Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 29, 2014

Does the NSA Make Us Less Safe?

Weighing the policy and national security implications of the NSA’s strict adherence to secrecy in its operations, Conor Friedersdorf makes a compelling argument that it could make us less safe.

Recognizing that the need for NSA surveillance is “vital” given the rise of smaller, more frequent terrorist attacks, Friedersdorf argues that a policy of secrecy is not the answer:

“This style of argument should not be allowed to carry the day in America, because if it does, the national security state will cease to be rigorous or accountable in any way.”

“Unfortunately, the secrecy that surrounds national security policy makes it impossible to rigorously test how effective NSA surveillance has been. National security officials would have us believe that this secrecy is itself needed to keep us safe. What cannot be denied is that secrecy facilitates the ability of national security bureaucrats to hide it when the policies they champion are working very poorly. If unprecedented NSA surveillance coincides with a rash of small terrorist attacks on the American homeland, the proper response is not to double down. It is to figure out why the counterterrorism policy we’ve pursued for the last ten years has failed, to fire the people responsible, and to try new policies.”

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