Saturday, August 10, 2013

9/11 --> Patriot Act --> Our Own Special Owellian World

Edward Snowden, patriot, now in exile.
The title of this post says it all. However, I'd like to share some things that amplify it. First, a comment by Mark P on a NYTimes article about President Obama's press conference yesterday that centered around Edward Snowden and the "national conversation" we're having about the NSA surveillance programs:
There are several misapprehensions among some commenters on this article.

1) That the NSA programs are legal.

The only program uncovered by Snowden that might have a hope of being considered legal is the metadata program, due to precedents that imply that phone meta data is like the outside of an envelope. Sensenbrenner believes that the wholesale seizing of all phone metadata is not legal under the PATRIOT Act, but possibly it is legal. However, the DOJ kept this program, along with the others, hidden for the purpose of keeping it unchallenged in court.

All the other programs uncovered that appear to populate the XKeyScore database, including the one that searches through every single email crossing the border (and probably ones that don't cross the border, too, although that part has not been acknowledged), appear to be spectacularly illegal as well as unconstitutional.

2) That Snowden should have stayed in the US to perform his whistleblowing.

There is recent precedent of how NSA, CIA, FBI, and Army whistleblowers are treated. Looking into how Drake, Binney, Kiriakou, Manning and others have been treated would explain exactly why Snowden knew he'd have to leave the country in order to perform his whistleblowing. A large number of whistleblowers, including Ellsberg, the gold standard for staying in the country and fighting through the courts, have publicly endorsed Snowden's fleeing the country. A group of them have given Snowden a whistleblowing award.
I completely agree with what Mark P said above, but there are broader implications here. First, a good look at what we know of these NSA programs leads to no other conclusion that they are illegal as well as unconstitutional. Second, it should be well understood that we now have a habit of not only locking up whistleblowers but also of abusing them, even torturing them.

Those two facts are, well, facts, and hard to dispute. Funny thing is, many people all the way up to including Eric Holder and the president himself do dispute them. What's even funnier is that we're not surprised they dispute them. We expect them to, and that includes everyone in the intelligence community, the State Department, and the Justice Department. We now accept that it's their job to deceive us, to offer up justification for massive violations of the U.S. Constitution.

Glenn Greenwald, journalist, is amazed
that government liars keep their jobs.
When Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied to Congress on national TV, I suspect very few people thought he was telling the truth, and that probably goes for most people in the committee hearing room. The thing that was surprising was that he got caught!

Did he resign? No. Did the president ask for his resignation? No. Are we surprised at that? No. Are we disgusted by that? We should be.

Guardian journalist and former constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald is surprised, in fact amazed:
Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald said Sunday it's "amazing" that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper still has a job and hasn't been prosecuted.
Clapper recently apologized to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) for an "erroneous" statement given to Wyden over the scope of the National Security Agency's data mining programs, but Greenwald said on ABC's "This Week" he was surprised that's as far as it's gone given that Clapper was "caught red-handed lying to the American Congress."
"It's amazing that he not only hasn't been prosecuted  but still has his job. And what that does is it lets national security officials continue to lie to the public," Greenwald said.
Greenwald said he plans to publish a story this week that reveals the scope of access that low-level NSA and government contractors have into phone and email communications.
"There are legal constrains [sic] for how you can spy on Americans," Greenwald said. "But these systems allow analysts to listen to whatever emails they want, whatever telephone calls, browsing history, Microsoft Word documents. It's an incredibly powerful and invasive tool."
For balance -- that bane of good journalism -- Politico chooses to quote Sen. Saxby Chambiss as disputing Greenwald's statement, saying that he had been "assured otherwise." By whom, James Clapper?

 Okay then. As long as it's the least untruthful you could be.

George Orwell
This is the world we now live in, where we no longer can trust a huge segment of government, a world in which we expect to be lied to by people we elect -- or the people appointed by the people we elect  -- and we're encouraged to accept it as being for our own good. Those that sincerely want to protect our rights, like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, have to fear for their safety, need to be fearful enough that they would flee to exile for self-preservation. Snowden did and is safe. Manning didn't and was placed in solitary and made to sleep naked with no sheets or pillows. Torture nowadays is as American as apple pie.

Nice world we're creating. George Orwell was a visionary, but I wonder if he could have envisioned this. Actually, I guess he did. He certainly nailed it with doublethink and doublespeak.

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