Keith Alexander Needs a Hug


One year ago today, an article popped up on the website of the U.S. edition of the Guardian: “NSA Collecting Phone Records of Millions of Verizon Customers Daily.” It was a blockbuster story that would presage a year of drip-drip leaks about the inner workings of the National Security Agency. Almost immediately, a toxic political narrative was born (or, perhaps more accurately, pushed by Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald): The NSA was an agency out of control, the Constitution was being ripped to shreds, and America was on the path to becoming an Orwellian surveillance state.

Today this narrative remains dominant, even if it also remains an exaggeration. A strange pair of political bedfellows has bolstered it: libertarians and liberals. The former is not surprising. Fearing the concentration of government power is a basic ideological premise of libertarianism. The reaction of liberals was something else. While there has been a long-standing wariness on the left toward law enforcement and the national security state, writ large, liberals have traditionally been more trusting of government institutions. Yet many of the left’s loudest voices, from the New York Times editorial page (which famously called for Snowden to receive clemency) to the Nation, from a host of liberal commentators to the ACLU, from civil liberties groups to Internet privacy organizations, have adopted this narrative.

But rather than fearing the NSA and its intelligence-gathering programs, liberals should be embracing it. For all its faults — and the NSA, like any government institution, is far from perfect — the kind of signals intelligence gathering (SIGINT) done by the NSA..

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