There’s a huge storm brewing as there should be over the 4th amendment, the NSA, the government’s role, and private companies’ responsibilities. As you wade through the mountains of information, it’s probably a good idea to acquaint yourself with the basics of the controversy, and prepare your mind for the onslaught so you can be a critical thinking news customer.
The 4th Amendment is supposed to protect American citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. It requires the government to secure a search warrant from a judge who weighs probable cause with our right to privacy and whether it’s likely that we committed a crime.
I believe the U.S. Government is overstepping its responsibility in protecting its citizens against terror. We shouldn’t be strip-searching old women. The Patriot Act shouldn’t apply to anything but terror, and even then it needs to have a ton of legal oversight. The recent NSA controversy is far from over, but it is clearly beyond the pale. Technology’s advances, a lazy Congress, and the administration’s reliance on emergency precedents are all at fault for the current trampling of the 4th amendment.
No one yet seems interested in addressing or fixing this problem.
Good. Now that I have that on the record, let’s talk about “Prism” and Snowden and the unavoidable full-court press to make him a hero by a media that largely seeks to blame America for the ills of the world. Not that I’m saying we are innocent; I just reject the premise that our international problems are totally self-inflicted, which is as wrong as “America right or wrong.” Prism has been discussed nonstop and is central to the current controversy. Gizmodo ran a pretty good synopsis of the intel program where the NSA accessed well over a dozen companies we use to communicate in all forms with other people.
Much has yet to be written about Snowden. What is known is that he’s a computer smart-guy with a GED, who volunteered for the Army and broke both his legs in the Special Forces training pipeline so badly that he was medically discharged. I’m not going to speculate much, but it’s incredibly weird to me that a GED soldier was in the SF pipeline, as well as getting two broken legs and a medical discharge. Possible? Yes. Probable? Hell no! Then this individual went from security guard to CIA employee in Sweden. Again, possible? Yes. Probable? Hell no x2!
Eventually this individual came to know our most sensitive secrets to include intelligence collection capabilities, lists of people working in the NSA and intel communities, and the names of covert assets around the world. Yes, all in the hands of a 29-year old who didn’t graduate from High School? Are we that hard up for computer geeks? This is just an INCREDIBLE number of coincidences.
Yep, government is out of control and not to be trusted, but the attempt to paint Snowden as a reluctant hero trying to right wrongs has some real issues. Heroes don’t run to China. Intel operatives being sensitive to the wholesale espionage campaign China is executing on the U.S. don’t turn around and say China isn’t really an enemy. Heck, real heroes take their lumps (several are in jail right now who are serving time for things they believe were totally right).
Finally, smart hero-whistleblowers should also be pretty selective on who they choose to publish their story. I won’t character assassinate Glenn Greenwald, but go ahead and google him, what he’s written and who he’s written for. Wouldn’t a “smart” whistleblower give their story to several media sources (especially U.S. ones) to ensure the message gets out, and fosters an interest in multiple news organizations in keeping you free and talking while securing you legal protection? Does one really choose China as a sanctuary while stating you are concerned about the “public’s good?” How does one make sense of going to a nation that limits Google while claiming one is concerned about internet rights? How does one state China is not an “enemy” and ignore the wholesale cyber espionage campaign China is engaged in? So while I appreciate Snowden shedding light on the NSA’s and our government’s shenanigans, his actions are raising all kinds of red flags. (Yes, I meant the pun.)
My last concern is to caution one to ask a lot of questions as we get inundated with info and not get swept down the Banana Republic River. When people ask if Snowden should be charged remember being a “rule of law” democracy means applying those laws. Rule of law doesn’t mean “pick and choose” what to enforce. When the NSA says they aren’t spying on Americans because you can’t tell if an IP address is American, be skeptical. That’s not the spirit of the law. When they say they are just saving data and not looking at it, ask about the “seizure” part of the 4th amendment. When they say they have to get a court order to look at info they already have in their possession, be curious about what the practice REALLY looks like. When companies are saying they didn’t give “consent” or allow a back door to the government, ask if they knew.
There’s a lot of Three-card Monte going on right now. Remember, DoD said there were no “Stand Downs” over Benghazi, but when confronted with not allowing four special forces troopers to go to Benghazi, the spokesman said it wasn’t a “stand down,” they were just told “don’t go to Benghazi.”
People on both sides of the aisle are interested in protecting their party or making political points at the other’s expense. Don’t let that turn you off to what is being said. The issue is too important to be indifferent.