Archived Story

Editorial: Follow through on the NSA

Published 11:12am Wednesday, January 22, 2014

President Barack Obama announced significant curbs to government spying on U.S. citizens on Friday, but it remains to be seen just how effective the president’s declaration will be.

Obama announced that National Security Agency intelligence gathering on U.S. residents would be scaled back, specifically NSA access to phone records. The president would require court approval each time security analysts try to access phone records, and would prohibit spying on international leaders.

Yet the president’s words seem calculated to alleviate American anger about having their privacy invaded by government agencies. What’s more, he didn’t follow through on several recommendations by a White House advisory panel concerning the NSA’s spying practices.

Yet it will take a lot more than a president’s speech to successfully reform a government agency like the NSA. There’s no guarantee spies won’t continue their invasive intelligence practices on U.S. citizens — not to mention we still don’t know the full extent of how deeply those practices affect regular U.S. residents. What’s more, any government agency forced to change usually does so in a slow, laborious manner.

Despite having laws in place to protect the privacy of American people, such as the Fourth Amendment, spying on Americans happened anyway, thanks to questionable, roundabout interpretations of those laws.

We are disappointed that the president and federal officials aren’t doing more to curb the NSA’s domestic spying program. We understand the NSA’s vital job is to protect national security, but the spying scandals rocking the government won’t go away unless serious reform is executed, and not just mentioned in a speech. Whether any of us have privacy in the digital age is topic for another column — for now, we remain skeptical the necessary NSA reforms will take place, and we hope the Obama administration follows through and goes beyond what the president promised last week.

— Austin Daily Herald, Jan. 21