Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Where Have All the Democrats Gone?

Disturbing news to me was this comment by Glenn Greenwald:

  Numerous NSA defenders - mostly Democrats - amazingly continue to insist that there is no evidence of wrongdoing by the NSA. How do they get themselves to ignore things like this and this?"

Greenwald reminds us that things weren't always so bleak:

In the mid-1970s, the US Senate formed the Select Intelligence Committee to investigate reports of the widespread domestic surveillance abuses that had emerged in the wake of the Nixon scandals. The Committee was chaired by 4-term Idaho Democratic Sen. Frank Church who was, among other things, a former military intelligence officer and one of the Senate's earliest opponents of the Vietnam War, as well as a former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Even among US Senators, virtually nothing was known at the time about the National Security Agency. The Beltway joke was that "NSA" stood for "no such agency". Upon completing his investigation, Church was so shocked to learn what he had discovered - the massive and awesome spying capabilities constructed by the US government with no transparency or accountability - that he issued the following warning, as reported by the New York Times, using language strikingly stark for such a mainstream US politician when speaking about his own government:

"'That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide.'
"He added that if a dictator ever took over, the NSA 'could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.'"
As Greenwald observes:

  The conditional part of Church's warning - "that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people" - is precisely what is happening, one might even say: is what has already happened. That seems well worth considering.

Any Democrats considering this? 


JDB said...

What's interesting about this particular comment from Anon is that the majority of your post's content, and certainly the substance, is from someone else. So he must be talking about Greenwald, not you.

Bilbo said...

Yeah, you're right. Greenwald has enough grief without my publishing comments like that.

Bilbo said...

What puzzles me about Anon is that he keeps complaining about how boring my blog is. Last time I checked, I wasn't the only blog in the world. So why does he insist on exposing himself to such ennui? Am I his assignment? Does he work for the NSA and he drew the short straw?

JDB said...

Hostility on the Internet to how annoying someone's posts are is quite interesting. Greenwald also, actually, has to regularly remind hostile commentators in his threads (the ones that critique his very activity - not more substantive critiques) that they are not, in fact, obligated to read his writings.

As for Anon, I suppose I would chalk it up to the malicious kind of trolling activity. Presumably the human behind Anon imagines you feeling hurt and shamed by his penetrating psychological analysis. It would be purely amusing if it weren't for the fact that actual Internet bullying sometimes does have negative consequences in the real world.

JDB said...

The NSA suggestion is amusing to me, because it seems completely ridiculous, except for the fact that the government (the FBI in particular), as you probably know, sent really lame-ish hate mail to Martin Luther King.

What's so amazing about the letter (to me at least) is not the fact that such efforts were made, but just how transparent and lame the execution was.