Edge of Chaos is a political podcast starring Joe Ryan and Neurotoxin. Its aim is to have a free-flowing discussion of news and current events that also examines the empirical outcomes of public policy, avoiding biases based on ideology and policy intentions. Listener discretion is both advised and encouraged.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Claims Of "Thwarted Terror Plots" Insult America's Intelligence

If you're convinced of anything by this testimony - congratulations, YOU are what's wrong with this country.

I don't doubt the NSA's surveillance has a few successes to brag about after 7 years of operation - they had better considering the program's price tag. But cherry-picking a few success stories (I counted 5 in the article, NOT 50) is not evidence the programs are worthwhile. We have to weigh the successes against the costs.

- How many innocent people have died in drone strikes based on faulty collected information, or in overzealous responses such as cluster-bombing whole villages to kill one suspected terrorist? How many NEW terrorists did these create in the loved ones of the innocents killed?

- How many innocent Americans have been harassed, frisked, arrested and held w/out cause or warrant under the excess authority granted by these programs? How many of those Americans were specifically targeted because they were activists saying things inconvenient for the government? (The IRS did this, why WOULDN'T we suspect the NSA of it?)

- For every allegedly foiled plot, how many did they MISS? Some of the claimed successes are abroad, and in places like Pakistan and Iraq successful plots are weekly events. I also remember an Islamist in our own military that shot up a domestic base, and 2 under-aged amateurs that blew up a marathon.

- And finally - what does all this COST in taxpayer dollars? How many lives could have been saved if that money were directed to fighting hunger, health research, and other civil development?

Successful terror plots are tragedies, but they're NOT Armageddon. Their costs are quantifiable and if the costs of stopping them outweigh these - then the programs have failed miserably and completely regardless of their intent. I'm not some peace hippie that thinks if we throw hugs and flowers at the enemy we'll be safe - but the programs charged with our security must be subject to the most stringent standards of transparency and accountability of all government programs in existence. Listing 5 successes while claiming 50 and demanding we just take it on faith that they're doing more good than harm is downright insulting.


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