Spying has saved both lives and freedom

I don’t wish to hold Joseph Szydlowski’s feet too close to the fire over his article regarding the GOP and the current domestic espionage craze because I’m happy he has enough concern about his rights to stir his emotions.

But his attempt to compare ‘Monicagate’ with the National Security Agency spying issue is just a tad off. President Bill Clinton was not only guilty of a crime, he admitted it. The NSA is only guilty of doing its job. I worked at the NSA during the last year of my Air Force enlistment from 1970 to 1971, and I worked for it in other locations the previous three years. Internal surveillance was a part of the program even back then; an integral element in assuring the nation’s security.

Going back further, my father’s letters home in World War II were censored.

In fact, internal spying has been with us as long as there has been an “us.” President George Washington used purloined information to formulate his plan for a successful attack at Trenton, and President Abraham Lincoln began using intercepted telegraph communications almost as soon as the wires were up.

This is not new stuff, and it is not dangerous stuff where you and I are concerned. It is, absolutely necessary in, it should be obvious to all, our rather vicious world. I often wonder just what form of input is required to make people in this country understand what we’re up against. Apparently the falling, people-filled buildings in New York City weren’t enough to get the message across. Civilian volunteers being murdered, burned and strung up on a Fallujah bridge, along with a series of beheaded innocents, haven’t made an impression.

Instead, while we worry about the rights of those who have been captured while fighting for a primitive ideology that demands the removal of American heads, we turn on those within our own culture who spend their day and nights trying to prevent that ideology from getting a chance to not only do just that, but to do it here. The people who work at NSA are, quite simply, virtually similar to you and me. Their families live in this country and they have an abiding interest in keeping those families safe. The difference between them and us is that they actually get to take an active role in providing that safety – unless, of course, the real dark forces in this controversy get their way and stupidly tie NSA’s hands. If we are dumb enough to allow that to happen, then perhaps we deserve the inevitable consequences.

Oh, and that Bill of Rights Szydlowski is so worried about? Well, perhaps he will jump in next issue and delineate just what rights he feels he’s lost. He goes to school without having to show identification on every corner, he can move about the country freely, and he can even write editorials that would, in a different society, be justification for tossing him into the shredder. The people who’d toss him are the ones NSA is trying to catch, not Aunt Maude sharing her recipe for squid creole. I think it’s time for Szydlowski, and for the political party he champions, to do a reality check. And it’s also time for them to learn the definition of the word “enemy.”

Dennis Fishel