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NSA's cyber overkill

A project to safeguard governmental computers, run by the NSA, is too big a threat to Americans' privacy.

July 14, 2009|Jesselyn Radack | Jesselyn Radack is the homeland security director of the Government Accountability Project in Washington.

President Obama's federalization of many private systems and his adoption of the Bush administration's spying tactics are on a collision course that would expose many Americans' private data and communications to government scrutiny. I suspect that the public would be appalled that a taxpayer's financial information or a patient's medical records would be available to, much less perused by, the NSA. There are far less invasive network defenses that can secure government computing environments, such as upgrading good old-fashioned firewalls and filtering routers.

Obama came into office vested with vast new surveillance powers, which he voted for as a senator. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., while strenuously avoiding the word "illegal," called the original Bush snooping "unwise." But instead of trying to put the genie back in the bottle, Obama is considering expanding its power.

This is antithetical to basic civil liberties and privacy protections that are the core of a democratic society. Perhaps we can draw a lesson from the real Einstein, who ultimately regretted his role in urging the development of dangerous technology -- the atomic bomb -- and spent the rest of his life advocating against it.

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