Monday, July 31, 2006

I have nothing to hide

from sibel

By Sibel Edmonds and William Weaver

Two days ago we made available to the public news that one of our members, Russell Tice, a former NSA Senior Analyst, had been served with a subpoena asking him to appear before a federal grand jury regarding the criminal investigation of recent disclosures which involved NSA warrantless eavesdropping. Our announcement was followed up in both the main and alternative media, and started heated discussions among online activists. We have received e-mails and letters from people who expressed their support and solidarity with Mr. Tice and other patriotic public servants who have chosen to place our nation, its Constitution, its liberty, thus its public’s right to know, above their future security, careers and livelihood.

We have also received e-mails from individuals who argued against the public’s right to know when it comes to issues such as NSA warrantless eavesdropping or mass collection of citizens’ financial and other personal data by various intelligence and defense related agencies. They unite in their argument that any measure to protect us from the terrorists is welcomed and justified. One individual wrote: “so what if they are listening to our conversations. I have nothing to hide, so I don’t mind the government eavesdropping on my phone conversations. Only those engaged in evil deeds would worry about the government placing them under surveillance.” But how far can one let the government go based on this rationale? This issue is well articulated in Federalist, No. 51, “You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” How do we oblige our government to control itself?

You may ask how NSA eavesdropping affects you when you have nothing to hide. Let us try to explain why you should worry. Even if, as the government claims, this program is only looking for “terrorist activity,” still all your conversations have to be processed; have to be linked to other calls and sources of “possible” terrorist activity. All it takes is an innocent phone call to a friend, who has placed a call to a friend or relative, who has legitimate business or personal contacts in a foreign country where there may be “suspected terrorists.” You have just become a potential target of government investigation – you may be a terrorist supporter, or even a terrorist. Remember “Six Degrees of Separation” (the theory that anyone on earth can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances with no more than five intermediaries)? The NSA program can easily mistakenly connect you to a terrorist. Furthermore, since the program is being conducted without judicial oversight and under no recognized process there is nothing to restrict how the information obtained under the program is being used.

But let us take things from the widely shared point of view of the individual quoted above; the view that there is nothing for honest people to fear from warrantless, presidentially-ordered surveillance. What other invasions of rights would such acquiescence to government authority inevitably lead to?

Our government will argue its right to break into your house and search it without warrant based on some tip, intelligence, or information that is considered classified, which you have no right or clearance to know about. It will argue that the search and the secrecy are necessary for reasons of “national security” and within the “inherent powers” of the executive branch, therefore not requiring congressional authorization or judicial oversight.

What is next in the name of national security? Will our government call out to all citizens in particular communities to turn in their weapons to law enforcement agencies? Perhaps it will cite the following reason for such call: “We already know that several Al Qaeda cells reside in the affected communities. Our intelligence agencies have received credible information concerning these cells’ intention to break into Americans’ homes to obtain firearms, since they do not want to risk detection by purchasing firearms from the market.” Would our compliant citizen quoted above be more than happy to give up his right under the Second Amendment for possible security promised to him by his government? When the agents show up at his door asking for his legally registered Colt, what will he do?

There are those well-meaning “conservative” Americans who have been lead to believe that our nation’s security is somehow damaged when an employee of one of our “security” agencies comes forward to shed light on activities by our government that may be illegal, may be un-constitutional, and may be a danger to the nation’s security. These Americans have accepted too easily the government’s propaganda sold to them shrewdly packaged in a wrapping of fear of terror – that if you expose any government action, however misguided or un-constitutional, then you are jeopardizing our security; you are aiding the terrorists. This quote from Benjamin Franklin sums it up well: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

What price our imagined security? If we now would allow the NSA to listen in to our most private conversations without objection, then when next the knock comes on our door, or our door is knocked down, in the interest of “national security” what will we say? Will we say “come on in and search me, my house and my family; after all, it is in the interest of ‘national security’ and we have nothing to hide”? Generations of Americans have fought and died so that we can today enjoy the precious fruits of their struggles – the right to our privacy, the right to our freedom from government intrusion, the right to our freedom of speech, the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” the right to simply be left alone. Are we to become the generation that loses those freedoms, not only for ourselves, but for the generations that follow? And will it be us who lets it happen because of some misplaced belief that government “oppression” equals “national security”?

