Tom Coburn is defending the NSA surveillance…
10:31 AM EDT on June 12, 2013
We still haven't touched on the recent NSA controversy on this website. This is primarily because:
A) I rarely talk about national political issues unless Derplahomans are involved
B) I honestly don't know where I stand on everything
The whole balance between security and privacy and trust in our government is a complex thing to figure out. Activists on both sides can make a compelling case either for government surveillance or against it. Even better than the actual arguments, though, are the counter arguments. Regardless of what anyone says or how they feel about the issue, you can respond with a "Yeah, but...". From my experiences dealing with women, Internet trolls and Braum's employees, a "Yeah, but..." is a compelling way to win any argument, and it's rare for people on different sides of a divisive issue to be able to use it effectively.
For example, some guy at work can give you a 20-minute spiel about how the government surveillance programs only target terrorists and explain how the data collected is essentially useless, but you can then respond with a "Yeah, but...where's it going to stop. We can't live in a police state." After you say that, the conversation will be over and you can get back to looking at the Chive. It goes the other way, too. You can convincingly go on and on about our right to privacy, but once someone says, "Yeah, but...we have to make sacrifices for security. If you're not doing anything wrong, you don't have to worry about being caught." After someone says that, you kind of feel like a selfish prick.
All that being said, I'm now a little bit closer to making up my mind on the topic. And it's all thanks to Dr. Tom Coburn. He recently spoke out in favor of government snooping.
National security programs that collect phone and Internet data are legal, and the country is significantly more vulnerable to attack since the programs were exposed, Sen. Tom Coburn said Tuesday.
Coburn, R-Muskogee, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Americans would be proud and amazed by the work being done by the National Security Administration and would have no concerns that their civil liberties were being violated.
The NSA, he said, “is one of the few areas where the government does it right — it has great leadership and great internal controls.”
Moreover, he said, the congressional intelligence committees conduct rigorous oversight of the nation's spy work to ensure it's done within the parameters of the law.
Coburn's comments are significant because of his reputation as an absolutist when it comes to the U.S. Constitution — he carries a copy in his pocket and quotes from it regularly — and because of his oft-stated distrust of the government.
“Nobody protects the Bill of Rights more than I do,” Coburn said in an interview...
The programs have stopped numerous terrorist acts, Coburn said, and the exposure in the past week will allow terrorists to change the way they communicate to avoid detection.
“Here's the option: lots more successful attacks, not just here but around the world,” Coburn said.
Coburn acknowledged the legitimacy of fears that revelations last week about data collection may only be the tip of the iceberg and that government agencies may not always adhere to the law or the U.S. Constitution.
Still, he said, the surveillance systems used by the intelligence agencies require constant oversight by the FISA court.
Say what you want about Tom Coburn and some of his policies, but he's much closer to being a libertarian than you and I will probably ever be. He hates the Federal Government, can go against the grain and isn't afraid to speak his opinion. If he thought the government violated our rights, he'd say so. He's also become a lot more reasonable over the past few years. During the debt ceiling and fiscal cliff talks, he was one of the few Republicans to admit that revenues would have to be raised to go along with spending cuts.
This is still Tom Coburn we're talking about. He still has some Derp in him. He is the same guy who said "I favor the death penalty for abortionists and other people who take life." He also claimed "lesbianism is so rampant in some of the schools in southeast Oklahoma that they'll only let one girl go to the bathroom." If some guy is going to go against his libertarian roots and support a shady and illegal government surveillance program over the American people, it would probably be the guy who wants to kill doctors and is scared of lesbians. Also, can you really trust Tom Coburn? He seems honest and trustworthy in a anti-government crusader type of way, but he also tried to cover up the Ensign scandal.
Regardless of all that, I'm going to cautiously trust the old curmudgeon on this one. If he's fine with the government collecting data on our phone calls and emails, doesn't think the government is violating our civil liberties, and really thinks the snooping helps protect us from terror threats, then I guess I am, too... just as long as they don't look into all those late night phone calls to Emily Sutton. That would be awkward.
p.s. - I look forward to reading your "Yeah buts..." in the comments.
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