Our level of tolerance for government spying will be one deciding factor.
If Americans in 2014 shrug our shoulders in ignorance or apathy, or throw up our hands in helplessness, or say there’s nothing we can do, or we’ve got nothing to hide – or that, hey, the government has to spy on all of us to protect us from a few crazy jihadists, right? – then broad government spying on not just us but on future generations will be given the green light.
And we will have failed our progeny.
We owe it to future generations, if not ourselves, to get this right.
The extent of government spying on us was revealed in a big way by fugitive former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden – and summarized neatly in this paragraph from a recent column by Judge Andrew Napolitano:
“Just how massive is this scandal? The Washington Post has reported that the NSA hacks into 500,000 American buddy lists and 600,000 American address books every day, and The Guardian of London reported last week that the NSA seizes 200 million American text messages every day. This is in addition to seizing the content of all cellphone- and landline-generated telephone conversations and copies of all emails sent or received in the United States. And all of that is in addition to seizing all bank records, utility bills and credit card bills of everyone in the United States.”
It truly is amazing the amount of spying we are acquiescing to today, and the lack of outcry in the media – which, of any profession, should be there to safeguard our freedoms.
Even when a government review panel warned recently, in unusually blunt terms, that the NSA spying is illegal and unconstitutional, the news seemed to melt like a wet snow on a spring morning.
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, in The Washington Post’s words, “concluded that the program raises serious threats to civil liberties, has shown limited value in countering terrorism and is not sustainable from a policy perspective.”
Indeed, the board said in its report:
“We have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the telephone records program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation. Moreover, we are aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack.”
So, according to the government’s own review panel, we are breaking new ground in civil rights violations – the utterly warrantless mass collection of our email and phone records and communications – without any discernible progress to show for it.
“At its core,” the board wrote, “the (NSA’s) approach boils down to the proposition that essentially all telephone records are relevant to essentially all international terrorism investigations” – which, of course, is so ludicrous a proposition as to be laughable, were we not foolishly ceding our civil rights and those of our descendants.
As President Obama has summarily dismissed the review board’s warning and all other concerns, and as the nation naps through yet another assault on civil liberties, the courts may be the last refuge for our increasingly abused and neglected Bill of Rights.
May history forgive us.
On second thought, we may not be worthy of it.