Time to hold the NSA accountable ´è_

Earlier this year, not many Americans knew much about the National Security Agency (NSA), Edward J. Snowden was just another face in the crowd, and no one had to think twice about their privacy when talking on the phone.

Today, the NSA’s public image is a disaster, many all over the world regard Snowden as a hero, and people are constantly concerned about their privacy – or lack thereof.

Whether Snowden is thought of as a hero or as a villain, one thing is clear: over the past few years the NSA worked without the watchdog role of the press. Indeed, they were held accountable to no one but themselves and the government.

Ultimately, the general public is so bogged down with the details of branding Snowden that they are failing to see the bigger picture involved with this scandal. This failure hides what is truly at stake: the future of the NSA and the larger implications for our country. Edwin C. Yohnka, the director of communications and public policy for the American Civil Liberties Union, credits the government for the release of information, as they are the ones who put Snowden into a situation in which he felt he had to share secret government activities. However, she realizes that this issue is bigger than just Snowden and his motives.

How can we discuss and debate issues such as this surveillance program if we don’t even know that they exist? People might question Snowden’s motives, personal life and history, but Yohnka sees the larger implications of this situation.

“At some core point, it’s not about just him; it’s about the way in which the government has behaved over these last several years and I fear we really lost sight of this other sort of larger picture,” Yohnka said.

Regardless of what Snowden’s intentions were, the information he stole is now open to the public and the NSA has been left to pick up the pieces, knowing that they may never be able to reassemble their image as a respectable institution. In the eyes of NSA Director Keith B. Alexander, the agency adhered to the law during the past years; however, according to the New York Times, the NSA’s current dialogue with the public is a disaster. The Times also reported that Alexander is trying to counter the highly negative portrayal of the NSA through interviews and public speaking events.

Alexander reveals just how much damage control the NSA will have to do by stating that “(The NSA) … has not informed the American people in such a way that they can make a right decision” about the nature of the agency. The New York Times, in a separate article, also announced the NSA’s current five-year plan: “Our mission is to answer questions about threatening activities that others mean to keep hidden.”

The irony of their mission cannot be ignored. The agency cannot have it both ways: they are claiming to expose threatening activities, while they participate in hidden “threatening” activities of their own. The NSA is discrediting themselves by the nature of their hypocritical mission, only reinforcing the negative mage that Snowden has given them thus far.

In order for the NSA to have any chance of being perceived in a better light, the agency needs to get their act together and come up with a plan for how to explain their actions in a way that the public can understand. Snowden’s leak has painted the NSA as a secret, distrustful institution, but if the agency can recollect and reassess, this could be the comeback of the century.

Overall, although Snowden may seem to be the topic that should warrant the most concern, this belief is underdeveloped. If we continue to examine Snowden rather than the NSA, we will fail to keep the NSA in check. Snowden has given us this information and it’s our duty as American citizens to hold the NSA and our government accountable for their past and future actions.