The National Security Agency is immune to budget cuts. It is therefore beyond reform. Congress pays it $52.6 billion a year to do whatever it wants.
The only reason we know what the NSA’s budget is, is because Edward Snowden leaked it. There will be no further leaks.
Eight major Internet firms, including Google, Apple, and Microsoft, have sent a letter of protest to Congress. It will have no effect on the NSA’s budget. If it does not lead to a budget cut, the letter will have no effect. The only way to change a bureaucracy is to cut its budget.
The reason why the eight companies are protesting is because of Edward Snowden’s leaks. Snowden’s leaks were crucial to exposing what the NSA is doing. We now know far more about the world we live in. But this not going to change until the NSA’s budget is cut. But the NSA’s budget is not a matter of public record any more. There was only one “Snowden moment.”
Still, it is nice that the NSA is being exposed, not because anything will come of this, but because nothing will come of it. The public is learning that Congress is just as impotent as people have suspected. They will learn that nothing changes in Washington that would in any way restore liberty.
The longer that the protests go on, the better. Voters need to learn that they are permanent victims of the Washington bureaucracy for as long as Congress can extract wealth from citizens, low-interest loans from investors, and fiat money from the Federal Reserve System.
Here is a copy of the joint letter.
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Today AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo joined together to propose principles for reforming government surveillance laws and practices. The companies also urged the President and the United States Congress to take the lead on reform with an open letter that reads:
Dear Mr. President and Members of Congress,
We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide. The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual–rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for change.
For our part, we are focused on keeping users’ data secure–deploying the latest encryption technology to prevent unauthorized surveillance on our networks, and by pushing back on government requests to ensure that they are legal and reasonable in scope.
We urge the US to take the lead and make reforms that ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent and subject to independent oversight. To see the full set of principles we support, visit www.reformgovernmentsurveillance.com.
Company executives also provided statements on the principles of reform:
“AOL is committed to preserving the privacy of our customers’ information, while respecting the right of governments to request information on specific users for lawful purposes. AOL is proud to unite with other leading Internet companies to advocate on behalf of our consumers,” said Tim Armstrong, Chairman and CEO, AOL.
“Reports about government surveillance have shown there is a real need for greater disclosure and new limits on how governments collect information. The U.S. Government should take this opportunity to lead this reform effort and make things right.” - Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook
“The security of users’ data is critical, which is why we’ve invested so much in encryption and fight for transparency around government requests for information. This is undermined by the apparent wholesale collection of data, in secret and without independent oversight, by many governments around the world. It’s time for reform and we urge the US government to lead the way.” - Larry Page, CEO, Google
“These principles embody Linkedin’s fundamental commitment to transparency and ensuring appropriate government practices that are respectful of our members’ expectations.” - Erika Rottenberg, General Counsel, LinkedIn
“People won’t use technology they don’t trust. Governments have put this trust at risk, and governments need to help restore it.” – Brad Smith, General Counsel and Executive Vice President, Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft
“Twitter is committed to defending and protecting the voice of our users. Unchecked, undisclosed government surveillance inhibits the free flow of information and restricts their voice. The principles we advance today would reform the current system to appropriately balance the needs of security and privacy while safeguarding the essential human right of free expression.” - Dick Costolo, CEO, Twitter
“Protecting the privacy of our users is incredibly important to Yahoo. Recent revelations about government surveillance activities have shaken the trust of our users, and it is time for the United States government to act to restore the confidence of citizens around the world. Today we join our colleagues in the tech industry calling on the United States Congress to change surveillance laws in order to ensure transparency and accountability for government actions.” - Marissa Mayer, CEO, Yahoo.