“Governments, like married couples, are entitled to their secrets” has written Richard Cohen a few years back. Which secrets? Lines have to be drawn. A government shouldn’t cover up crimes under the mantle of secrecy. It shouldn’t conceal wrongful seizures and exercises of power. This government and the preceding one under Bush have concealed the fact that they were collecting information wrongfully, namely, information on private communications. The term “national security” cannot reasonably be invoked as an excuse for doing this because it’s too vague, and almost anything can be construed as affecting “national security”. The quest for catching terrorists cannot be offered as a reason because there are bounds on searches and invasions of privacy that have long standing and that specifically apply to government and policing activities. These governments have gone way beyond these bounds and then compounded their trespasses by attempting to keep them secret.
The government has kept secret or tried to keep secret its collecting and storing information on everyone’s secret and private communications. Thanks to Edward Snowden and his predecessors, this wrongful secret has been revealed publicly. There is no crime in revealing the wrongdoing of the government by revealing a secret program of massive invasions of privacy.
If every word one speaks or writes in an e-mail is stored where it can possibly be turned against you by some very costly legal imposition and accusation, if every movement and gesture one makes can be recorded by cameras, a climate of fear, caution, distrust, suspicion and persecution will become established. Human beings must have privacy. Diaries are private. Much of what we say and think we limit to people whom we trust. We do not want our letters steamed open or our e-mails available for reading in government data banks. We don’t want records kept by the government of whom we have called. We do not want police snooping into our homes and private effects with the excuse that they are looking for criminals or terrorists.
We do not want the government to have powers like this that invade privacy and that can be used to squelch political dissent. It is very easy for government to become oppressive and totalitarian, and getting at everyone’s communications is one way to become oppressive and keep that oppression in place. We have to have lines we draw that prevent government from doing what the Bush-Obama governments have been doing. All of this is common sense. There are the strongest reasons for stopping this NSA activity. The government officials and the corps of commentators calling for Snowden’s head and supporting the surveillance state are dead wrong.
The spurt in the surveillance state is in part an outgrowth of the Bush-Obama war on terror, which in reality is a convenient propaganda device to conceal a basic agenda of expansionism of the American empire. Overseas expansionism is driving the creation of terrorism which in turn is driving the surveillance state and the police state domestically.
The foreign policy of expansion of control, taking down foreign governments, invasions and wars, fomenting revolutions, and attempting to rebuild states has dire domestic effects. How? The country is on a continual war basis. Occasional terror incidents strengthen the hands of government so that it can institute wholesale violations of civil procedures that were once considered inviolable. Police become militarized. Surveillance of Americans rises steeply.
The government invokes national security at every turn. The government proposes that it can torture and assassinate. Phoney justifications for excessive and inherent executive powers are put forward by lawyers like John Yoo. The Justice Department loses whatever independence it had from the chief executive. War becomes almost habitual. The president goes into wars by his own say so. Executive power increases. Continual war and/or the expansion of empire has important ramifications domestically.
The president is expanding the U.S. involvement in Syria. This has briefly and temporarily taken the spotlight off of Edward Snowden’s revelations. More lie ahead. But Syria, the AUMF, terrorism, foreign expansionism and the surveillance state are actually all joined into one big issue. They are not separable. This “one big issue” is not yet widely recognized or seen for what it is. These matters are being treated as different things by the MSM, albeit related.
One big issue is rising to the surface. Because of this one issue, Americans will increasingly question continual warfare, government secrecy, the police state, the surveillance state, the war on terror, executive power, the role of the mass media, and government propaganda. They are all linked. What is this issue and how will it be named?