Open Letter to Congressman Mike Honda
Response to the Congressman's Newsletter
Ambivalent about the recent revelations concerning the NSA surveilling Internet and telephone communications of US citizens and non-citizens? The balance between liberty and security is delicate.
Is Edward Snowden a patriotic whistle–blower or traitor? He has done us a service by making public the flagrant 4th amendment violations, but in a way that compromises what every thinking American already knows: government's "upper management" leadership is deaf to criticism. Otherwise, Mr. Snowden would likely have explained his feelings to his superiors—and they might have been responsive.
Of course, Mr. Snowden would have been wiser to stay and face the consequences as did Daniel Ellsberg. Perhaps he is a hypocritical coward or simply looking for his 15 minutes of fame.
The White House response about metadata is patently false, its definition ambiguous. Your Silicon Valley constituents are too savvy to swallow that collecting metadata is harmless and doesn't compromise an individual's privacy. Police departments can find out exactly who is whom given a telephone number, email address, or IP address. The FISA court is so camouflaged as to be invisible, and is reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition.
What drives this nonsense? Fear. Fear of terrorism despite the fact that an American is far more likely to be injured by a shark attack or lightning strike. And, fear can be misused by power. Herman Goering said it best:
Why of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don't want war neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.
As you say, we need an open public dialog about these goings on. Let's have every government official and employee read and reread 1984. They should at least see the movie. Are we to live in fear and so give up our core American principles? Fear has driven us to build a protective wall around our Constitution. But, what if that wall becomes more important than what it was designed to protect? We are past the point of mere concern.