A Government of Secrecy and Fear

Will we get our lost liberties back?


Every American who values the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, every American who enjoys the right to be different and the right to be left alone, and every American who believes that the government works for us and we don't work for the government should thank Edward Snowden for his courageous and heroic revelations of the National Security Agency's gargantuan spying operations. Without Snowden's revelations, we would be ignorant children to a paternalistic government and completely in the dark about what the government sees of us and knows about us. And we would not know that it has stolen our freedoms.

When I saw Snowden's initial revelation—a two-page order signed by a federal judge on the FISA court—I knew immediately that Snowden had a copy of a genuine top-secret document that even the judge who signed it did not have. The NSA reluctantly acknowledged that the document was genuine and claimed that all its snooping on the 113,000,000 Verizon customers covered by that order was lawful because it had been authorized by that federal judge. The NSA also claims that as a result of its spying, it has kept us safe.

I reject the argument that the government is empowered to take our liberties—here, the right to privacy—by majority vote or by secret fiat as part of an involuntary collective bargain that it needs to monitor us in private in order to protect us in public. The government's job is to keep us free and safe. If it keeps us safe but not free, it is not doing its job.

Since the revelations about Verizon, we have learned that the NSA has captured and stored in its Utah computers the emails, texts, telephone conversations, utility bills, bank statements, credit card statements and digital phone books of everyone in America for the past two and a half years. It also has captured hundreds of millions of phone records in Brazil, France, Germany and Mexico—all U.S. allies—and it has shared much of the seized raw American data with intelligence agencies in Great Britain and Israel. Its agents have spied on their girlfriends and boyfriends literally thousands of times, and they have combed the collected raw data and selectively revealed some of it to law enforcement. All of this directly contradicts the Constitution.

And, if all of this is not enough to induce one to realize that the Orwellian future is here thanks to the secret governments of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Snowden also revealed that the NSA can hack into anyone's mobile phone, even when it is turned off, and use each phone as a listening device and as a GPS to track whoever possesses it.

When Gen. Keith Alexander, the head of the NSA, was confronted with this litany of unlawful and unconstitutional behavior, he replied by claiming that his spies have saved the U.S. from 54 terrorist plots. He pleaded with lawmakers not to strip him of the power to spy or of the billions they have given him to spend on spying, lest another 9/11 plot befall us.

Many Americans were willing to make this trade: spy on 330,000,000 Americans in order to stop 54 plots. But the government lacks the moral and constitutional power to compel this trade, because the right to privacy is a personal, individual and inalienable right, and so it cannot lawfully be taken away by majority vote (which never happened) or by secret fiat (which did happen). The government also lacks the authority to spy without legal constraint on anyone it wishes, because that violates the Constitution and fundamentally changes our open and free society. All-hearing ears and all-seeing eyes and unconstrained power exercised in secret are a toxic mix destined to destroy personal freedom.

Now we know that Alexander has lied yet again to a congressional committee. He recently acknowledged that the number of plots foiled is not the stated-under-oath 54, but is either two or three. He won't say which two or three or how spying on every American was the only lawful or constitutional way to uncover these plots. He also won't say why he originally said 54, instead of two or three; but he did say last week that he will retire next spring.

This is maddening. The government breaks the law it has been hired to enforce and violates the Constitution its agents have sworn to uphold; it gets caught and lies about it; and no one in government is punished or changes his behavior.

Then we realize that the so-called court that authorized all of this is not a court at all. Federal judges may only exercise the judicial function when they are addressing cases or controversies; and their opinions only have the force of law when they emanate from that context. But when federal judges serve an essentially clerical function, they are not serving as judges, their opinions are self-serving and legally useless, and their apparent imprimatur upon spying gives it no moral or legal legitimacy.

All of this—which is essentially undisputed—leads me to the question: Where is the outrage? I think the government has succeeded in so terrifying us at the prospect of another 9/11 that we are afraid to be outraged at the government when it claims to be protecting us, no matter what it does. C.S. Lewis once remarked that the greatest trick the devil has pulled off is convincing us that he does not exist. The government's greatest trick has been persuading us to surrender our freedoms.

Will we ever get them back? The answer to that depends upon the fidelity to freedom of those in whose hands we have reposed the Constitution for safekeeping. At present, those hands are soiled with the filth of totalitarianism and preoccupied with the grasp of power. And they seem to be getting dirtier and their grip tighter every day.

NEXT: Brickbat: The Goat

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  1. Without Snowden’s revelations, we would be ignorant children to a paternalistic government and completely in the dark about what the government sees of us and knows about us.

    Even with the revelations, many of us are content to be ignorant children. Everything in our lives conditions us to think of ourselves as such. Our education, our news media, everything tells us to blindly trust authority for the illusion of safety and comfort.

    1. ” many of us are content to be ignorant children”

      Many? I think it is overwhelmingly the case. Even the author of this piece has no advice other than to put his trust into those charged with safekeeping the constitution. Ignorant childishness is accurate enough, but there is also an undeniable whiff of defeatism in the air here.

