If it's not actually legal, then it's irrelevant if a lower authority law says it's legal.
Originally Posted by OldWorldOrder
If Joe's parents outlaw him from using drugs and alcohol, it's completely irrelevant if his friend's parents allow him to. They are not a higher authority over Joe than Joe's parents are. Joe is still breaking his parents' rule if he uses drugs and alcohol; any permission his friend's parents give him to do so is completely irrelevant to this. Joe still does not actually have permission.
The FISA court does not provide supervision or overseering duties as such. The FISA court issues warrants and guidance, the legality of which is the true question of this debate. Leaving the NSA in charge of it's own audits and compliance does not equal oversight, anymore than putting a police department in charge of investigating itself for corruption. As far as Snowden is concerned, the actual constitutional authority in the land would never have heard arguments about what the FISA court is doing since all of its activities are secret. As the laws are written, telling on the activities of the secret court (and thus allowing actual judicial review to take place) is itself technically illegal. That right there is what you call a tidy hole punched clean through the Fourth Amendment.
As far as oversight, I'm glad you admitted that NSA is overseen by the FISA courts. So what you want is someone to oversee the FISA courts? Do you want someone to oversee those overseers, too? What about THOSE overseers? How many levels of oversight do you think are necessary? Just two?
We can go on after you clear this up.
As far as using "legal" and "proper" channels for reporting potential wrongdoing, Snowden is quoted as saying:
"The culture within the US Intelligence Community is such that reporting serious concerns about the legality or propriety of programs is much more likely to result in your being flagged as a troublemaker than to result in substantive reform...
In my personal experience, repeatedly raising concerns about legal and policy matters with my co-workers and superiors resulted in two kinds of responses. The first were well-meaning but hushed warnings not to "rock the boat," for fear of the sort of retaliation that befell former NSA whistleblowers like Wiebe, Binney, and Drake…
The second were similarly well-meaning but more pointed suggestions, typically from senior officials, that we should let the issue be someone else's problem. Even among the most senior individuals to whom I reported my concerns, no one at NSA could ever recall an instance where an official complaint had resulted in an unlawful program being ended, but there was a unanimous desire to avoid being associated with such a complaint in any form."
This debate isn't over the technicality of any given law. It's whether or not the US Government has done anything wrong regarding secret collection against its citizens, and whether Snowden was a patriot or a criminal for exposing such actions.
I will give you this, though. I am a former member of that community as well - I'm well versed in the USSIDs and SPOOs - and even I thought Snowden went a little far with our foreign collection protocols. However, in hindsight I can see why he did it. I don't condone it, but I do understand it. He was threatening the government that was trying its hardest to bury him for exposing some wrongdoing, and must have made the call that giving up those secrets would discredit the very people who were trying to discredit him. This was asymmetrical information warfare, and he dropped the equivalent of an intel-nuke on the administration. It was dirty, and I don't condone it at all... but I understand it.