Perspectives: Edward Snowden’s message we need to hear

Edward Snowden | Image composite by St. George News Graphics

OPINION – The cat is out of the bag. Thanks to a courageous whistleblower and a journalist with integrity, we now know that our own government is spying on American citizens in a big way.

The White House and other government officials admitted to the unprecedented surveillance effort by defending it and denouncing the leaker, Edward Snowden. The official spin doctors are already throwing about words like “espionage” and accusing the whistleblower of “defecting” to China. Don’t believe their lies.

With government power increasing and liberties steadily shrinking over the past decade, “to keep you safe” has become a threadbare cliché.

This may be a bitter pill to swallow, but someone owes the civil libertarians an apology. After all, they were the ones warning about the potential for this type of abuse since the hasty passage of the PATRIOT Act back in 2001.

Why has the U.S. government been working so hard behind the scenes to erase our individual privacy?

Historically, governments do this for one of two reasons. They either regard the people as a resource to be managed or they think of everyone as a potential criminal that has not yet been discovered.

As Claire Wolfe and Aaron Zelman pointed out over 12 years ago in their book “The State vs. The People,” when the state craves control — information is control.

It’s not just our phone data that’s being tracked and stored. Cameras monitor most public spaces and our license plates are regularly scanned as we drive down local streets. As government encroaches into the realm of health care, the privacy of our electronic medical records is at risk.

Our finances are under constant scrutiny by the IRS. Even your hometown banker is required by law to report large deposits or withdrawals of cash.

Partnering with private industry now allows government to benefit from the data mining that follows our preferences, purchases, and places we go online.

This thirst for control goes back well before the electronic age.

Authoritarian and totalitarian governments have always sought to deny privacy to those under their power. Personal information is what has allowed the regime to identify, track, control the movement of, and intimidate the people.

The means for collecting information about us have simply become much more sophisticated. They are powerful tools for a shadowy branch of government that we are told exists to “keep us safe.” And if it weren’t for the conscience of Snowden, most of us would be blissfully unaware that we were the ones being spied upon.

When asked why he became a whistleblower, Snowden said:

The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards. I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.

To those who recognize the implications of secretive government that believes it can operate outside the law, Snowden is rightly regarded as a hero. The bigger question isn’t why he chose to come forth, it’s why haven’t more men like him spoken out?

The answer is that too many within the national security community don’t wish to jeopardize their often-lucrative jobs.

Libertas Institute Director Connor Boyack said:

Otherwise good people grow tolerant, if not outright supportive, of these things. They would rather live comfortably than take the risk of exposing the bad things that fund their salaries. It is not in human nature to do what Edward Snowden has done. He is an inspiration and a role model.

So what do we do with this information? Do we shrug our shoulders and hope someone else will take corrective action? The ball is in our court.

In his video interview, lamenting, Snowden said:

The greatest fear I have regarding the outcome for America of these disclosures is that nothing will change. People will see in the media all of these disclosures. They will know the lengths that the government is going to grant themselves powers unilaterally to create greater control over American society and global society, but they won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to fight to change things, to force their representatives to actually take a stand in their interests.

Snowden has put everything on the line to bring this abuse to our attention. Let’s make sure it wasn’t in vain.

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

Edward Snowden | Image composite by St. George News Graphics
Edward Snowden | Image composite by St. George News Graphics

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18 Comments

  • RPMcMurphy June 11, 2013 at 8:56 am

    “to keep you safe” is the new “it’s for the children”

    Boyack seems to suggest that most of the people involved in the spying keep quiet simply to protect their paychecks. I think he is mistaken. I believe that most of the people — NSA employees and contractors — honestly believe they are doing the right and patriotic thing to keep the people of the US safe. Sure, some aspects of the programs may edge too close to the line of unacceptable but all-in-all is for the good of the country

    • Bryan Hyde Bryan Hyde June 11, 2013 at 11:22 am

      It’s simple self-interest. Talk to people who work within the D.C. Apparatus and you’ll find no shortage of people who have jobs they hate but won’t consider walking away from because the pay is very lucrative.
      .
      “The Boy In the Striped Pajamas” film does an excellent job of showing how good, patriotic people can justify indefensible things when they’re told it’s “for the good of the country.” What happened to them is happening to our society.

