Yesterday, John Stossel published an op-ed on Reason.com titled “Why Libertarians Have Better Things to Worry About Than the NSA”. He spoke against military spending and TSA pat-downs at the Airport.
Good for him.
However, Stossel lists two reasons as to why he isn’t that “angry” over the NSA collecting telephone records from Verizon and AT&T that I have an issue with to the situation at hand. The first reason as he states is that “Terrorists do want to murder us. If the NSA is halfway competent, Big Data should help detect plots.”
He is right. Terrorists do want to murder us. But does this allow the government to view all American citizens as potential terrorists? People often like to state that we send young men and women to die and fight in wars to “preserve” our freedom. Isn’t this counterproductive? What does “preserving our freedom” actually mean if we do the heaving lifting for them? My parents did not emigrate to the United States for us to live in a police state. Your ancestors did not come United States to live in a police state. This country’s founding documents were created to prevent a police state. Although terrorists do want to murder us, the stakes are higher for an oppressive regime.
Brian Jenkins, a top counter-terrorism analyst, former Special Forces soldier and longtime RAND Corporation analyst told Slate.com, “Democracy does not preclude voluntary submission to despotism. Given a frightened population, Congress can legislate away liberties just as easily as tyrants can seize power. That seems to be what has started to happen.”
“We are driven,” he later said, “by fears of what might happen, not by things that have happened.”
According to his interview with Slate.com, “he noted that since Sept. 11, 2001, there have been 42 terrorist plots in the United States. All but four of them were halted. Three of those succeeded and killed a total of 17 people. ‘Not that this isn’t a tragedy,’ he said, ‘but, really, in a society that has 15–16,000 homicides every year, it isn’t a lot.’”
Officials have dubbed Snowden as “unpatriotic” and “treasonous” – it is important to note that they were the ones who had given him access to their spy operation. If the NSA were truly competent in protecting America, how could it possibly fail at protecting itself from an employee? Let’s be serious.
In fact, I believe that there are a lot of things to worry about through this unlimited NSA surveillance. Aside from the fact that its operations are completely secret and that we have no way of assessing the sophistication of its operation, we have a much bigger problem with unlimited access to our privacy through the NSA spy operation. Right now, Glenn Greenwald (who broke the story out about the leaks) is being condemned by the public and had an official call for his arrest. Since when is it illegal for a journalist to report on scandals that infringe upon the civil liberties of the American people? Our elected officials are already deeming that the freedom of press does not apply to our first amendment rights. Snowden had to flee the country leaving behind a long-term girlfriend, a $200K salary and a beautiful home in Hawaii after revealing the truth to American citizens of what the government is capable of.
Stossel states: “I’m angrier about other things Big Brother does in the name of keeping me safe: forcing me to wear safety gear, limiting where I may go, stripping me at airports, forcing me to pay $2,300 for more military than we need.”
I’m confused. If he is deeply concerned about the above protectionist policies, then how is it possible for him to not be concerned about the massive stakes at hand with the illegal surveillance of our telephone records? The current PRISM program only leads to further protectionist Big Brother policies.
His second reason is also quite troubling. “My electronic privacy has already been utterly shredded by Google, Amazon, YouTube and so on,” he says.
Yes, there are a lot of things to worry about with the large scope of our government. Every day, the fourth amendment is infringed upon by protectionist policies. And we need to demand change over these protectionist policies. However, there needs to be a deep concern, deep anger over the NSA. Our elected officials have gone against the constitution. Noble individuals who fight to support our rights are being punished, heroes are being envisioned as treasonous. Even worse, the public is accepting of such injustice. How can we, as a society, demand social change and demand our freedoms if the majority of the public are willing to sacrifice them?
That is a question to ponder.
Finally, Edward Snowden makes a valid point: “I had been looking for leaders, but I realized that leadership is about being the first to act.”
When will you act?
Sarah Harvard is the Executive Editor of DL Magazine. She is currently affiliated with Students For Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty. She takes interest in US-Middle East Relations, liberty in Muslim society, Islamic thought in comparison to Western enlightenment, and issues pertaining to civil liberties. She can be found on Twitter at @Sarah_Harvard and her personal website.