June 13, 2013

NSA’s PRISM: We’re Missing More Than Just Transparency

In light of the National Security Agency’s Prism program being called into public view from the dark crevices of classified information, government secrets, and other inherently non-transparent activities, I wanted to discuss a few points and introduce some thought on the matter. The purpose of this article is to discuss some commonly held views on the issue, as well as to introduce some talking points identifying the true issues at stake: privacy, security, and politics.

The Power of Failure?

Arguments have been made that if the NSA Prism program – and countless others the public will never know about due to their criticality to national security, protection of sources and methods, etc. – were so top-notch, the US wouldn’t have experienced recent terror attacks like those that struck in Boston, Detroit (underwear bomber), or Fort Hood (to name a few).

That argument warrants further examination. What about the countless other terror attacks that have been identified and thwarted prior to execution? You’re thinking, “good question. Surely there must have been others. Why don’t we know more? Is the government withholding information from us?” Yes and no. On one hand, the government is continuously conducting intelligence operations in conjunction with a number of assets purposed with finding, fixing, tracking, targeting, engaging, and assessing terror threats across the globe. The inherently dangerous and sensitive nature of these operations is enough to warrant tight lips, little media attention, and limited public knowledge of successful missions. On the other hand, the government’s ability to conduct these operations comes with a price: public transparency.

You Win Some, You Lose Some

Let’s look at a few examples that demonstrate this situation. In the Intelligence Community and policy-making arenas, the failures are known to all and the successes only to a few. Research a few major intelligence failures we’ve experienced in recent U.S. history alone: Pearl Harbor, the Bay of Pigs, the Tet Offensive, the collapse of the USSR, 9/11, or Benghazi (don’t even get me started on this one). In all of these events, the points of failure in various levels of leadership, decision-making, and intelligence-information fusion was not properly identified, leading to massive events that were embarrassing and devastating for all parties involved, namely the United States.


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About the Author

is a junior active duty officer working ground intel and supporting an airborne-capable unit. Not SOF, just a regular guy. He holds a BS in Political Science with a German minor from a small engineering school in Colorado, where he loves the adventure found in the mountains. He strongly advocates admitting nothing, denying everything, and making counter-accusations. Nothing here is written in an official capacity or represents the positions of the USG; all work is his personal opinion alone. NFQ

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  • Yakety

    14 Charlie Are you suggesting the power of voting in calling for transparency, oversight and accountability, or are there other legal means?? Thanks in advance for your response and Thank You for your "regular guy" service.

  • 14charlie

    Txazz I was perfectly happy this Saturday morning until I had the misfortune of watching this video.  I'm now off to the gym in a fit of unquenchable rage.

  • Txazz

    Video: College students know more about Kardashian baby than NSA surveillance   Jun. 21, 2013 11:56am http://www.theblaze.com/author/mjessup/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZlLR4WgIcw&feature=player_embedded

  • 14charlie

    Eric Pope Thanks for the feedback!  I agree with you that we should have a reasonable expectation of privacy as well.  I looked into it and found this gem.  Not as promising as I had hoped! http://www.wired.com/opinion/2013/06/how-ridiculous-is-it-that-email-but-not-mail-has-been-left-out-of-privacy-laws/

  • Eric Pope

    Tango9 linwood I wouldnt be suprised if he were involved in a nasty basket weaving while snowboarding in the Alps type accident in a year or two...