The NSA Scandal

As we all know the NSA scandal has blown up.  The government for some time now has been essentially spying on us and in secret.  When the truth came out Obama essentially said to trust him and the government.  This was the same argument used by the Bush Administration, and we all know how that worked out.  Considering all the corruption, dishonesty and abuse of power by the government going back a long time-and presumably getting even worse-there is no reason why we should just blindly trust the government not to abuse the system.  It´s human nature.  Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupt absolutely, which is why the founding fathers created a system of check and balances to rein in abuses of power.  With the executive usurping Congressional powers, and creating a vast, powerful, opaque and largely unaccountable empire of myriad government agencies that rule over out lives, we should be worried.  I am tired of the Imperial Presidency, which just grow and grows.  Who is keeping the executive accountable to ordinary Americans?  Prosecutors are out of control.  Federal agencies make rules based on whatever criteria they capriciously see fit.  The citizens often have few or not recourse when injustice is done.  Few people in government are ever seriously punished for abusing power.  Did we have referendums on these policies?  No.  Decisions are only made at elections, with the system skewing our choices to only two: Democrat and Republican.  We have little more than a duopoly in power.

The European Union is similar with vast and sprawling unelected bureaucracies making decisions  that affect the lives of people far away.  This is one the the problems with increasing complexity.  Such systems are liable to disfunction, defined as incompetence, lack of transparency, corruption and unaccountability.  On top of that we have a government invested with awesome powers, but also easily bought off to the highest bidder.  Such an corrupt entity such as our government cannot be trusted with endless and secretive powers.   It is just a disaster waiting to happen.

The other argument for all of this spying is that it is necessary to fight terrorism.   The people who want to turn America into a police state must wake up every day and thank 9/11.  It was the gift from God for those who were just waiting for the opportunity to impose all kinds of controls…all in the name of keeping us “safe”.  While the threat of terrorism is real, and certain measures need to be taken, this vast nebulous and never ending threat of terrorism has become a carte blanche to just do anything.    It is also convenient that anything which can be labeled a potential danger or lawbreaker can be labelled a “terrorist”, and that this terrorist threat will presumably go on for decades, thus justifying endless privations to our liberty.   We have had several “wars”: The War on Drugs, The War on Poverty, The War on Cancer and now the War on Terror.  All have created self-serving entrenched bureaucracies, which spend a lot of money and tend to make our lives worse. Do many people honestly think that the DEA, the Department of Homeland Security and the vast welfare agencies really improve our country and lives?

Clearly there have to be some firm lines in the sand or the government will happily continue to erode our rights and freedoms.   The government likes having more and more power, and will use any justification to do so.  Noemi Klein wrote a book called “Disaster Capitalism”, in which she argues that corporations use disasters to gain more power for themselves.  She is right, but being a good leftist, she only mentioned corporations.  The reality is that any organization-the government, unions, scientists, religions, charities and corporations will often exploit disasters and emergencies to gain more power.  The FED has more power than ever after blowing up the economy.  The IMF was set up to manage the world´s gold´s standards.  When currencies were taken off the gold standard, the IMF handily shifted to being the lender of last resort.   Organizations are in a Darwinian struggle to survive and the most successful ones are the best at taking advantage of whatever opportunities come along.

If we really want true security we can create a version of old Soviet Russia, North Korea or Argentina in the 1970s.  Those places are not noted for lots of crime and terrorism.  They are also characterized by being utterly totalitarian…and free of crime (except from the government itself).  What a lot of people don´t realize is that security comes at a price.  It is not free.  It may be necessary, and it may be worth the price…or it may not be worth the price.  We need to have an open debate about this, and not just allow the government to go ahead in secret.  Our founders put limits on power, because they had experienced the abuses of tyranny, and knew its dangers.  We are forgetting those lessons.  People need to wake up.

A few years ago I would have never imagined that outrages like the Patiot Act, NDAA, the TSA, and now this, with the NSA massively spying.  Every time I am surprised by a new milestone in abuse of power.  The people need to wake up, and hopefully they are.

