We should not be surprised when we discover our government spies on us. We should not be naive enough to believe our government doesn't spy on our allies and friends, nor should we be influenced by all the outrage emanating out of International capitals from Berlin to Mexico City. Perhaps we should be sophisticated enough to understand when anyone in the government answers questions about this activity, they will rarely tell the truth. Now, however, recent revelations would lead us to believe top officials in the government, including the President of the United States and Senator Dianne Feinstein chair of the Senate Committee on Intelligence, do not even know when they are lying or what the real truth is...C'mon man!!!
Ever since Edward Snowden committed the treacherous and treasoness act of truth telling, we now know the National Security Agency is a runaway train, and we and our privacy are on the tracks. With every Snowden reveal, we are inundated with forelock tugging, and sincere earnest pronouncements proclaiming the information to be false, over-hyped, outrageous and above all, totally legal. President Obama assured Americans, and the world, the U.S. was not collecting phone calls, email, and all Internet activity and we were not spying on foreign leaders. (of course if we were, it's legal) Feinstein has consistently defended the shredding of the 4th amendment and violation of international law downplaying the depth and width of our spying efforts. Now both Obama and Feinstein are forced to admit they have no idea what they are talking about. The Wall Street Journal reports N.S.A. spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and 20-30 other foreign leaders, has been going on since 2002. Obama was allegedly informed in 2010 and endorsed this activity. He now denies he knew anything about this spying and Feinstein now says her committee was never informed. C'mon man!!!
What are we to think when these two political heavyweights plead ignorance? How does either of them explain being duped? Isn't it much more likely this is an example of Sgt. Schultz Syndrome..."I see nothing...I hear nothing"? What credibility do either Obama or Feinstein have left on this issue?
In the United States, right now, there are thousands of laws and regulations which carry prison terms if violated. Even more frightening is the fact they do not require you to know you are breaking the law to be punished. Pleading ignorance does not save you. Yet, the President and the senior Senator from California, despite assuring us for months these activities were not occurring...despite promising us they had checked and had not found any smoking gun...despite telling us this was a tempest in a teapot and we should be grateful the N.S.A. is on duty protecting us from "them" and "their" evil intentions... now have to admit they were talking through their respective hats and their assurances aren't worth the video tape they were captured on. C'mon Man !!!
The picture which Edward Snowden has exposed is of a national intelligence apparatus which is out of control and the scope of its activities is so broad no one knows what they are doing or whom they are doing it to. We now know the N.S.A. lies to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court which is the secret court which is supposed to be exercising oversight and protecting our rights. We now know their definitions of spying are so ephemeral as to render oversight impossible. We are told it would be a waste of the President's precious time to inform him of all the ways this country is violating privacy rights in the name of security. Obama is asked to approve a general outline, but not specifics. When he answers questions on the N.S.A. and its actions, we now have no way of knowing if he is telling the truth because HE doesn't know if he is telling the truth. C'mon Man !!!
Feinstein comes of this looking like a minister for propaganda rather than the chair of an important watchdog committee. She is now outraged and shocked, shocked I say, to find out we have been spying on our allies. She is chagrined to discover the F.I.S.A. court has sanctioned the N.S.A. for lying. She is aghast and agog to discover there are hundreds of operations she has no knowledge of and were never brought before her committee. She is now the living embodiment of that hoary political cliché that you know a politician is lying if their mouth is moving. C'mon man !!!
We are now going to get hearings in Feinstein's committee and a review by the White House of N.S.A. activities. The result will be to confirm what Snowden so courageously exposed...since 2001, and the passing of the Patriot Act and the illegal orders of the Bush administration, anything you do online...any email or cell phone call...any search request...any topic you read about or discuss...any information you reveal on social media as well as any letter you write or book you buy or borrow are grist for this intelligence machine to grind up and spit out. C'mon man !!!
The $64,000 question is who will they spit all this out to? We know N.S.A. workers were spying on ex's and former lovers. The F.B.I. illegally used national security letters to target potential political activity. The I.R.S. has been out of control for at least 75 years. Who will be tempted to tap into this reservoir of juicy, titillating, personal and private information? What government agencies will demand access? Will this information trail be made available to local law enforcement and will it be accessible for use in opposition research in political campaigns? Will corporations be able to get at this stuff? What about insurance companies or prospective employers or how about the three big credit rating agencies? Will your credit score be influenced by all this meta data?
The age-old question of who watches the watchers has never been more pertinent than today. Feinstein and Obama assure us they are watching. The chair of the House Intelligence Committee says he is watching. The F.I.S.A. court is supposed to be watching. We now know none of these watchers knows anything and are at the mercy of what the N.S.A. and its cousins choose to tell them.
Talk of warrants, probable cause, presumption of innocence and constitutionally protected privacy now turns out to be just talk. The government intrusions prohibited by the 4th amendment now appear to be moot. What was it Franklin said happens to people who trade security for safety? C'mon man !!
N.B. If Edward Snowden returned home, is there a jury in the country which would convict him?