Governments, which tout their democratic nature, always claim that anything they do is “legally sound”, because they can pass whatever law someone in power wants to pass. For example, the invasion of Iraq was “legal’, because the Bush administration said it was.
If governments would go after bankers that destroyed the economy with the same vigor with which they pursue someone that embarrasses them, then perhaps everyone would benefit.
Each article or discussion about recent revelation of the US Government’s program of “spying” on all telephone and internet exchanges usually contains a quotes along the lines of “you have nothing to fear, if you have done nothing wrong”.
I am willing to wager than every human has broken some law. No one can know all laws, especially esoteric and historical statutes. Daily practices often eclipses rule, which all have forgotten, never known, or ignore.
That makes the government surveillance program an ideal tool for anyone wishing to screw up an opponent’s life. And, some over-ambitious civil “servant” can harass whoever he or she chooses to target. Or, worse, a contract employee can earn a bonus by fingering as many suspects as possible. The following column is scary (especially since my fingerprints are on file and I live in Europe)...
Of course, governments never break a law, because they make laws to suit their practices...
I do not worry about the government snooping. Bureaucrats are not dangerous. I worry about corporations profiting from doing the government’s dirty work. Someone is striving to earn a bonus from fingering other citizens. That’s scary, because people are driven by money, not morality.
Germans have a saying about hope being the last thing to die (Hoffnung stirbt zuletzt). I think, for Americans, that might be humor. How else can one respond to the following revelation?
Here a few blog comments provoked by knowledge of government snooping.
The Russians call the FBI to warn about Tsarnaev. Too bad the NSA didn't tap their phones,
You wanted a government that listens...You got it!
You know, the NSA and its petabytes of storage makes a wonderful backup service for my files. I just wish I could send to them directly without the need for them to intercept. Maybe they could create a special address such as "backups.nsa.gov"?
The IRS and the NSA aren't on speaking terms, so don't worry.
But, in my opinion, I feel sorry for the poor buggers forced to sift through inane emails. The only thing more-boring than this blog would be my emails...
Of course, all this accelerated years ago:
“Bush, Blair, and the rest framed the war on terror as an apocalyptic struggle that would forge the new American century of untrammeled personal freedom and free markets. During the first years of the new millennium, a religious fervor energized the project of what we might call “military neoliberalism”: violence was the means for realizing liberal democratic heaven on earth. The picture of a world at war where purportedly democratic regimes, like the USA, deploy terror in their alleged attempts to confront it is still very much with us, even if full-scale, classical military invasions have given way to the calculated cowardice of drone strikes and targeted assassinations.”
The promise of freedom, which most people swallowed, begat lack of freedom, which most still do not understand. Unfortunately, America’s enemies surely do. Not only do they use democracy against us, they have figured out how to make ourselves our own worst enemy.
Most people think that the terrorist of September 11th destroyed only the World Trade Center. They destroyed much more. Life in the United States, even for citizens, has never been and never will be the same.
And, people wonder why I have become cynical...
I wrote the above lines several weeks ago, after reading a New Yorker article titled “Deportation Machine”. I wanted to link to it, but it is behind a pay wall. Because I subscribe to the print edition (which I have, off and on, for fifty years), I read the entire article and was shocked and disappointed. This provided one more justification for living in another country.
That said, recent revelations about government disregard for personal freedom, despite being guaranteed by the Constitution--a document held so holy by gun advocates--drive home what I wrote. The people that planned and executed the attacks on September 11, 2001, destroyed a way of life (even if it had been deteriorating for years). This is sad, because life in the United States used to be good for the majority.
But, the root cause is the drang for profit. Corporations earn billions providing “security”, surveillance, and prisons. The innocent might not have anything to fear from government surveillance, but the same people define “innocence”. With the need to ensure and to increase profits from prisons, who knows what will be defined as “crime”, now that the government knows what everyone thinks?
I noticed that the Russian Government has passed a law forbidding adoption of Russian children by Americans. This reminded me (as if I needed reminding) how stupid governments can be. The only ones to suffer from such laws are simple citizens wanting to do good for others and children hoping for a better life.
I recall sitting one evening many years ago with a KGB officer in the gazebo in the garden of a villa in Moscow, which had been the home of a Politburo member and was now a government guest house put at my disposal. We shared a bottle of vodka--what else?--and inveighed against our governments’ attempts to create enemies each other’s citizens. We could find no reason to be enemies, but share a common dislike of deceitful leaders and politicians.
There would be less wars on this planet, if people were not foolish enough to fall for the siren song of patriotism drummed up by arrogant, ignorant, and paranoid leaders.
Two prisoners in facing dissimilar charges in two dissimilar countries have fallen afoul of their governments for a similar reason: fear.
Despite their immense power over their citizens, governments fear individual dissent, whether breaking "laws" imposed to protect those in power or speaking out against those in power. The harsh response to these two cases results from the two men having embarrassed their governments in the eyes of the world and their associated feeling of impotence. Each must foster fear on remaining citizens in hope of preventing further embarrassment. They seem to be insensitive or uncaring about world reaction to treatment of these two individuals.
I am not member of the ACLU and am not a dissident. I am a human being with empathy. The US Government treatment of Bradley Manning is unjustified. Incarceration under normal conditions is bad enough; Chinese Government treatment of Ai Wei Wei is similarly unjustified and cruel.
A second finger can be pointed at the US Government. How can it criticize the Chinese about human rights violations? This is the height of hypocrisy. Like the Rhine graben, the moral high ground has sunk below the surface of surrounding land.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.