Monday, July 29, 2013

The NSA's contempt for Freedom of Expression

It is noteworthy to see that the man I voted for to be president is so persistent and determined to eliminate whistleblowers. Whistleblowers are people who uncover corruption in government and take it to the press. To see Obama now, with the help of Congress, pursuing Edward Snowden with so much energy and determination, informs us that we don't really know the man we elected in 2008. It seems that his promise to protect whistleblowers doesn't mean much now.

There was much that I liked about Obama when I voted for him. Compared to John McCain, who appeared ready and willing to continue fighting two wars, Obama was a better man. But I had no clue that Obama would turn against the people by defending the NSA, their hoovering of personal information at every opportunity and making secret interpretations of law. I am reminded of a song by the Who, "We Won't Get Fooled Again".

Perhaps Obama was indeed idealistic during his run for president. Perhaps his hands are tied and he must do as he is told, unable to debate the other side of the story - the People's side. The People are not criminals. Most of us have committed no crime, have no plans to do so, and happen to enjoy living here in the United States.

This unfettered contempt for whistleblowers is also contempt for freedom of expression, a right protected by the First Amendment to our Constitution. This freedom is what allowed Obama to be elected. This freedom allows us to have elections in the first place. It is the first freedom that is guaranteed by our Constitution.

Yet, Obama's NSA insists on collecting call data on all calls to and from all Americans without a warrant, a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. Who are these people, anyway? What do they hope to gain?

Obama's NSA does not represent the will of the majority of Americans. Chris Christie can moan and complain all he wants about the view he had of the twin towers burning during the 9/11 disaster. But nothing, nothing at all, can justify the violation of our rights for a little (more) security.

No, Obama's NSA doesn't represent *us*. It is a representation of the fear and loathing that exists in Lesterland. Lesterland is a fictional representation of our country provided as analogy courtesy of Larry Lessig, a prominent figure in the Free Software Movement, and a lawyer. Lesterland is a place where the people who get elected to high office are selected by not the 1%, but the 0.05% of the People. They are wealthy enough to fund 60% of the costs of running for high office across our country. These are the people who are calling the shots, choosing the people who get to run for office, and egging on the NSA to collect anything and everything they think they can store.

These are the people who want the NSA to make secret interpretations of the law so that they can justify their intelligence gathering. Sure, they may have a laudable intention. Sure, they want to help us and to prevent another terrorist attack. I get that.

But there is no telling what that information can be used for. I don't trust the NSA to be able to keep that information secure for one. Two, insiders who can buy access to the information collected by the NSA can use that information against their adversaries. The 0.05% have enough money and resources to gain access to that information even if such access were illegal. And if they were caught, they have the money to pay for legal representation that would get them cleared without public humiliation much less a trial or detention.

Even if it might be a good idea to collect information as the NSA does now, it is an enormous and dangerous concentration of power. The members of Congress who seek to limit the power of the NSA may already have this in mind. I say go for it if you can do it. But the cards are now stacked against you.

Edward Snowden is no enemy of the state as far as the People are concerned. He has informed us of the contempt that Obama's NSA has for the law. Those who are in power now have been embarrassed by Snowden and they seek retribution for his act of exposing the contempt that the powerful have for the rest of us. That is the real reason for pursuing Snowden to the ends of the Earth.
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