Friday, December 16, 2005


I'm really not happy with original version of this post. It's far from my best work; also it doesn't really explain why the government's policy of spying on its own citizens is a danger to American ideals.

So let's take two.

Original post shrunken:
The National Security Agency has eavesdropped, without warrants, on as many 500 people inside the United States at any given time since 2002, The New York Times reported today. This should outrage Conservatives, shouldn't it? Shouldn't it? Or are they (and by they I mean Ezzie) going to treat us to another round of bogus and deeply unsatisfying arguments, such as 1 - "9/11 Changed Everything" - including presumably the first and fourth ammendment?; or

2 - "Why would the gov't spy on people who weren't guilty?" -Ouch! The pincer grip of logic!; or
3 - "I have my rights, so screw you"; or
4 - "Yes, but Democrats raise taxes"; or
5 - "I'd rather sit safe in my bugged and camera-laden apartment than be free in the streets where their might be Arabs around."; or...
Aw hell, freedom is over-rated anyway.

Second attempt: Here's what you need to know. The government announced on Friday that for past few years it has allowed the NSA (National Security Agency) to spy on Americans without warrants.

The best argument against this hateful and tyrannical practice is the famous and searing poem of regret attributed (wrongly, most presume) to Martin Niemöller:

In Germany they first came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me — and by that time no one was left to speak up.

In America, they are coming first for terrorists and suspected terrorists. Worry the civil libertarians: Where will it lead? They are right to say that the government is eroding the protections of the law for the purpose of prosecuting people who - in many cases - turn out to be guilty of nothing.

The second best argument is that extrajudicial spying contravenes the fourth amendment, and is, therefore, an offense to the idea of liberty. In fact, this spying is the polar opposite of freedom. The very concept of Western liberty -as the Founders of this country understood it - sprung in part from an understanding that, if the state has the power to violate a person's privacy, and to violate his papers and personal effects then the state has extinguished some of the oxygen necessary for freedom to survive.

These intrusions are an assault on the very idea of freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

We're engaged in a war to spread freedom, the administration says, and truly this is the only thing the justifies the tremendous expense of fighting the war in Iraq and the tremendous lost of life We should mark the words of Ian Fishback, one of the heroes of this war: "Will we confront danger and adversity in order to preserve our ideals, or will our courage and commitment to individual rights wither at the prospect of sacrifice? My response is simple. If we abandon our ideals in the face of adversity and aggression, then those ideals were never really in our possession. I would rather die fighting than give up even the smallest part of the idea that is 'America.'"

These abstract and philosophical objections aren't likely to sway hard-line Republicans. Hard-line Republicans have sold their souls.

Legitimate "conservatives", however, people who pray at the church of Goldwater and Reagen and believe in small government, and freedom ought to be appalled by this sort of governmental overreaching. They ought to understand where it might lead, and they ought to understand the damage it does to the American experiment.