Edward Snowden is a national hero, who has put his life on the line, had to flee his country and lost a well paid cushy job to tell the truth.  In an era when most people who are successful have learned to not rock the boat and go with whatever if politically correct, and be rewarded for it,  Snowden has thrown it all away because of a principle of integrity and morality.  If we only had more people like him.

Not surprisingly the Obama Administration is going after him.  Obama, who promised a new golden era of transparency, honesty and good government, is now acting like any other bully when his pants are caught down.  Snowden caught the government with its hands in the cookie jar, and now they are hopping mad that the truth has been revealed.  I look back in amazement at the rampant  hysteria in 2008 when Obama was literally treated like some kind of messiah.  It was so bad that even Obama had to joke that he was not born in a manger.  And I remember a speech where it was indicated that global warming would stop if the “savior” Obama was elected.  Sara Silverman (the comedienne) even seriously sent out the message that Jewish grandchildren should emotionally blackmail their grandparents to vote for Obama against their wishes.  Aside from the unmitigated arrogance of a cock sure Obama groupie drunk on the Kool-Aid of Obama hubris, it is utterly anti-Democratic.  Everyone has the right to vote for whomever he wants to, even if it is the “wrong” candidate, and even if we disagree.  None of us have any right to try and blackmail others into voting for someone they do not want to.  If Sarah Silverman has the slightest bit of a conscience and self-reflection (which is in doubt), she should feel VERY bad and stupid for her actions.

Here are two a petitions for the courageous Edward Snowden.  Please sign it.  He needs all the help he can get.

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/stop_prism_global/?bCdqFab&v=25833

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/pardon-edward-snowden/Dp03vGYD

This from whistleblower.org is a nice summary of events.

by Government Accountability Project on June 14, 2013 ( The Whistleblogger / 2013 )

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Recently, the American public learned that the National Security Agency (NSA) has conducted, and continues to conduct, wholesale surveillance of U.S. citizens through a secretive data-mining program. The program collects the phone records, email exchanges, and internet histories of tens of millions of Americans who would otherwise have no knowledge of the secret program were it not for the disclosures of recent whistleblowers. The latest of these whistleblowers to come forward is former Booz Allen Hamilton federal contractor employee, Edward Snowden.

As the nation’s leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) would like to be clear about its position on each of the following points that relate to these significant revelations:

I. SNOWDEN IS A WHISTLEBLOWER.

Snowden disclosed information about a secret program that he reasonably believed to be illegal. Consequently, he meets the legal definition of a whistleblower, despite statements to the contrary made by numerous government officials and security pundits. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky), Sen. Mark Udall (D-Co), Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Ca), Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) have also expressed concern about the potential illegality of the secret program. Moreover, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wi) who is one of the original authors of the Patriot Act – the oft-cited justification for this pervasive surveillance – has expressed similar misgiving.

II. SNOWDEN IS THE SUBJECT OF CLASSIC WHISTLEBLOWER RETALIATION.

Derogatory characterizations of Snowden‘s personal character by government officials do not negate his whistleblower status. On the contrary, such attacks are classic acts of predatory reprisal used against whistleblowers in the wake of their revelations.Snowden’s personal life, his motives and his whereabouts have all been called into question by government officials and pundits engaged in the reflexive response of institutional apologists. The guilty habitually seek to discredit the whistleblower by shifting the spotlight from the dissent to the dissenter. Historically, this pattern of abuse is clear from behavior towards whistleblowers Daniel Ellsberg, Mark Felt, Frank Serpico, Jeffrey Wigand, Jesselyn Radack, and recent NSA whistleblower Tom Drake.

III. THE ISSUE IS THE MESSAGE AND NOT THE MESSENGER.

As a matter of course, whistleblowers are discredited, but what truly matters is the disclosure itself. Snowden’s revelations have sparked a public debate about the balance between privacy and security – a debate that President Obama now claims to welcome. Until Snowden’s disclosures, however, the government had suppressed the facts that would make any serious debate possible.

IV. PERVASIVE SURVEILLANCE DOES NOT MEET THE STANDARD FOR CLASSIFIED INFORMATION.

Many have condemned Snowden for disclosing classified information, but documents are classified if they reveal sources or methods of intelligence-gathering used to protect the United States from its enemies. Domestic surveillance that is pervasive and secret is only a valid method of intelligence gathering if the country’s enemies include most of its own population. Moreover, under the governing Executive Order it is not legal to classify documents in order to cover up possible misconduct.

