Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Kessler: FBI Break-In Undercuts NSA Critics

Ronald Kessler, veteran journalist and author of The Secrets of the FBI, offers a good piece in the Washington Times on the differences between the FBI's past abuses and NSA's current surveillance programs.

Now that the burglars have come forward, critics of the National Security Agency surveillance programs have pounced on the 1971 Pennsylvania break-in that unearthed FBI abuses to bolster their argument that contractor Edward Snowden did a public service by publicly revealing NSA surveillance methods.

The truth is quite the opposite.

The FBI documents stolen from the bureau's resident agency in Media, Pa., opened a window on real abuses at a time when members of Congress not only did not conduct oversight of intelligence agencies, but affirmatively did not want to know what those agencies were doing.

Together with documents later obtained by NBC correspondent Carl Stern, the material painted a picture of an FBI that was conducting surveillance of Americans to stifle political dissent. Instead of using the existing laws to prosecute violators, the FBI engaged in a range of improper or illegal acts to harass targets.

... The FBI abuses led to reforms that included congressional oversight. Today, not only the House and Senate intelligence committees, but the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court scrutinize NSA and FBI surveillance programs.

The top four members of the intelligence committees have issued a bipartisan statement affirming that the NSA’s program to collect telephone metadata of Americans is a “valuable analytical tool” that allows the intelligence community to “connect the dots on emerging or current terrorist threats directed against Americans in the U.S.”

... In contrast to the FBI's activities under Hoover, no abuse — meaning actions taken for political or illegal reasons — has been found in the NSA programs. Critics say they could be abused.

So could any law enforcement action. To follow the critics’ logic, police officers and FBI agents should not carry weapons because they could potentially use them improperly.

... Those who fall for such spin to justify curtailing NSA surveillance programs will have only themselves to blame if the government is unable to connect the dots to stop the next attack, which could wipe out millions of Americans with biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Note: I interviewed Ronald Kessler for Counterterrorism magazine.

You can read the interview via the below link:

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