It is ironic that when American civil liberties are under attack, the mechanism employed would be called a “patriot” act. It is equally ironic that when the final legacy of President Obama is written, it will include his championing of a surveillance state of a kind that that his predecessor, President George W. Bush, established over the objection at that time of Barack Obama.
I would suggest convening a national town meeting hosted by diverse leaders with common concerns for liberty, such as former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.).
I long ago suggested a unique and formal coalition between principled libertarians, principled liberals and principled conservatives regarding the kind of matters highlighted in the latest disclosure of massive and unprecedented invasions of privacy that involve phone calls, emails and the Internet, and credit card payments.
Of all of the things we have long suspected but conclusively learned in recent days about the magnitude of the surveillance state, most troubling to me is the nonchalant and cavalier attitude not only of high-level elected officials who enforced or approved these actions but also of so many Americans who casually accept these intrusions as a normal way of life in modern America.
When President Obama says he welcomes public discussion of these matters, is there one person who believe he sincerely does after his far-reaching efforts to keep these matters secret and extraordinary efforts to prosecute matters involving the press?
I have seen these matters personally from the inside and from every point of view. Some secrets need to be kept. Some leaks can be very damaging and should be investigated. Although we have learned many things in recent days, there are far more we do not know and many more questions that should be asked.
One can oppose, as I do, the wholesale investigations of the press while condemning, as I do, some in the media who publish certain stories that can hurt our security.
As for Edward Snowden, it is not helpful for politicians to talk of treason, which is the kind of rhetoric that discredits oversight by politicians in the eyes of many. I do believe that Snowden should never have gone to Hong Kong, or any foreign place under the control of an unfriendly nation, and should turn himself in and let the issue be decided by a jury his peers as a traditional act of civil disobedience.
As to the fundamental constitutional issues these disclosures raise, I would urge libertarian supporters of Paul and supporters of more libertarian liberals like Feingold, as well as the current senators who have objected, to consider a national convention or town meeting to begin a national discussion worthy of the importance of the subject.
We have much to learn before we know which secrets are justified and which are not, but if we continue as a nation where insider elites decide which rights to protect, which rights to violate and which violations should be kept secret from the nation, and half of the nation believes “this is how things should be in America”, the cause of liberty rests on very treacherous ground.
Tuesday, 11 June 2013