V. THE PUBLIC HAS A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO KNOW.

In a democracy, it is simply not acceptable to discover widespread government surveillance only after a whistleblower’s revelations. Because of Snowden’s disclosures we now know that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper deliberately misled the Senate Intelligence Committee when he stated on March 12, 2013 that the NSA did not purposefully collect any type of data from millions of Americans. Regardless of the justification for this policy, the public has a Constitutional right to know about these actions.

Unfortunately, the responsibility has fallen on whistleblowers to inform the public about critical policy issues – from warrantless wiretapping to torture. Whistleblowers remain the regulator of last resort.

VI. THERE IS A CLEAR HISTORY OF REPRISAL AGAINST NSA WHISTLEBLOWERS.

By communicating with the press, Snowden used the safest channel available to him to inform the public of wrongdoing. Nonetheless, government officials have been critical of him for not using internal agency channels – the same channels that have repeatedly failed to protect whistleblowers from reprisal in the past. In many cases, the critics are the exact officials who acted to exclude national security employees and contractors from the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012.

Prior to Snowden’s disclosures, NSA whistleblowers Tom Drake, William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe, all clients of GAP, used internal mechanisms – including the NSA chain of command, Congressional committees, and the Department of Defense Inspector General – to report the massive waste and privacy violations of earlier incarnations of the NSA’s data collection program. Ultimately, the use of these internal channels served only to expose Binney, Drake and Wiebe to years-long criminal investigations and even FBI raids on their homes. As one example, consider that Tom Drake was subjected to a professionally and financially devastating prosecution under the Espionage Act. Despite a case against him that ultimately collapsed, Drake was labeled an “enemy of the state” and his career ruined.

VII. WE ARE WITNESSING THE CRIMINALIZATION OF WHISTLEBLOWING.

During the last decade, the legal rights for whistleblowers have expanded for many federal workers and contractors, with the one exception of employees within the intelligence community. The rights of these employees have significantly contracted. The Obama administration has conducted an unprecedented campaign against national security whistleblowers, bringing more Espionage Act indictments than all previous administrations combined.

Moreover, at the behest of the House Intelligence Committee, strengthened whistleblower protections for national security workers were stripped from major pieces of legislation such as the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (for federal employees) and the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (for federal contractors). If those protections existed today, Snowden’s disclosures would have stood a greater chance of being addressed effectively from within the organization.

The actions already taken against Snowden are a punitive continuation of what has become a “War on Whistleblowers.” Through a series of retaliatory measures, the federal government targets federal employees who speak out against gross waste, illegality, or fraud, rather than prosecuting individuals engaged in high crimes and misdemeanors. So far as we know, not one person from the NSA has yet to suffer any consequences for ordering, justifying or participating in the NSA’s domestic spying operation.

It is the opinion of GAP that recent events suggest the full might of the Department of Justice will be leveled at Snowden, including an indictment under the Espionage Act, while those who stretched their interpretation of the Patriot Act to encompass the private lives of millions of Americans will simply continue working.

VIII. IN THE SURVEILLANCE STATE, THE ENEMY IS THE WHISTLEBLOWER.

If every action has an opposite and equal reaction, the whistleblower is that reaction within the surveillance state. Dragnet electronic surveillance is a high-tech revival of tactics used to attack the civil rights movement and political enemies of the Nixon administration. Whistleblowers famously alerted the public to past government overreach, while helping to defend both national security and civil liberties.

In contrast, secrecy, retaliation and intimidation undermine our Constitutional rights and weaken our democratic processes more swiftly, more surely, and more corrosively than the acts of terror from which they purport to protect us.

Edward Snowden articulately spells out the problems and dangers of the current policy.

theamazingaethist sums up my feeling in the NSA affair below

Here is a video of Chris Mathews (“a chill up my leg”) criticizing Obama for incompetence, arrogance, corruption, a lack of leadership, taking responsibility and governing.  Interesting that Chris used to practically worship Obama, but even Chris can see that things have gone horribly wrong.

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