Do you trust this government to wield virtually unchecked power?

June 14, 2013

Letter writer David Liddle apparently wishes to persuade us to abandon the Constitution's Fourth Amendment in our quest for an elusive guarantee of security ("Don't worry: The NSA isn't interested in you," June 12).

In doing so, however, he rejects a founding principle of our nation — checks on the power of government over individuals. Moreover, he expresses a naive belief that the overarching powers ceded to government will not be abused.

Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower responsible for leaking news of the surveillance program's existence, has said that it does not really work the way the government describes. Even though the content of citizens' communications supposedly are not routinely collected and stored, in fact security contractors like Mr. Snowden can listen to and view such communications at will.

Here are some of the real-world dangers of the NSA contracting with private corporations to collect and analyze data about all our communications:

There are millions of people with security clearance and hundreds of thousands who may have the kind of access to classified information that Mr. Snowden had. Among them there inevitably will be at least some stalkers, angry spouses, political partisans, racists and obsessive-compulsives who abuse their positions.

Moreover, it must be very tempting for corporations with this type of access to spy on their competitors or on government agencies that might award them lucrative contracts.

The very corporate executives who run companies like Booz Allen Hamilton make big campaign contributions, serve at the highest levels of the national security apparatus, then cycle back to make millions in the private sector. They are unlikely to stop the gravy train.

Even if you trust the Obama administration, you have to ask yourself whether you would be willing to trust every future administration with this kind of unchecked power.

Charlie Cooper, Baltimore

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