Ranking the civil rights we enjoy is a subjective, perhaps futile exercise, but it’s hard to argue that our right to free speech is not our most important. Yet, when a judge imposes a gag order to protect a defendant’s right to a fair trial and completely squelches this most precious right, you don’t see people writing to The Bulletin (“Write to Wyden about National Security Agency,” July 31) that the Constitution has been abridged.

Do we have a right to privacy? Of course we do! But we also have a right to be protected from people plotting to do us harm. Thus, when the government gathers information that keeps us secure, we give up a portion of our right to privacy to help ensure the greater right to safety and security from harm. The Constitution, like life, is a balance between competing interests. There’s no shame in being an inexperienced civilian, thinking the government has gone way overboard in the amount of information it collects, and thus upsetting that balance, but I can report from 15 years in the intelligence community and 30 years before that in the military, as a user of that intelligence, the correct balance is that there is never enough information.

John M. Carney