/credit, legal, and foreign travel histories. When news of the proposed new domestic intelligence gathering unit and its mission broke, there was an uproar and we were told the plans were scrapped. But anyone who believes those plans were actually scrapped is beyond naïve.

Ordinary Americans will likely never know whether Snowden’s revelations really damaged national security. But one thing is clear, he is being used as a political football by both the left and the right.

The right has been using Snowden’s revelations as evidence of the Obama administration’s tyrannical tendencies; they neglect to mention that they praised the same types of practices and policies as patriotic and necessary to protect the nation when they were being overseen by the Bush administration.

The left seems unable to criticize Barack Obama for perpetuating the same Bush era policies he and they so self righteously condemned just a few short years ago.

Edward Snowden broke the oath he took when he went to work for a company that handles sensitive and classified government materials. He needs to be held accountable for that. But portraying him as the gravest threat to the nation since Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, or Sacco and Vanzetti, is nonsensical.

When all is said and done, anyone who’s been paying any attention at all knows that the government has been doing what Snowden “exposed” for a very, very long time, and probably is only going to do more of it in the future — whether a Democrat, Republican, liberal, or conservative sits in the Oval Office.