Since when did true conservatives agree to surrender their individual rights under the Constitution for the sake of some imagined temporary security? Since when have we become so afraid of some foreign terrorists that we shiver and hide under a blanket of imagined security offered up by those in power who feed on our fears? Since when have we forgotten the messages of the Founding Fathers, who understood so clearly that the greatest danger to our liberties is an oppressive government, not outside foreign forces? We should never fear those who are brave enough to speak out, but we should fear greatly those who would silence them.

We like to believe our nation is one that prizes individual liberty and freedom from authoritarian restraint, the dictates of hierarchy, or governmental limits. Throughout its history our nation’s soul has been based on anti-authoritarianism and fear of a large, tyrannical government. Our notion of liberty has been built upon a philosophy of limited government with the highest value placed on preservation of individual rights. Our nation’s political thought found its roots in the writings of John Locke, who stressed an insistence on imposing limits on authority, on governmental authority, in order to further individual rights and liberty. No wonder both liberal and republican traditions, although each in its own way and style, pride themselves in their eternal quest for ‘limited government’.

Our entire system of government and its institutions is grounded in an insistence that tyranny be combated and that individual liberty be protected from a potentially tyrannical government. The result is a suspicion of authority and an emphasis on limited government. Samuel Huntington, a well-known conservative Republican, states in American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony: “The distinctive aspect of the American Creed is its antigovernment character. Opposition to power, and suspicion of government as the most dangerous embodiment of power, are the central themes of American political thought.”

After 9/11 our president came out and warned us: “the terrorists are resolved to change the way of our lives. They hate our freedom and our way of life here.” Well Mr. President, we have come a long way since that awful day. Our way of privacy in communicating on the phone and through our computers, our way of detaining and prosecuting people, our way of trusting our records with our librarians, our way of reading and discussing dissent, our way of treating our ally nations, our way of making it from the airport gates to the airplanes…simply, our way of life, has surely changed drastically in five years. But, Mr. President, we don’t have the terrorists to blame for this. We only have you and our three branches of government to blame.


calipendence said...

Sibel could really play an Ace card to get right wingers on her side if she could find a whistleblower out there to come into the NSWBC fold that would have actual information of this administration actually looking closely at people's gun ownership records and doing questionable things with it. That would perhaps get them more scared of government authority the way they should be!

Miguel said...

Or how about this? NSWBC announces "NSA Wiretaps Being Handed Over To Internal Revenue Service To Prosecute Tax Cheaters".

Then 'ol Grover Norquist would be leading the charge to get the illegal wiretapping stopped!

calipendence said...

You have another good one. Maybe folks like Bennett will be more paranoid about their gambling records too.

I think that is the biggest achilles heel in these guys' agenda now. Even though they have a semi-compliant constituency that has been more apt to "not question authority" thinking that those behind the scenes are "taking care of them", if you can have find ways to have them believe that the system IS potentially going against their wishes, that is when they might want to have someone fix it.

An example is with election fraud. If you have a clear example of some left wing folks even just threatening to exploit the Diebold holes to fix an election their direction, that would be enough to get them to demand that these holes get cleaned up along with the rest of us. Folks like Mikel Haas here in San Diego might even know of a conspiracy that's delivering right wing votes to help the Republicans win and know that there are back end forces to make sure that any client machine hacks in precincts will favor them and that they can spot those that the left wing might launch and shut them down.

However, that sort of conspiratorial knowledge isn't something that they can discuss or acknowledge publicly to assuage their constituencies that aren't knowledgeable of such a conspiracy, if it exists. So even if they have protections to only allow Republican election fraud to go through, they can't acknowledge such complicity publicly without facing major legal problems.

The same sort of divide and conquer strategy I think can also be applied to the security messes that Sibel, etc. are aware of too. They may think that they have their bases "covered" to prevent "their own" from being caught, but those outside of the conspiracy don't know that, even if they think that the people in power favor their political viewpoint.

And the beauty of this is that one doesn't have to necessarily go through with threats (like a left wing effort to "Diebold" an election). Just the threat to do this might be sufficient to accomplish it's purpose.