Trust Your Government, Lose Your Liberties

Mysterious crash kills journalist Michael Hastings in Los Angeles last June.

By Stephen Z. Nemo (a.k.a., Mr. Curmudgeon):

It sounded like a well-crafted conspiracy theory. “The National Security Agency developed a pilot program in the late 1990s that would have enabled it to gather and analyze massive amounts of communications data … The mass collection of relatively unsorted data, combined with system flaws that sources say erroneously flag people as suspect.”

The excerpt above is from a Baltimore Sun article published on May 18, 2006. Accusations that our government engaged in unconstitutional searches and seizures were dismissed by many, especially on the right, as an attack on the administration of George W. Bush by anti-war, lefty crackpots. Seven years later, revelations of NSA domestic spying took center stage after an analyst working for the spy agency, Edward Snowden, leaked to England’s Manchester Guardian that U.S. government data mining was so massive in scope as to make an envious Hitler and Stalin roll over in their graves.

In fact, many prominent Republicans defend the NSA’s collection of your phone records and emails. “We passed specific provisions of the [Patriot] act that allowed for this program to take place, to be enacted in operation,” Arizona Sen. John McCain told CNN, “Now, if members of Congress did not know what they were voting on, then I think that that’s their responsibility a lot more than it is the governments.”

In other words, lazy, uninformed members of Congress provided big government a license to trample on your unalienable rights, according to President Obama’s 2008 Republican challenger John McCain. McCain likes to wax eloquent on his ability to “reach across the aisle” to members of the opposition party.

In a recent CNN interview, former President George W. Bush did likewise, defending the NSA domestic spy program created under his watch and dramatically expanded under President Obama. “I think there needs to be a balance, and I think as the president explained there’s a proper balance,” said Bush in defense of his Oval Office successor.

Oddly, the revelations that a massive domestic spy program spanning three administrations exists has done little to crystallize in the minds of most Americans (especially Republicans) that divisions between the nation’s two major political parties are non-existent. Democratic and Republican leaders agree that government must seek a “balanced approach” between respecting our unalienable rights and tightening the Super State’s authoritarian grip.

In a video interview with the Manchester Guardian’s Glen Greenwald, NSA leaker Edward Snowden said, “My greatest fear regarding the outcome for America is nothing will be done and people won’t fight to change things.”

According to a Washington Post/Pew Research poll, 56% of Americans said it was “acceptable” for the NSA to “track telephone call records of millions of Americans in an effort to investigate terrorism.”

Snowden’s worst fear is realized.

Our Washington betters, of course, strike the “proper balance” between authoritarian power and individual rights in secret – within the Obama Administration, a select few congressmen and the super-secretive FISA court. The government has, in effect, said, “Trust us.” And average Americans seem to be doing just that.

John McCain, a despicable troll in service of the Super State, is correct to scorn fellow lawmakers for not knowing “what they were voting on” when they passed measures infringing on basic American rights. As McCain said, it’s “their responsibility a lot more than it is the governments.”

McCain’s statement lets the proverbial cat out of the bag: he differentiates between elected, representative government and THE GOVERNMENT. America’s real government, the secret one, relies on the imprimatur of clueless legislators to legitimize expanding its power at the expense of our rights.

This is made possible thanks to a handful of senior, bipartisan legislators – like McCain – who know what is buried deep in the 1,000-plus pages of legislation given to Congress for consideration. A rubber-stamp cadre of Congressional dullards then shows their trust in THE GOVERNMENT by passing said legislation … unread.

If Americans seem ambivalent about what to think of Snowden, it’s because they are equally ambivalent about their Natural Rights as free men and women. The secrecy surrounding THE GOVERNMENT creates a comforting fiction for the nation’s uninformed that America has a functioning two-party political system.

John McCain, George Bush and Barack Obama all agree: Americans should sit back and enjoy the ride. Citizens needn’t bother reading a newspaper or alternative news sites to keep abreast of what their leaders are up to – any more than the politicians they elect should read the legislation they pass.

THE GOVERNMENT will decide, in secret, whether your rights conflict with their designs.

Go ahead … trust them.

Just in Passing …

I’m no conspiracy theorist. I gravitate toward the old Occam’s Razor dictum that states, “All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the correct one.”

Edward Snowden’s revelation that Bush-era domestic spy programs were expanded under Obama has pushed me in the direction of what was once unthinkable.

Last month, award-winning journalist Michael Hastings died in a horrible automobile accident in the fashionable Hancock Park area of Los Angeles, California. According to L.A.P.D., Hastings’ car was traveling at a high rate of speed when it collided with a tree and burst into flames. Hancock’s body was burned beyond recognition.

Hours before his death, Hastings emailed his editor at BuzzFeed. “Hey … the Feds are interviewing my ‘close friends and associates.’ Perhaps if the authorities arrive … may be wise to immediately request legal counsel before any conversations or interviews about our news-gathering practices or related journalism issues.”

And then there was this …

“I’m onto a big story, and need to go off the radar for a bit.”

A week before his death, BuzzFeed published what turned out to be Hastings’ last story. It had an interesting headline: “Why Democrats Love to Spy on Americans.”

“President Barack Obama, Senator Carl Levin, and Sec. State John Kerry — have now become the stewards and enhancers of programs that appear to dwarf any of the spying scandals that broke during the Bush years,” wrote Hastings.

The Obama Administration’s attempt to plug leaks exposing THE GOVERNMENT’s secret doings, insisted Hastings, was the reason behind Attorney General Eric Holder’s secret warrant requests to seize the phone and email records of Associated Press journalists and Fox News reporter James Rosen.

“It’s unclear where a possible third leak investigation would lead,” said Hastings, “However, judging by the DOJ’s [Department of Justice] and FBI’s recent history, it would seem that any new leak case would involve obtaining the phone records at … various [news] agencies who would have had access to the leaked material, as well as politicians and staffers in Congress – records, we now can safely posit, they already have unchecked and full access to.”

One question comes immediately to mind: Was Hastings the subject of a “third leak investigation.” If so, could the information he possessed been so damning it compelled THE GOVERNMENT to murder him?

After I finished reading the story, I realized the provocative question posed by the article’s headline never got answered. “Why Democrats love to spy on Americans” may have been the topic of Hastings’ follow-up piece … the one he never lived to write.

A secret government unbound by the chains of the Constitution, which operates in open contempt of the rights of its citizens, I now believe is capable of anything.