U.S. security: only as strong as its weakest leak

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I realize that good security may compromise my privacy, but the peace and safety of my home and family are more important. The uncomfortable areas in the surveillance-vs.-privacy debate are the boundary lines: Who decides how many records to seize, which people to follow, what emails to read? There will never be clear lines. The best to hope for is to elect and hire responsible people who will create checks and balances within the government. We citizens are in the unfortunate position of having to trust security experts to do the right thing on our behalf, gathering only appropriate information and using it in the interest of public safety.

Clearly, Edward Snowden does not fit that job description.

The depth and details of our government’s surveillance programs have, of course, remained a secret until now. That seems obvious and necessary. To know the details is to find a way through the electronic fences and technological gates. As bitter experience has demonstrated, the bad guys only have to be right once. We and our government security programs have to be right and tight all the time.

I understand the risks involved in allowing our government to look into our lives, and I feel deep concern about the possibility of elected officials or agencies using private information for political or private gain. But 9/11 changed all the rules. We can’t relax surveillance; there are too many people committed to fanatical ideals and violent methods, too many people dedicated to our destruction.

Security agencies must do their jobs behind a veil of secrecy. Congress and the public should be informed about anything that would not compromise security. By definition, that means there will never be complete government transparency. It’s a lousy deal, but the only deal that makes sense.

As for Snowden, who speaks as if he has been anointed and appointed savior of our democracy, I think he should be charged and tried for his actions, for violating the oaths he took and for releasing secret information that may give aid to our enemies.
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