June 7, 2013

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: Public Peace, Secret War: The Snooping Scandals and The President’s War Strategy.

As if the Tea Party/IRS mess isn’t enough, the White House has been shaken to its foundations by a series of dramatic and devastating revelations about the unsuspected reach of the government’s surveillance of the telephone records, email and other activities of US citizens without their knowledge. The President’s liberal base is stunned and appalled, with the New York Times editorial board hanging out the black crepe of official mourning. Al Gore twittered his disappointment and fear. . . .

The context was terrible; one chicken after another has been coming home to the White House roost: the AP subpoenas, the Fox investigation, the IRS Tea Party scandal. As the latest round of surveillance revelations exploded in the press like land mines under an armored truck, the White House visibly lost its poise and momentum. The reaction to reports that telephone carriers were providing the government with call logs was a tornado; when the Washington Post then reported that leading tech companies (reportedly including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple) were participating in a secret surveillance program known as PRISM, the Obama White House was facing a potential collapse in public trust. . . .

President Obama is now caught in a trap of his own making. By downplaying the threat and trying to create an atmosphere of peace and normality in the country, he has delegitimated the measures he believes that our safety requires. Having tried and failed to keep these secrets dark and hidden, he must now try to explain what many Americans will find inexplicable. If the terrorists are really on the run, and we can finally go back to a 9/10 state of mind, why are you assembling and wielding the most powerful and intrusive systems of surveillance ever conceived?

In a 9/12 world, these measures can be understood, though there are legitimate questions to be asked about oversight and slippery slopes. In a 9/10 world, they are much harder to justify. And so, Mr. President, the ball is in your court. Where exactly do we stand, and what kind of world are we living in today?

The truth has a way of coming out. But read the whole thing.

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