December 17, 2013

SPYING: Tone-Deaf At The Listening Post. “The NSA’s biggest strategic communications problem, however, is that they’ve been so walled off from the American body politic that they have no idea when they’re saying things that sound tone-deaf. Like expats returning from a long overseas tour, NSA staffers don’t quite comprehend how much perceptions of the agency have changed. The NSA stresses in its mission statement and corporate culture that it “protects privacy rights.” Indeed, there were faded banners proclaiming that goal in our briefing room. Of course, NSAers see this as protecting Americans from foreign cyber-intrusions. In a post-Snowden era, however, it’s impossible to read that statement without suppressing a laugh.”

The NSA’s biggest problem is that they don’t exist in a vacuum, but in the context of a massive wave of politicization and abuse of power in numerous other government agencies, from the IRS, to the Department of Justice and FBI, to the EPA. That being the case, their calls for trust fall on much more skeptical ears. Maybe they’re more resistant to politicization than other agencies. But maybe they’re not, and their immense power in the context of, say, a presidential campaign, is worrisome.