So-called NSA scandal a cause for concern — but not the bombshell it’s been made out to be
As I’ve opined here on several occasions in recent days, there’s been a lot of overreaction from both the left and right of the political spectrum to revelations concerning surveillance programs conducted by the National Security Agency.
The problem with this “scandal” is basically two-fold: 1) There’s been too much scare-mongering about it, and 2) The details have been badly misreported by certain media.
On that latter point, Bob Cesca of the Daily Banter has much to say HERE:
It turns out, the NSA PRISM story isn’t quite the bombshell that everyone said it was. Yes, there continues to be a serious cause for concern when it comes to government spying and overreach with its counter-terrorism efforts. But the reporting from Glenn Greewald and the Washington Post has been shoddy and misleading.
We shouldn’t shrug off our weakened privacy as a merely a side effect of the digital age, either. We ought to fight to preserve as much of our personal information as possible. So if there’s any benefit to the NSA news, it’s to serve as a reminder that, yes, the government is serious about attaining information in its war on terrorism and that we should be aware of what’s going on — checking it when it gets out of control.
But with new contravening information emerging since the original stories were posted by Greenwald and the Washington Post, it’s clear that the reporting by each news outlet was filled with possibly agenda-driven speculation and key inaccuracies…
Canonizing bad reporting as a means of inciting a debate is as bad as no debate at all. Attachment to empirical reality must remain a central trait of the left, otherwise the progressive movement is no better than the non-reality based propagandists on the right who will say and do anything to further the conservative agenda. So perhaps some positive changes on domestic spying are eventually achieved, but at what cost? Greenwald, who doesn’t really care about “left and right,” isn’t concerned with anything other than his personal agenda and clearly he’s willing to do whatever it takes in pursuit of those goals. Specifics presently.
It’s a shame because there’s a way to have this debate without selling out to misinformation. Instead, we appear to be careening way off the empirical rails into hysterical, kneejerk acceptance of half-assed information.
Cesca goes on to explain in considerable detail the problems with the story, and then adds this:
To summarize, yes, the NSA routinely requests information from the tech giants. But the NSA doesn’t have “direct access” to servers nor is it randomly collecting information about you personally. Yet rending of garments and general apoplexy has ruled the day, complete with predictable invective about the president being “worse than Bush” and that anyone who reported on the new information debunking the initial report was and is an Obamabot apologist.
Speaking for myself on that front, I’m not apologizing for anyone. I’m merely noting that Greenwald and the Washington Post reported inaccurate information.
Meanwhile, Ed Bott of ZDNET similarly parses the Washington Post’s coverage of the scandal in great detail and FINDS IT WANTING:
On Thursday, June 6, the Washington Post published a bombshell of a story, alleging that nine giants of the tech industry had “knowingly participated” in a widespread program by the United States National Security Agency (NSA).
One day later, with no acknowledgment except for a change in the timestamp, the Post revised the story, backing down from sensational claims it made originally. But the damage was already done.
The primary author of the story, Barton Gellman, is a Pulitzer Prize winner, and the Washington Post has a history in investigative journalism that goes back to Watergate and All the President’s Men. On a roster of journalistic failures, this one has to rank near the very top.
Declan McCullagh of CNET examined the Washington Post story independently and concluded that the Post story was wrong.
Those reports are incorrect and appear to be based on a misreading of a leaked Powerpoint document, according to a former government official who is intimately familiar with this process of data acquisition and spoke today on condition of anonymity.
“It’s not as described in the histrionics in the Washington Post or the Guardian,” the person said. “None of it’s true. It’s a very formalized legal process that companies are obliged to do.”
The real story appears to be much less controversial than the original alarming accusations. All of the companies involved have established legal procedures to respond to warrants from a law enforcement agency or a court. None of them appear to be participating with widespread surveillance.