Letter: A Commission on Surveillance

To the Editor:

I am a former employee of the National Security Agency, and I believe that the revelations of Edward Snowden are causing extraordinary damage to the national security interests of the United States.

Commenting on Scott Shane’s article in the July 11 New York Times, it is clear that the American public is disturbed by what has occurred but does not know enough about the various issues to make informed judgments about them. The classified nature of the described programs presents a huge challenge for both the administration and Congress in terms of what can reasonably be part of an open discussion with the public.

It seems to me that one potential approach for dealing with this difficult situation is contained in an article by Hendrik Hertzberg in the June 24 issue of The New Yorker, which suggested that the president consider creating a national commission to assess the damage of the revelations and make recommendations concerning them.

A key ingredient to the success of any commission is the quality of the appointed members and the way in which the public views those individuals. The 9/11 Commission is a rare example of one whose members were both highly respected and listened to. Their recommendations really made a difference.

If the president should decide to pursue a commission approach for the Snowden affair, here are two names that he might consider: former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Both gentlemen would bring an enormous amount of relevant background to the process, and their credibility with the public would be significant.

Eugene Yeates