Hagiographer to the stars “newspaper” the Washington Post continues its war on democracy, this shot fired by columnist Walter Pincus in support praise adulteration of the National Security Agency.

Pincus starts out showing he obviously can’t handle his growing miasma of hallucinations:

Should the United States engage in secret, covert or clandestine activity if the American public cannot be convinced of the necessity and wisdom of such activities should they be leaked or disclosed?

To intelligence professionals, that’s a bizarre question. The answer is that the public’s opinion shouldn’t matter, because espionage, clandestine intercepts of intelligence and covert acts carried out by the United States and other governments are often, by their nature, dirty and mostly illegal operations where they are carried out.

OK, sure, people’s will in a democracy doesn’t matter, people should not be concerned about what is done in their name, and people should not be concerned about intelligence activities that may harm them or “their” nation. Clear enough Walt.

Pincus goes on:

The prime reason for secrecy is that you don’t want the targets to know what you are doing. But often in democracies, another reason is that you don’t want your citizens to know what their government is doing on their behalf to keep them secure, as long as it’s within their country’s law.


Winner! That is exactly right, people in democracies should definately not know what the government is doing. Just sit back with the teevee and trust our Uncle Big Brother. Well, don’t we all feel better now?

As for “their country’s law” making things nice and legal, one may note that “their country’s law” in the last few years made torture, kidnapping, indefinite detention, assassination, drone killings of wedding parties and children, as well as the establishment of the 21st century’s first offshore penal colony at Guantanamo legal. If the president does it, it’s legal, yes? Now that is a bit awkward, given that Pincus’ newspaper brought down the president who said that.

Never mind that “law” at various times in history has also made human slavery, genocide, apartheid and other such nasties perfectly legal. See, it’s a Catch-22 Walter, if it is the government that decides what is “legal” then everything the government may choose to do becomes legal.

But Pincus is not done slandering democracy yet. Speaking of the presidential commission that recommended changes to the NSA’s worldwide spying:

The panel said a collection effort should not be initiated “if a foreign government’s likely negative reaction” to it being revealed “would outweigh the value of the information likely to be obtained.”


Obviously hung over when he wrote this, Pincus should check out the phrase “risk versus gain” on Wikipedia, though likely he still peruses 40 year old smut paperbacks for his “research.” Everything in the world is a balance of risk and gain. Perhaps Pincus could elaborate on what was gained from say tapping into NATO ally Andrea Merkel’s personal cell phone versus the potential damage to U.S.-German relations. Or the impact of U.S. political capital lost in return of whatever was harvested by the NSA from intercepts from NGOs such as the World Health Organization, UNICEF and Medecins Sans Frontiers.

You can read the whole article if you care to spit up your breakfast, though the comments section is actually worth a look. If you do not care to read it, I’ll just hand over a short summary: Walter Pincus is given space in a major newspaper to write that the NSA should be able to do whatever it wants at whatever cost to the United States and you, Citizen, should just remain ignorant and shut up about it. Yo, this is Pincus, out!


Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well, and writes about current events at his blog. Van Buren’s next book, Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent is available now for preorder from Amazon.

Photo by Achifaifa under Creative Commons license