NSA Needs Real Transparency, Not a Tumblr

In the wake of public outrage over the NSA’s domestic spying program, the agency has released a new Tumblr blog called IC (Intelligence Community) on the Record. The blog, which features statements from IC directors and articles on how the NSA operates, is being sold as a “hub of transparency.”  It will, the agency claims, both enable the intelligence community to provide more public disclosures to the American people, and give the American people one easy place to look for information on what the NSA is really doing.

The Tumblr blog does provide some transparency. The administration used the platform to declassify several documents, but nothing important. For instance, it declassified the number of targets required to give it information, but not who those targets were.

But the IC on the Record also purports to provide an objective statement of what the intelligence committee really does: a “just the facts” campaign.  Articles include titles like, “NSA Clears up Misconceptions About Compliance.”  The blog also includes a series of “Fact Sheets” such as, “National Security Agency / Central Security Service Core Values” and “Facts on the Collection of Intelligence Pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.”

This sort of propaganda campaign is ironic given how often the administration’s been caught lying about the facts of the NSA’s spying.

Let’s review. Asked on March 12 by Senator Wyden, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (the man responsible for most of the tumblr posts) said “no.” He lied. As Slate points out in this excellent article, he knew he was lying, and later defended his statement as the “least untruthful” statement he could make. This is the man we’re supposed to trust to give us the facts?

Obama, who proposed the Tumblr blog in a speech, has proven similarly dishonest. He claimed that the NSA wasn’t actually abusing its powers. He was then proven wrong.  He said that America “does not have a domestic spying program.” According to the Huffington Post, he lied about that too. He lied when he said, “The NSA cannot target your emails…and have not.” As Reason Magazine explains, “The drip feed manner of reporting that Glenn Greenwald and The Guardian have adopted has made liars out of the administration again and again.”

These are the two men most responsible for the NSA’s tumblr blog. If they stick to declassifying documents, they may not do much good but at least they can’t do harm.  But IC on the Record is veering into a propaganda campaign from two men who have a bad track record when it comes to telling facts.

The National Security Agency doesn’t need another media outlet, social or otherwise, for it to present its own spin.  It needs more officials willing to tell the truth.  That would be real transparency.

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