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Where would we be without Glen? Messed up, I think. Forsooth, but the Greenwald  writeth, and the Greenwald speaketh truth and sense[1]. I rarely do this, but I’ll quote him directly, because I cannot improve upon what Glen has to say.

How can anyone think that it’s remotely healthy in a democracy to have the NSA building a massive spying apparatus about which even members of Congress, including Senators on the Homeland Security Committee, are totally ignorant and find “astounding” when they learn of them? How can anyone claim with a straight face that there is robust oversight when even members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are so constrained in their ability to act that they are reduced to issuing vague, impotent warnings to the public about what they call radical “secret law” enabling domestic spying that would “stun” Americans to learn about it, but are barred to disclose what it is they’re so alarmed by? Put another way, how can anyone contest the value and justifiability of the stories that we were able to publish as a result of Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing: stories that informed the American public – including even the US Congress – about these incredibly consequential programs? What kind of person would think that it would be preferable to remain in the dark – totally ignorant – about them?

This is the dark keystone that makes what Mr. Snowden has done into something that is probably not a crime, except in technicality. There is always a larger principle of law, and this was firmly established at Nuremburg. While what the NSA has done (compartmentalizing SIGINT to the point of autonomy) is nothing like genocide, those principles of responsibility do apply. You cannot have a functioning democracy for long when a secret organization is essentially without oversight. For all we know, we don’t have a functioning democracy now. It is lack of trust in leadership that is one of the foundations of democracy. (Of course, I am not speaking of the wacko paranoid black helicopters coming to take our children with vaccines that infect them with homosexuality because the Pentagon staged 9-11 in league with Israel to create a pretext to attack Al Qaeda sort of lack of trust.)

Lying to congress is very serious. They did that. They did it systematically it appears.

There is more that Greenwald brings out which shows that my interpretation of Snowden’s videoed comment about how he could wiretap anyone was partially wrong. Much of what he was referring to was the real-time nature of it, as stated by the PowerPoint slide reproduced below.

PRISM

Now, I do know for a fact that the FBI did not engage PRISM’s capabilities for just any old thing. I am not willing to say exactly how I know that, but I have a specific example, and I know that the FBI didn’t do so. A single anecdote does not a pattern make, but it is suggestive. It suggests that, at least now, PRISM, and phone metadata are being handled properly. Even Snowden says that much. His concern, and I think it’s legitimate, is that it provides the machinery for turnkey tyranny. Call it tyranny by doormat. (The doormat being our president, his staff, and virtually all of congress.) That tyranny is, I think, self-limiting – but it could be horrific for a few generations. Talk to the Tibetans about Mao Zedong.

Which brings us back to the fundamental question we must answer. What price security? How do we control this kind of capability so it doesn’t destroy us? And can we give it up without guaranteeing millions of our citizens will die from nuclear, biological or chemical attack? In that respect, I think Greenwald is naive, naive like Julian Assange is naive. Both are smart, respectable and idealistic. We need them. But there is a place for secrets in government just as there is a place for secrets by citizens. The question is where to draw the line?

For the record, my view is absolute in this regard: Once secrets have been outed by, or put in the hands of journalists – from Wikileaks to the New York Times, that’s the end of playing at keeping them secret. Those are the rules of the game and we cannot change them without ending our society as we know it. There is no room for argument in that. 

1. By writing intelligently, Greenwald leads me further into that morass from which no national security assignment shall ever be forthcoming. Such is life in the thought lane.

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