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Anacapa Student Reports on Talk About American Security in Post-Snowden Era

On May 20 at the Channel City Club and Committee on Foreign Relations luncheon, speaker Frederick Fleitz touched on the relevant topic of a post-Edward Snowden era for American security.

Fleitz has served in United States national security areas for 25 years, holding positions in the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, Department of State and the House Intelligence Committee. He also served as the chief of staff for John Bolton, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Fleitz offered valuable insight and his expertise to give his audience a better understanding of the effects of Snowden’s leaks. He acknowledged at the outset that there is a big generational gap between younger Americans, who see Snowden as a patriot, and older Americans, who believe he did something wrong. He also stated that the Snowden leaks have huge implications for American and international corporations as companies are now trying to employ “NSA-proof” computers and other technologies.

The United States learned in World War II that we must have an aggressive defense, Fleitz said. The point of intelligence agencies and their work is “to do things our enemies think we won’t do and can’t do.” The goal is always to have capabilities that our enemies don’t think we possess.

Fleitz’s opinion of Snowden was not a positive one. Snowden, Fleitz believes, is helping the United States’ adversaries, not the American public. Fleitz talked about and elaborated on the two main — and most controversial — pieces of information leaked: “metadata” and foreign intelligence security. In talking about metadata, Fleitz referred to the collection of phone records. He asserted that if metadata collection had been in place before 2001, the 9/11 attacks could have been prevented. However, polls do not show strong public support for the NSA’s practice of metadata collection.

On the subject of foreign intelligence security, Fleitz believes the spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel was a mistake. Although many leaders and allies in Europe found the NSA’s surveillance a severe breach of trust, Fleitz believes it should not be permanently stopped. It is important to the safety and security of our country that we know what other countries are doing and that we are ahead of the game.

Fleitz went on to discuss the topic of cyber warfare. The United States is not the only country investing in cyber warfare. China, Russia, North Korea and Iran are all said to be being investing in cyber warfare as well.

Fleitz outlined the consequences of corporations having the statistical ability to process information pertaining to the general public. In discussing “big data,” he referred to the capability of the NSA, as well as private industries, to analyze and process loads of information. President Obama believes that big data must be studied in order for it not to be used in a dangerous and wrong way.

Fleitz enlightened the Channel City Club on the many repercussions of Snowden’s leaks. He asserted that intelligence has been in trouble since the end of the Vietnam War.

Fleitz, who is highly critical of Snowden and his actions, believes that it should be harder for people to get security clearances to join intelligence agencies and that secret intelligence should be much harder to access. He is pleased that President Obama is in favor of tightening the process of obtaining security clearances and is against limiting the powers of the NSA.

— Grace Strelich is a student at Anacapa School.

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