      My own proposal for dealing with this pervasive surveillance is to make the NSA databases open to the public. Let everyone spy on everyone else. I think this is the solution for a public that cares more for the convenience of the new technology than its privacy.

    2. In other words… TL;DR, who’s on Dancing With The Stars this season?

  2. I still think of “the ponytail guy” during one of the Clinton election cycle “Town Hall ‘Debates'”…”So if we’re like, the children, and government is, like, the parents…what are you doing to take care of us…”

    Words to that effect.

    That was THE MOMENT I knew the US was doomed. Clinton didn’t respond, “WTF?!” He didn’t give an Obama, either. But I knew, right there – “we’re done. Just a question of how soon.”

    So, yeah – PROTECT US FROM EVERYTHING, INCLUDING OURSELVES! No – I really, truly do want to just be left alone, and ask that the government enforce contracts and raise an army and navy military force sufficient to protect us from attack by other countries or terrorists or whatever. That’s it.

    You fucking nannies what want to “do something” can continue to get yourself elected to your homeowners association to get your “I am IN CHARGE of something!” authoritarian groove on. You still suck, but the damage is contained to those who chose voluntarily to associate with your sorry, overlord ass.

    1. PS those were some of the last “debates” I watched. Caught a bit of Bush The Lesser’s first couple debates…and that was it. Done. Couldn’t take it any more.

      1. Ponytail guy

        “Symbolical children of the future President…”

        1. Where the fuck in America circa 1992 did they dress like it was 1985? Was this “debate” shot on the same stage as the faked lunar landing? Geez…

  3. Every American who values the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, every American who enjoys the right to be different and the right to be left alone, and every American who believes that the government works for us and we don’t work for the government

    All eight of them? Nowadays, Americans by and large value the rights to free stuff, not being offended, and enforced equality of outcome, we enjoy the right to enforced uniformity and the right not to leave others alone, and believe that Government, blessed be It forever, created us to worship and glorify It.

    1. And Libertarius said unto the State, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

  4. NOBODY expects the Government of Secrecy and Fear!

    Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as: fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to whoever signs our paychecks and a comfy chair

    1. I thought it was ruthless inefficiency?

    2. Government may be ruthless, but I would not call it efficient, apart from parking enforcement in some cities.

      1. Foul demons of cross-posting, I rebuke you!

  5. Where is the outrage?

    Hey, I got the new Iphone that comes with 200 free credits of Candy Crush. Are you going to watch Duck Dynasty tonight too?

    1. No dude, sorry. Football is on.

  6. Will we ever get them back?

    No. Not without something resembling a revolution anyway.

  7. The goal of 9/11 was to break us financially. They did and we’re doing all the work.

  8. Yeah, we’ve pretty much crossed the rubicon. Too many infantile idiots demanding cradle to grave security on someone else’s dime. At this point, I just want to find a relatively safe spot to move to and watch it all collapse.

  9. Also, since the “shutdown” it has become blazingly clear how compliant and complicit the vast majority of media outlets are to peddling exactly what the administration wants us to hear. I mean, I know we always give lip service to the concept of “the mainstream media”. We all speak of it and instinctively know it’s there. But to really see it in action last month, and to see the power it has to whip up or soothe mass fear, redirect reality, and miss the entire point completely was pretty amazing.

    There’s an unsupervised shadow agency collecting and warehousing everything we do and say, and the majority of privacy concerns I’ve heard brought up on TV, radio, or “non-political” websites still revolve around private companies data mining on sites you choose to go to or prospective employers throwing out your resume because they looked at your Facebook and saw pictures of you drunk.

  10. I am old and in my youth I read books like 1984 and Brave New World but I never thought I would actually witness the forfeiture of our liberties and in my lifetime see the beginning of a totalitarian state. And for the case that Napolitano lays out in this article, it is sickening that he is ignore for the most part by the major media.

    Does Tony ever chime in to defend Obama’s NSA?

  11. [Will we ever get them back? The answer to that depends upon ]….

    the fucking answer is hell no and you know it.

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  13. my roomate’s mom makes $73 an hour on the computer. She has been unemployed for seven months but last month her pay was $18333 just working on the computer for a few hours. pop over to this website


  14. Recovering liberty will only happen at gunpoint. If Americans are not willing to fight the government at the risk of their freedom and lives they do not deserve to have liberty.

    1. Yeah, but all that pie in the sky stuff about liberty kinda goes right out the window when the shooting starts.

  15. what we have is a fraudulent gov’t., full of traitors, who are breaking the laws & taking our freedoms every day! they must be stopped!

  16. Google is paying 80$ per hour! Just work for few hours & spend more time with friends and family. Yesterday I bought a top of the range Lancia after having made $9458 this month. Its the most-financialy rewarding I’ve had. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it out http://www.Pow6.com

  17. This article and this issue of the NSA spying can be the spark to the fire of a revolution, but the question really is how does it start, with whom, and where?

  18. The big break is coming. The country is already too divided to stop it. We can only hope this time its an amicable divorce.

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