Look, I can’t keep writing forever about the sad state of surveillance we now find ourselves living in, thanks mostly (and ironically) to some excellent investigative reporting in Great Britain’s Guardian newspaper.
I have been writing about these developments in part because I spent 20 years or so as newspaper reporter and editor. I entered the business as a young man recently disillusioned with a government propping up an unworthy South Vietnam dictator (and disillusioned over living for a time under martial law via the Ohio National Guard in my own home town) – but energized and encouraged by investigative reporters who uncovered the Watergate break-in and whose work resulted in the resignation of a tyrannical sitting president. On a regional basis in various parts of the country, I did what I could to detect and expose corruption and government sleight-of-hand. I made use of the provisions in the Bill of Rights on a regular basis, have seen how those rights benefit the American people and consider it my business to fight for them.
Now I see a federal government using a never-ending war on “terror” as an excuse to erode our rights and consolidate Executive Branch power via the likes of secret courts and secret court orders. And I believe that unless a large number of Americans are continuously vocal about their disdain for having their detailed cell phone calls and emails funneled to the NSA and FBI on a daily basis, among other things, then the abuse of all of our 4th Amendment rights are only beginning.
Yet my current main occupation involves carving a small-scale fruit and produce operation out of a few acres of Central Texas woods, and my time at the keyboard is at a premium. I have mowing, watering, clearing, planting, fencing and hauling to do.
For today, I would just like to point my small circle of readers to a few of the most interesting observations and developments, since one Edward Snowden leaked a few very interesting and disturbing documents to a trio of journalists:
→ Micah Zenko of the publication Foreign Policy notes that President Obama and the more recent President Bush both publicly misidentified their primary duty as being to keep Americans safe from terrorism. But the presidential oath of office is a vow the the President “will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Says Zenko: “The essential and enduring feature of both post-9/11 presidents has been their shared contention that their core objective — and by extension, that of the executive branch — is to protect U.S. citizens from one particular form of harm: terrorist violence. Both success and failure at achieving this objective have justified the expansion of additional authorities and tools. If there are no terrorist attacks, then all policies in place must remain, but when terrorist plots are revealed or the rare attack occurs, then additional tools and secrecy are mandated. Like a ratchet wrench, it only works in one direction. It does not matter if these presidential powers erode individual civil liberties or the ability of citizens to comprehend or evaluate the activities of the national security state. Again, the executive branch’s obligation is less to protect citizens’ constitutional rights than it is to protect citizens’ lives, but only from terrorists.”
→ It only took a couple of days after former NSA contractor Snowden identified himself as the leaker (and stated why he did it) before seemingly half the opinion writers in the big U.S. news organizations and half of Congress decided, along with the spooks, much of the Executive Branch and, of course, the spooks, that Snowden’s professed concern over the wholesale surveillance of American citizens couldn’t possibly be genuine and he was instead a traitor. To boot, a high school dropout traitor.
Matt Welch of Reason examines The Demonization Machine: It’s always instructive to see who quickly takes the government’s side in a dispute with a whistleblower, and what kind of argumentation they deploy. David Brooks was certainly a predictable candidate.
Hell, writes Kirsten Powers for The Daily Beast, hath no fury like the Washington establishment scorned. “Apparently, if you think hiding information about spying on Americans is bad, you are misguided. The real problem is that Snowden didn’t understand that his role is to sit and be quiet while the “best and the brightest” keep Americans in the dark about government snooping on private citizens.”
Finally, Glenn Greenwald, breaker of most of the major recent stories about how America’s spy institutions are misusing their powers, says this in responce to Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, who expressed amazement at the depths of the NSA programs she learned about during a closed-door session of Congress a day or two ago:
“The Congresswoman is absolutely right: what we have reported thus far is merely “the tip of the iceberg” of what the NSA is doing in spying on Americans and the world. She’s also right that when it comes to NSA spying, “there is significantly more than what is out in the media today”, and that’s exactly what we’re working to rectify.”