A Letter to the Editor

The NSA conducts surveillance.  The New York Times commits treason.  Which is worse?

In publishing what can only be described as a paid advertisement–Leonard H. Schrank and Juan C. Zarate’s, “Data Mining, Without Big Brother,”–the Times dragged itself through the gutter just to sell papers.

In their July 2, 2013 editorial, Schrank and Zarate abused the responsibility the national spotlight demands.  Their piece informed us that they worked on a program—Swift—that has no practical correlation to the NSA’s surveillance program beyond the quite obvious fact that they both work with big data.  To a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  The Times should be ashamed for printing this.

Schrank and Zarate conclude, “Ultimately, the Obama administration needs to demonstrate that the programs are not only valuable and legal, but also that the government’s use of that data can be constrained and verified.”  In other words, they conclude that the Obama administration must prove a negative.  With all their schooling, professional accomplishment, and first-hand experience deterring terrorism, their big conclusion is a logical fallacy?  Not even President Obama’s rhetorical abilities can overcome their logical error and prove someone is not doing something.

Let’s switch gears for a moment.  What is the problem in this whole Snowden story?  The problem is that an NSA employee couldn’t keep a secret.  Are we or are we not a country who understands the value of secrecy when it comes to security?  If Americans want to keep “winning”, we need to be sure our enemies do not know our capabilities.  Thanks to Edward Snowden, they just became more aware.  We should be asking, “What was he thinking?”

The elementary lesson Snowden somehow missed, the truth that the New York Times allowed itself to be distracted from, is that for secrets to work they must be kept secret.  A secret’s power is derived from the requirement that it remains secret.

The Times, in running this editorial, demonstrated either that it never took an undergraduate course in logic, or that like Snowden, it too has committed an act of treason.

When Jeffrey Wigand revealed that Brown and Williamson knowingly included carcinogenic additives to boost the nicotine in cigarettes, it was a clear case of acting in good faith to better inform the public about a commercial product.  On the other hand, revealing one method an agency charged with national security uses to accomplish its mission is a clear case of treachery.  Since not everyone is able to immediately discern the distinction, an established publication such as The New York Times decidedly has the responsibility to publish writers who can.

Rather than publish a distracting paid advertisement for Swift, the Times should publish a case study on Edward Snowden.  Publish the study because in every failure there is a lesson.  We need to learn the events of his life which led him to the conclusion that revealing national security secrets is somehow in the best interest of national security.  Our freedom depends on it.

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