How Nefarious Is The NSA?

by Patrick Appel

Ambinder rattles off reasons to be concerned about the NSA scandal. First on his list:

The NSA is the most powerful single institution in the world. It can collect more information, more quickly, and cause action from that information, more efficiently than any company, country or intelligence entity. Even if no one accused the NSA of doing anything wrong, it is the interest of a freedom-seeking society to layer in as much transparency as possible for no other reason than that there is really no historical precedent for an organization that large with that much power not abusing it, whether incidentally or deliberately.

In a separate post, he defends the NSA on various counts:

It is eye-raising to base one’s objection to NSA’s self-reporting on the idea that there is no way to independently check what the NSA says. Well, of course. There is a logical problem here because someone or some entity will be at the bottom of the chain. It has always been difficult to establish transparent legal and formal mechanisms to make sure that agencies that secretly collect secrets don’t abuse their power. But it is easier now than it has ever been. The evidence suggests that NSA has MORE checks on its power now than ever before.