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Ron Radosh

The more one learns, the harder it is to reach a conclusion on the vital issue of what trade-offs we should support when it comes to protecting our national security while keeping our civil liberties intact.

It was so much easier in the early days of the Cold War. The forces of the American Left ludicrously charged that America had gone fascist because the Truman administration had created an employee security program that set up loyalty boards to inquire whether government employees belonged to the Communist Party or any of its myriad front groups. Scores of government employees resigned to avoid being questioned, and others were dismissed after hearings.

There were abuses of the program, but one point had been made. The U.S. government did not owe anyone a job, and those who were enemies of our country had a right to be fired. The disputes were over whether or not those who were innocent were subject to dismissal only because of their opinions.

John B. Judis writes about his own FBI files at TNR.com, discussing how his public writing put him under constant surveillance by the FBI and other agencies of the government — although everything he did was public, peaceful, and protected by our constitutional rights. The intrusions he suffered, “which to this day may or may not have had something to do with my politics, certainly make me sympathetic to the rightwing groups who were barraged by inquiries from the IRS — whether or not these inquiries were directed by higher-ups in the administration.” Hence Judis worries that the government has learned little, and is targeting all citizens without real reason. As he sees it, the Cold War era has lessons for today.

In our own day and age, the issues have become far more complex. Should we support an ever-larger national-security state that allows our government to adopt programs that could, now or at some future time, impinge on our rights? Is it necessary to have the NSA meta-mine our phone and Internet data in order to find the terrorist cell that might exist or the one individual planning to do us harm?

Where do conservatives and liberals line up on this issue?

First, let us look at the libertarians. A few months ago, Rand Paul released a video explaining his fear that our country has reached the conditions spelled out in George Orwell’s classic Cold War novel 1984. Having reached this conclusion before the current brouhaha, it is not surprising that Paul has introduced legislation that would curb the NSA’s current programs. Paul speaks coherently and sincerely about his fears, and his realization that Orwell’s predictions, meant to convey the reality of totalitarianism that existed in the Soviet bloc, now speaks to our predicament. Whether he is exaggerating his conclusion is up to viewers to decide.

A more restrained and responsible argument has been made at Reason by Mike Riggs, who argues that keeping our surveillance programs totally secret negates the very power of our democracy: “In the event that they have doubts that the American people will support a program they believe is necessary to national security, they are obligated to bring that program up for debate, not classify it and hope no one finds out.”

Second, let us turn to the arguments of the defenders of the Obama administration’s program. In today’s Washington Post, Marc Thiessen develops the view that the leaks by former Booz Allen consultant Edward Snowden “are incredibly damaging to national security.” To Thiessen, the arguments of Paul and company are downright ridiculous. The NSA programs, he writes, are “lawful, constitutional and absolutely vital to protecting the country.” It is simply a matter of gaining material so that dots can be connected and a potential terrorist attack can be stopped in its tracks. Thiessen believes that it is done with a warrant, approved by a federal judge in the FISA court.

Agreeing with Thiessen is the Wall Street Journal editorial board. Criticizing “self-styled civil libertarians,” the editors argue that if the meta-mining is stopped, it is likely to harm more individual rights than if it did not exist, since the NSA is searching for algorithms and patterns, and not targeting individuals per se. As for PRISM, the other program exposed by Mr. Snowden, the editors argue that it targets only foreigners and does not impinge at all on American citizens. “What our self-styled civil libertarians should really fear,” the editors write, “is another successful terror attack like 9/11, or one with WMD.”

Also writing on its editorial page is Michael Mukasey, the U.S. attorney general from 2007 to 2009. Arguing that the data collected is neither pervasive nor unlawful, Mukasey writes that those who see the “specter of George Orwell” in the NSA programs are essentially crazy. Always yelling “1984,” Mukasey writes, these critics on both the left and right ignore the fact that we know one terrorist attack in New York City was prevented by the program. Mukasey concludes that those who think the programs are perverse and dangerous are “downright irrational.” As for Snowden and his releases, Mukasey says they indeed did real damage to our nation, since “every time we tell terrorists how we can detect them, we encourage them to find ways to avoid detection.”

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Top Rated Comments   
These are the same people that have allowed terrorists to visit the WH; pray in the special place built for Muslims, and given them tours of our national security facilities. So don't even begin to tell me that the WH gives a rat's hind end about "national security" unless it's politically expedient to bring it up.
There are people dedicated to this data mining effort; an organised and busy bunch of people. Their data collection is NOT for national securiity reasons; it is specifically being used to track citizens. That's a fact and it's damning.
The only question that needs to be asked is, "Who are the people that Obama put together to implement this effort to gather data on every one of us?"
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Just how well does this system work? We get alerts from both the Russians and the Saudis about the Boston Bombers, yet they do their thing. Of course the possibility exists that we didn't do anything for reasons of political correctness. Although the common thread through recent acts of terrorism has been the Muslim connection it is forbidden to mention this lest we offend the great gods of multi-culturalism. What good is the knowledge if you aren't going to use it? Or at least, use it for the purpose for which it is supposedly intended. And if its being used for other purposes why can't we be told just what those purposes are?

