The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Real Question

In the aftermath of his interview on NBC, the media has resurrected the debate about whether Edward Snowden is a patriotic whistle blower or a traitor. Snowden released megabytes of classified NSA documents, indicating that the government agency has broad-based powers to spy on email, your smartphone, domestic phone calls, and the like. Those of us who have followed the NSA for decades have not been surprised by these revelations, but their scope and depth at the domestic level have been troubling.

For those who fear terrorist attacks in the United States, these capabilities provide the Feds with requisite information to interdict and/or destroy terrorist cells. For privacy advocates, this is a gross violation of the constitution. Both views are correct.

The real question is whether the federal government can be trusted to use the information it gathers for the sole purpose of protecting the homeland.

It is worthwhile to have a healthy skepticism of the actions and motives of every presidential administration—to some extent, all try to centralize power, protect their position, and use political intrigue to outflank their opposition.

But no administration in my lifetime has done these things more openly, arrogantly, and (some whould say) effectively as the Obama administration. And therein lies the problem.

The Obama administration has presided over the single most serious abuse of government power in the past 60 years—the IRS scandal. Aided by their trained hamsters in the media, the administration has effectively stonewalled the truth. But the facts are clear—a major and powerful government agency was weaponized against the opponents of the administration. If this gross abuse of power can happen within the IRS, why on earth should we believe that it could not happen within the NSA? Why should we believe that a clandestine supporter of the administration within the NSA, spurred on by a "friend" close to this administration, might leak private and damaging information about a opponent of the president?

The NSA operates in the way it does because American citizens trust that the government will not use its powers to attack them. For anyone who is paying even a smidgen (to coin a phrase) of attention to the many scandals that swirl around this White House, the Obama Administration has eroded that trust. If they can weaponize the IRS, they can weaponize the NSA. Even worse, they have established a precident that might be followed and extended by future administrations.

Snowden is no hero, but in an indirect way, his actions may have precluded what could have become still another gross abuse of power by this and future administrations.