| Thursday, June 27, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

Few Americans have experienced the adrenaline charge of being in the secret world of U.S. intelligence. Gathering intelligence does provide a higher level of safety for Americans than would be the case if it did not occur.

For several years, I traveled weekly to the bowels of the Pentagon. I worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which required a high-level security clearance that can take up to a year to receive. The NSA contractor whose leak of top-secret documents exposed U.S. government surveillance jeopardized U.S intelligence-gathering efforts that can take years.

In the DIA, we were warned about the importance of keeping what we knew, what we did and who we did it for top-secret. Remember when our country was searching for Idi Amin? We gained from gathering information many facts about this dictator, but dared not leak that information.

Since then, the U.S. has captured and/or caused the demise of many dictators and terrorists, all through intelligence-gathering, not intelligence-leaking. When I read about the leaks in the NSA, under the guise of “it's Americans who should decide what level of privacy is appropriate,” that's just not 21st-century intelligence.

As Americans, you should know your government does not care about whom you talk to via phone, text, tweet, Skype or Facebook. The secret world of U.S. intelligence makes us safer because of, and in spite of, what goes on there.

So, the next time you get concerned about who's listening in or monitoring your social-media exploits, just reply, “Thanks for being there.” They've been there well before now, so keep on using social media. It's OK!

Howard B. Slaughter Jr.

Penn Hills

The writer is a Navy and Army Reserve veteran.

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