Its costs a great deal of money, it can be used for corrupt purposes which are antithetical to the ideals of a free and open society, and it seems to be ineffective for the purposes which the government claims it exists. What's not to like about it? /s

And the government says "trust us." The government obviously doesn't trust all those subversives who have an account with Verizon, all 121 million of them. Why should we subversives trust them?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There would be a whole lot less need to spy on folks in America if the government was a whole lot more careful who they let into America.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (27)
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PoliticaL correctness is causing much brouhaha about "rights" Unfortunately the rights of the tred-upon are seldom considered. I Muslims are committing the terroriwm, they should expect to be profiled. As should young black men if they are attacking and robbing. Those "goofing off" in schools should be singled out for expulsion or extra work. Along with austerity should be a return to common sense..
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Time and time again throughout history, its been proven that government cannot restrain itself. So how can we expect an element of government that is shielded from significant oversight not to abuse its powers? According to reports, the FISA "court" has NEVER turned down a request for surveillance. Who is even on this so-called "court?" In the quest for illusory "safety" our country has taken a dark turn in the post-911 era. We have created new powerful, unaccountable bureaucracies via the Patriot Act that cannot be undone.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Having sufficient data to allow the vaunted "connecting of the dots" doesn't guarantee jack in terms of whether the picture that emerges will be acted on responsibly.

If we aren't willing to "connect the dots" that were shoved in our military's faces by Nidal Hasan's behavior why bother with some high powered algorithm applied to all of our phone records.

If we couldn't or wouldn't "connect the dots" based on the intel we had collected and with what Russia spoon fed us on the Tsarnaev a'holes, why bother setting up the apparatus to warehouse everything we do?

We can't even deal with the simple and obvious - and we are supposed to be good with collection and storage of an electronic record of all citizens' communication??

What arrogance to think that system itself won't be terrorized by being hacked and its data tampered with, or worse - by having some bad actor - foreign or domestic -use it to "connect a few dots" of their own against us? Perhaps maybe using that data more effectively to greater and more horrifying effect than our own protectors?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated" -- the 4th Amendment. Today we are not at all secure in our EFFECTS, and the searches are unreasonable, except to courts drunk on the intoxicant of stare decisis -- the judicial version of FUBU.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I stand where I have always stood and will always stand, on the side of freedom and liberty.

I don't care much for Snowden, but that doesn't matter, he did the right thing.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The NSA is the wrong thing doing the wrong thing for the wrong thing. Snowden is as wrong. In this modern Lie Algebra two wrongs do not a right make.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What we need is more profiling, like is successfully used in the data mining operations. This should be standard operating procedure at airport security as well.

Furthermore, we wouldnt have the dire need of these measures if we focused policy on Islam and it's adherents, mosques, and other organizations. Ending all Muslim immigration, ending foreign funding of mosques and Islamic centers, encouraging repatriation of Muslims that have immigrated here over the last 50 years, thus correcting a huge policy mistake, severe travel restrictions on Muslims wishing to enter our territories, policy of containment.

But instead we get huge dragnets on ourselves, and indiscriminate, costly security measures applied brainlessly to all passengers at airports. References to Islam, mosques, and Muslims being scrubbed from our security training, and replaced by references to Evangelical and Catholic Christians, former US military servicemen, and Tea Partiers.

The choice is yours America, does Islam so contribute to your enjoyment of life, that you are willing to put yourselves through this?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"So where, dear readers, do you stand?"

Well, IF the government could be trusted . . .
uh..uh..well that's a problem right there.
So Assume the people who hold positions of power in the government could be trusted...uh how would we know they can be trusted?
Wait. if the government could be trusted and demonstrated that by applying all laws equally to everyone regardless of social class, status, ethnic group, political affiliation, and if the law were 'fair' laws.

..ah hell, forget it. It was all a myth anyway.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Another rule of thumb:

Because humans who are given power will be corrupted by that power more often than not, give fewer people less power. And I'm not even talking about small government at this point, as much as I'd like to. We have such a collossaly huge government now, that it is going to be a long climb down that will have to be done in stages, but it has to be done if we are to restore our freedoms.

Remember:
"There are more people who want power than there are people who deserve power."

Don't ever forget that adage. It has been the cause of human misery and strife since time immemorial.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Truth, Snowden and the Surveillance State [http://www.dianawest.net/Home/tabid/36/EntryId/2545/Truth-Snowden-and-the-Surveillance-State.aspx]

Islam rises alongside our collectivist Superstate. Mosques prolierate in this country, sharia advances, the superstate flexes, freedom of speech constricts, policing becomes more thuggish, the superstate stockpiles bullets, crowd control becomes more restrictive, fear grows, privacy is extinct, the superstate imposes, requires, invades, provides, rewards, punishes, socializes medicine, targets individuals, covers up everything, ramps up the IRS for your "health," tracks your electronic life, your phone calls, your travel, your mail.

Snowden strikes, grabs our attention about what we should have known was happening.

It was a gigantic act of courage, it has struck me so far, seemingly from idealism, seemingly to unmask the machine secretly grinding away any remaining semblance of the American republic. Then again, as others have noted, this is a young man who seems to consider himself a citizen of the world. Then again, given that he is a creature of his time, how could he not? What school system in America teaches youngsters pride in the founding of this country?

Is Snowden real? Was he duped? Is he dead? We don't know. Is he a hero? I think so, but if it turns out he is working for China or takes refuge in Russia -- both totalitarian enemies of liberty -- then I will think again.

What I do know for sure is that Edward Snowden has thrown down the gauntlet.

The heroism is up to us.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Here's a good rule of thumb on the issue of "national security:"
Don't "spread the guilt around." It has become endemic in modern America that when some transgress, all are made to share the burden. The gun-control hysteria is always Exhibit A. Profiling possible criminals has been nixed, and now the same has happened with profiling terrorists. There really is no good reason for the blanket everyone's-a-suspect ordeals at our airports.
If the focus in both national security and crime-fighting are narrowed considerably, then most of us can be left alone.
We are not allowed by our current idiocy-infested establishment to have such rational policies.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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