June 11, 2013

There’s been a hole lot of hubbub and debate across the blogsphere over that bombshell UK Guardian article exposing a NSA program that monitors and gathers information from phone calls and e-mails made in the U.S. You’ve got good people on both sides of the political aisle either supporting what Edward Snowden did or accusing him of treason.

My take on all of this is pretty simple: whenever there’s a debate over the encroachment on personal freedoms vs. the concerns over our national security the cause of individual liberty and freedom have to prevail. In a open and free society there’s no way you can protect everyone’s lives: there are bad guys out there who want to do bad things to people. As much as we all want to believe we have control over our lives and that bad things only happen to other people, the truth is, you can’t protect yourself 100% from acts of terror and violence. Heck, I could be dead this afternoon from the actions of some deranged whack-job shooting up the local Fry’s while I’m grabbing bunny greens in the produce section. You just never know.

The greater concern, in my view, is exactly what President Eisenhower warned us about in his farewell speech, notable for his use of the term “military industrial complex”. Ed Morrissey of Hot Air writes in a much more eloquent fashion than I can just how close President Eisenhower was to the truth then as we hae come to know it today.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what can happen when political zealots – of any persuasion – have the ability to employ the muscle of the federal government to push their own political ideology. It’s not only a threat to personal liberty, it’s a direct violation of the first amendment to the Consitution – you might recall from your social studies class how it reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

And, it seems to me this whole broad surveillance of specific individuals without a court order is in direct defiance of the 4th amendment to the Constitution as well:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Some people will say, I’m not doing anything wrong, let them do what they have to do.

My response: that’s fine, I’m not doing anything wrong either, but if you want to listen to my phone conversations and/or read my e-mails you better have probable cause and get yourself a court order.

What the recent Obama administration and NSA scandals show is a government that is not expansive and overwhelming in terms of size, power, and reach, but one that is completely out of control, unable or unwilling to police itself, and completely opaque in its doings to the average citizen. In my view, this is a far greater threat to our lives and liberties than anything a terrorist or deranged individual could ever do.

And lest one think I’m just piling on the Obama administration the danger in all of this is blind politically – one can only imagine the outcry and fury one would see from the mainstream media if this kind of thing was all coming out under a Republican president, or if it were liberal or progressive groups that were targeted by the IRS instead of Tea Party and conservative groups. The threat to our lives and liberties cuts both ways.

If there’s one good thing about all this, it’s that the opportunity to discuss, debate, and rectify these practices in the public realm is now before us: to do so in an honest and apolitical fashion is critical to our very future as a republic and what we want to be and how we want to live as a people. If, in the end, it leads to a smaller and more transparent and accountable federal government, replacement of the current tax code in favor of something that reduces exponentially the role and influence of the IRS, and stricter rules by which our national security agencies conduct their business at hand, this will all be a good and necessary thing indeed. Unfortunately, I’m not hopeful about this at all – there’s far too many cooks in the kitchen and political agendas at stake.

The last line of Morrissey’s post is spot on:

Eisenhower tried to warn us fifty-two years ago about this very outcome. Maybe it’s time to start listening.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 11:12 | Comments (0)
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