Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of the Pentagon Papers, has a few choice things to say regarding Edward Snowden's current leak of NSA documents.
I find it curious that this issue is being treated as if it is new and suddenly urgent, when it has been a matter of concern for 12 years (and before then, if in slightly less urgent fashion). All the same, if it sparks the long-needed debate, that can only be good.
Here's Ellsberg, writing in The Guardian:
Since 9/11, there has been, at first secretly but increasingly openly, a revocation of the bill of rights for which this country fought over 200 years ago. In particular, the fourth and fifth amendments of the US constitution, which safeguard citizens from unwarranted intrusion by the government into their private lives, have been virtually suspended.
The government claims it has a court warrant under Fisa – but that unconstitutionally sweeping warrant is from a secret court, shielded from effective oversight, almost totally deferential to executive requests. As Russell Tice, a former National Security Agency analyst, put it: "It is a kangaroo court with a rubber stamp."
The fact that congressional leaders were "briefed" on this and went along with it, without any open debate, hearings, staff analysis, or any real chance for effective dissent, only shows how broken the system of checks and balances is in this country.
Obviously, the United States is not now a police state. But given the extent of this invasion of people's privacy, we do have the full electronic and legislative infrastructure of such a state. If, for instance, there was now a war that led to a large-scale anti-war movement – like the one we had against the war in Vietnam – or, more likely, if we suffered one more attack on the scale of 9/11, I fear for our democracy. These powers are extremely dangerous.
And he closes with a fundamental point, the point that went unheeded, even mocked in the Bush years, and seems to be faring only slilghtly better in the Obama years:
This wholesale invasion of Americans' and foreign citizens' privacy does not contribute to our security; it puts in danger the very liberties we're trying to protect.
In reply to commenter Ben's points below: There are some interesting points of agreement, though the partisan baggage must be discarded to get to them. Sort of sums up the national debate at present--strange bedfellows emerge around issues of liberties.
Check the archives, and you'll see that I have never been more than a reluctant Obama supporter from day one of his presidency. I am a civil libertarian, annoyed with anyone of any party who abuses our liberties. I hoped Obama would be better. He's not. If anything, he's doubled down on the worst excesses of his predecessor. But where can one turn in a two-party system when both parties are fully invested in such abuses? That's the issue that interests me most, and there hasn't been an answer for a very long time. It's high time there was, and if we're really lucky, the current brouhaha around the NSA leaks will push us in that direction.