The NSA Domestic Spying Scandal: Editorial Extracts

As it’s been more than a month since the first of Edward Snowden’s revelations were made public, I thought it would be interesting to chronicle editorial board reaction from around the country, along with some views of other key commentators or players in this drama.

Note that this list is probably not exhaustive and excludes the papers that were so far-right leaning that one cannot consider their positions to be grounded in anything approaching reality. Additionally, several of the ed boards cited here were not necessarily fans of Snowden. What was striking to me was that even among those ed boards there was a recognition that the country cannot use the excuse of Snowden’s actions to dismiss the implications of his revelations.

The sampling:

“What FISA does is not adjudication, but approval. This works just fine when it deals with individual applications for warrants, but the 2008 amendment has turned the FISA court into [an] administrative agency making rules for others to follow. It is not the bailiwick of judges to make policy. This process needs an adversary.” (Guardian, 7/9/13)

Former FISA Court Judge James Robertson

“The National Security Agency’s recently revealed surveillance programs undermine the purpose of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was established to prevent this kind of overreach. They violate the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure. And they underscore the dangers of growing executive power.” (WP, 6/12/13)

Laura K Donohue, Esq.
Georgetown Center on National Security & the Law

“We may never know all the details of the mass surveillance programs, but we know this: The administration has justified them through abuse of language, intentional evasion of statutory protections, secret, unreviewable investigative procedures and constitutional arguments that make a mockery of the government’s professed concern with protecting Americans’ privacy. It’s time to call the N.S.A.’s mass surveillance programs what they are: criminal.” (NYT, 6/27/13)

Jennifer Granick, Esq.
Director of Civil Liberties
Stanford Center for Internet & Society

Christopher Sprigman, Esq.
New York University Law School

“When judicial secrecy is coupled with a one-sided presentation of the issues, the result is a court whose reach is expanding far beyond its original mandate and without any substantive check. This is a perversion of the American justice system, and it is not necessary.” (NYT, 7/8/13)

NYT Editorial Board

“If history shows anything, it’s that once government has the power to sweep up data, the power is used, and often abused.” (USA Today, 6/18/13)

USA Today ed board

“Gathering and storing the telephone data of potentially all Americans is an unprecedented assault on privacy. There is no legitimate legal basis for the government possessing this much revealing information, even if the government only examines a tiny fraction.” (Tampa Bay Times, 7/5/13)

Tampa Bay Times ed board

“In a May 2006 editorial, this newspaper said the NSA’s collecting of Americans’ phone records should stop immediately. Seven years later, we still think so, even if the House speaker doesn’t.” (Northwest Florida Daily News, 6/17/13)

Northwest Florida Daily News ed board

“What started out as a sweep for phone and internet data could just as easily have been expanded to indiscriminately collect medical, library, banking or other records most folks consider to be their own business, save for the providers involved…the NSA, granted unprecedented powers under the Patriot Act, could if unchecked undermine democracy.” (Portland Oregonian, 6/30/13)

Oregonian ed board

“Congress should review the Patriot Act with an eye to imposing tighter constraints on the ability of government to use it for broad fishing expeditions into citizens’ everyday communications.” (Cleveland Plain dealer, 6/28/13)

Plain Dealer ed board

“The National Security Agency leaker did indeed alert Americans to the fact that the government was tracking phone records in this country. He alerted the world to the fact that President Obama’s promise of transparency and openness was hardly truthful. Perhaps most importantly, the former intelligence worker has ignited a spirited debate about how much privacy Americans are willing to sacrifice in the name of security.” (Florida Sun-Sentinel, 6/26/13)

Sun-Sentinel ed board

“Better late than never, Congress and the public are asking searching questions about how the war on terrorism is affecting Americans’ privacy — and the government is beginning to provide detailed answers. Whatever one thinks of Snowden or his motives, his disclosures brought us to this moment.” (LA Times, 6/23/13)

 Los Angeles Times ed board

“The magnitude of this surveillance program has put this nation at a crossroads: Do we accept it – and hope and trust it is never used in deleterious ways – or do we fight to reclaim the Fourth Amendment’s principles of government restraint and our right to be left alone? Generations from now, if American history books portray Snowden as a traitor who was tried and convicted of treason, our children and grandchildren will be living in a country of our founding fathers’ nightmare.” SF Chronicle, 6/20/13)

San Francisco Chronicle ed board

“The Patriot Act is too broad as it is, and any stretching of it — which this program clearly is — demands a public airing as to its constitutionality.” (Baltimore Sun, 6/13/13)

Baltimore Sun ed board

“If what is “lawful” isn’t right or is overly broad, this is reason enough to revisit the Patriot Act and any other post 9/11 legislation allowing surveillance that redefines who we are – in a way that could have been scripted by the terrorists.” (San Antonio Express-News, 6/12/13)

San Antonio Express-News ed board

“This newspaper’s skepticism about the NSA efforts stems from the fact that the story seems to shift every day, with new allegations, denials and warnings, all of which have done little to illuminate and much to obfuscate….In a world of hazy but potentially deadly threats, it remains necessary to assure the appropriate balance between the values of national security and due process. In thwarting those threats, the government must not neglect the very principles we are fighting to preserve.”  (Dallas Morning News, 6/11/13)

Dallas Morning News ed board

“In a world of hazy but potentially deadly threats, it remains necessary to assure the appropriate balance between the values of national security and due process. In thwarting those threats, the government must not neglect the very principles we are fighting to preserve.” (Newsday, 6/11/13)

Newsday ed board

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