As a federal government employee with almost 20 years of service in both the law-enforcement and intelligence communities, I would note that within government, there are multiple mechanisms to report abuses of power, from each agency’s office of inspector general to reporting directly to the congressional oversight committees. Edward Snowden very easily could have availed himself of these mechanisms, but made the choice to violate federal law and illegally disclose classified material.

All federal employees take an oath to protect the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Post 9/11, this oath has become especially salient for those who have the job of protecting the United States from future attacks in the homeland and elsewhere. Analysts work around the clock using any and all tools to prevent this from happening. The analysts I know would never use the extensive intelligence-collection tools at their disposal for personal or political gain. Any organization occasionally will have individuals who violate the oath, and federal agencies must develop the safeguards to identify these individuals and take swift and immediate action when warranted.

The intelligence community, by its nature, must remain clandestine to effectively provide U.S. policy makers with the information they need to protect us. Our government was founded on checks and balances, and all three branches of government currently play an active part in intelligence oversight. Contrary to Professor Edward Felten’s prerogative that “we” should make choices about the appropriateness of government surveillance programs, I believe that spreading sunshine in the black world of intelligence collection would do nothing more than give our adversaries the upper hand in future terrorist operational planning.

Michael Mantyla ’93