Last week, the country was roiled by one revelation about government spying after another. First, it was clear that AP reporters had been targeted for surveillance in a manner that was absolutely Nixonian. Then it is revealed that the Government has been grabbing phone logs from virtually everyone who uses Verizon. This is compounded when it’s made clear that virtually everyone else in the IT biz (Google, Facebook, etc.) is in the habit of handing over metadata to the government about what an ostensibly free people do online.
I have railed here about the failure of the Obama administration’s Department of Justice failure to prosecute anyone for melting down the economy and destroying some $22 TRILLION dollars in assets and wealth (much of it home values that are the bedrock of most middle class family’s assets). I think it bears repeating that if the Gambino crime family had every done a hundredth of the damage we know the Wall Streeters did, the perp-walks and RICO indictments would’ve been a daily occurrence. Well, now we know what Holder’s Justice Department was doing instead of prosecuting real law-breakers in the 1%. They were spying on journalists. They were watching us every time we read articles on a foreign website. People defending the gathering of metadata miss the point–with the metadata, you don’t need the specifics to create a criminal profile. I’m sure I trip the metadata parameters over at DHS every time I link to an article the government doesn’t like.
What’s interesting is the response to Snowden’s self-identification that I’m seeing on the web. A whole lot of people who ordinarily defend a free press and an activist response to evil are vilifying Snowden for running away to Hong Kong rather than ‘facing justice’. My response to that is to ask people how ‘facing justice’ has worked out for Jeremy Hammond or Aaron Swartz.
Here’s the conundrum, as I see it:
- If you think that you as a citizen have a right to know that the government is spying on you for no especially good reason; that the government has no right to use the judicial weapons it got after 9/11 to protect against terrorism on Americans who are engaging in free speech or nonviolent civil dissent; that the government needs to account for the way it uses tax payer money; then you either expect the government to self-report its wrongdoing (good luck with that) or you hope that a conscience-stricken person like Bradley Manning or Ed Snowden throws their life away to tell you a REALLY inconvenient truth:
- If you believe that this is no different from the Bush era crimes, including warrantless wiretapping and passage of the Patriot Act, you need to read up on the NDAA military act and its provisions for indefinite detention for Journalists. Obama signed this into law, and he owns this–it’s more power than W ever got. Couple this with Obama’s beefed-up drone strike program, and the situation is worse than what we got under the Bush administration.
Folks, the government will never voluntarily tell you when it’s doing shady things. Snowden broke the law in the same way that Daniel Ellsberg broke the law–that’s what happens when there’s no plan B for getting information out of a government that’s out of control. We either have people of conscience, or we have the world described in a quote attributed to the late Daniel Moynihan:
If the news papers of a country are filled with good news, the jails of that country will be filled with good people.