Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

Opinion

June 18, 2013

Stop the NSA grandstanding

In the June 18 edition of The Wall Street Journal, Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), discussed the mischaracterizations of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) counterterrorism programs and the consequences of damaging intelligence leaks:

Last week, Edward Snowden, a National Security Agency contractor, attempted to make a political point by leaking several documents that have seriously harmed America's ability to identify and respond to terrorist threats. As damaging as Mr. Snowden's disclosures are to public safety, I am also troubled by the decision of several members of Congress to mischaracterize this leak to advance their personal and political agendas.

I don't blame citizens for their concern about these secretive NSA programs. Personal privacy and civil liberties are important to all Americans and are protected by the Constitution. Unfortunately, the Obama administration—especially of late—has fueled people's distrust of government, which has made the reaction to Mr. Snowden's leak far worse.

The recent IRS scandal, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's contradictory statements regarding his role in the Justice Department's investigations into journalists, and the administration's inadequate and inconsistent responses to the attacks on our diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, are just a few examples of how the Obama administration has widened the trust deficit plaguing the country.

Though it is more difficult to quantify than the fiscal deficit, the trust deficit is just as profound, providing plenty of reason for many Americans to believe reports about the NSA's intrusiveness in their private lives. Fortunately, the reports are almost uniformly distorted or false.

Following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the American people demanded that the intelligence community be able to "connect the dots" to prevent terrorist attacks. Had the recently revealed programs been available to the NSA before 9/11, we likely could have identified some or all of the hijackers before they murdered thousands.

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