Thursday, June 13, 2013


A friend asked what I thought about a NY Times column (6/12/13) by Thomas Friedman. Friedman wants to ‘blow the whistle’ on whistleblowers like Edward Snowden. He argues that we should support the secret “intelligence” programs exposed by Snowden because, if there is another 9/11 type attack, the public’s reaction would really put an end to civil liberties.

Agreed that it's important to thwart potential attacks — but do we accomplish that by creating a universal dragnet and trusting CIA, NSA, and a huge conglomerate of private contractors to operate it under the cloak of "classified" secrecy? 

It is specious to argue that we should go along with elements of a police state system now because it might become a full-blown reality later. The crux of the matter is that this "state security" machine is developing as a permanent apparatus, subject to manipulation by whoever is in power. If you don't rein it in consistent with basic Constitutional principles, if you continue to endow it with emergency war powers, you simply can't trust that it will never be used against the innocent or the public interest in general. There's plenty to fear if we remember our own history: the Palmer raids and current round-ups of immigrants, armed violence against strikers by the National Guard and private vigilante organizations, police terror against civil rights protesters, and lots more. There is the sorry saga of gross abuses of power by such as Richard Nixon, Joe McCarthy, and J. Edgar Hoover.

Obama's recent speech on why it's necessary to end the Global War on Terror, the incompatibility of permanent war with democracy, is very much to the point (although deeds speak louder than words; see blog posts 5/27 and 6/10). Listening to Edward Snowden's interview with the Guardian was a lot more convincing to me than Friedman's column.

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