“Thanks for signing a petition about Edward Snowden. This is an issue that many Americans feel strongly about. Because his actions have had serious consequences for our national security, we took this matter to Lisa Monaco, the President’s Advisor on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism.”
Monaco is quoted as reiterating the viewpoint, articulated by those conducting the un-Constitutional spying from the beginning, that Snowden is basically a traitor to the United States and should return to the U.S. to be, “judged by a jury of his peers.”
Leaving aside the fact that calling attention to high crimes (i.e. “whistleblowing”) is not in itself a crime, it must be remembered that Snowden would not receive a proper day in court, even if he returned for such purposes.
It is also worthy of note that the official response never explicitly states if the petition has been rejected; instead it essentially dismisses the people’s support for Snowden out of hand, and concludes by saying, ironically, that there must be “robust debate” regarding surveillance.
The petition is not the only expression of outrage by the American people concerning the NSA and domestic spying.
The so-called “USA Freedom Act” passed Congress recently, and many citizens hope that it will use the force of law to address justified concerns for privacy and civil liberties, in a way that WhiteHouse.gov petitions cannot. Unfortunately, the Freedom Act is also likely to disappoint, for two primary reasons.
First, many legal experts argue that it does not go far enough. As Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director for the ACLU said:
“No one should mistake this bill for comprehensive reform. The bill leaves many of the government’s most intrusive and overbroad surveillance powers untouched, and it makes only very modest adjustments to disclosure and transparency requirements.”
Secondly, the Freedom Act is only as effective as the men and women charged with implementing it.
On its own, the Freedom Act will not magically abolish the security-surveillance state. In the same way that the U.S. Constitution failed to prevent illegal, domestic surveillance in the first place, the Freedom Act will not eliminate the schemes of politicians or other state actors who seek evasion from limitations on their power.
We must consider that most legislators, such as Marco Rubio, whom supposedly identifies with “the American dream,” libertarianism and human freedom, are nonetheless against restrictions on state power, viewing the Freedom Act as an intolerable replacement for the Patriot Act. What of the legislators who are not even willing to put on a show in calling for increased “individual freedom”?
Finally, there is the simple fact that at the end of the day, the NSA will be implementing the reforms more or less on itself. Deciding on proposed reforms in Congress is one thing; actually implementing them is another.
The bureaucratic machinery of the NSA, in synergism with other organs of the security-surveillance state, will be tasked with determining what reforms are “safe” to implement, how to implement them, and when they can be implemented. Consider the following portion from an AP piece one week ago, in regards to whether the NSA will keep citizens’ phone records:
“Congress passed a law in June ending the NSA’s bulk collection of American calling records after a six-month transition. But officials said they weren’t sure whether they would continue to make use of the records that had already been collected, which generally go back five years. On Monday, the Director of National Intelligence said those records would no longer be examined in terrorism investigations after Nov. 29, and would be destroyed as soon as possible.”
The NSA could easily change its mind come November in light of some perceived necessity that the NSA would, of course, define for us.
For people dismayed at the rejection of the Snowden petition; for those who feel that the “Freedom Act” is a magic potion; for those who find it sufficient to hear the NSA slyly say, “we promise we aren’t stealing your data, seriously”: it all adds up to the proverbial fox guarding the hen house, and the chickens hoping in vain that the fox has their best interests at heart.
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