      • My Evil Twin June 11, 2013 at 12:12 pm

        Bryan, I for one, agree with you on this. So I think the big question to be answered here, is just what can I as a tax paying, voting citizen of this country, do about it. I always vote. Even though I firmly believe that it is a waste of time, because it just doesn’t seem to mean anything. So just what can we do?

        • mark boggs June 12, 2013 at 2:24 pm

          Find a libertarian candidate who supports more freedom, e.g. ending drug wars, marriage equality, a robust Bill of Rights, including due process, repealing the Patriot Act, etc.
          .
          The more people vote for these guys, the more likely they’ll be able to have a hand in the discussion about where we are going.

      • philiplo June 11, 2013 at 7:28 pm

        There are people in EVERY industry who hate their jobs but can’t (or won’t) walk away from the paycheck. There’s nothing special about gov’t jobs in this regard.

        • Bryan Hyde Bryan Hyde June 11, 2013 at 8:39 pm

          I suppose the big difference is that the people staffing the national security apparatus are actively dismantling the freedoms of their countrymen. How many people do you know who have the power to violate the Fourth Amendment?

          • Travis Dulaney June 12, 2013 at 2:04 pm

            Isn’t the Constitution a limit on government? So only the government can violate it?

  • Travis Dulaney June 11, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    I wonder if all the data they collect is being stored in the same type of promised lockbox as the Social Security money…. which ended up being blown on everything BUT Social Security…. If so, then i have a feeling this data is going to be used for everything BUT National Security.

    Sadly these programs trample the 4th amendment. People say we have to find a balance of Liberty and Security…. well, that is what the 4th amendment is… the balance. If someone wants to tip the scales more toward security, they have to repeal the 4th amendment or pass a new amendment for National Security to trump the 4th. Either way, the government has given itself (which it has no right to do) powers that it has no right to have… but the fact is, they did it. How can they do something, they can’t do? And why is the criminal the person who points out the governments illegal acts rather than the government itself who committed the illegal acts? So… What now?

  • Greenskeeper June 11, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    Are local law enforcement / government is going to be monitoring where and when you drive your car starting July 1st

    41-6a-2003. Automatic license plate reader systems —

    65 (2) An automatic license plate reader system may be used:
    66 (a) by a law enforcement agency for the purpose of protecting public safety, conducting
    67 criminal investigations, or ensuring compliance with local, state, and federal laws;
    68 (b) by a governmental parking enforcement entity for the purpose of enforcing state
    69 and local parking laws;

  • Dan Lester June 11, 2013 at 11:12 pm

    I really do NOT care if the government checks my phone records, email, license plates, or anything else. I have no secrets. I’ll tell anyone anything except my SSN or AmEx numbers. And the government knows them anyway?

    My FaceBook page is open to the world. So is all of my life. Just ask. If you do nothing wrong, nothing to keep secret.

    • Bryan Hyde Bryan Hyde June 12, 2013 at 8:53 am

      As a show of faith, Dan, I’d encourage you to please post your email and social media account usernames and passwords for us.

      • hudrockson June 12, 2013 at 11:44 am

        Excellent reply. The scope of this thing is almost beyond belief, and to say that you “don’t care” is simply showing ignorance, in my opinion. I care. I do a lot of things online, including banking, shopping, etc. I don’t want that information exposed.

        • Big Don June 12, 2013 at 3:09 pm

          Seriously, everything that goes through the internet is no longer “confidential.” Hackers have proven this time and time again. Once it goes into cyberspace, anyone with the knowledge to hack into accounts has access to it.
          “Secure” sites? Don’t make me laugh. There is no such thing.

          • hudrockson June 13, 2013 at 10:46 am

            Big Don, you make a valid point. However, so far, (knock on wood) my data has not been compromised by “hackers”. I see absolutely no reason for the government to be one more point of access to my personal online activity. This is just very disheartening.

      • Travis Dulaney June 12, 2013 at 1:55 pm

        Bryan. as soon as he posts his login for facebook, sent it to me…. i have some pictures i want to post for him.

    • Travis Dulaney June 12, 2013 at 1:53 pm

      Your privacy is your right. Give it up to whomever you please. But my privacy belongs to me and is protected by the 4th amendment which is the supreme law of the land on this issue.

      “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

      If you think my privacy should be exempt(which you may not), like you have exempted your own, then get like minded people together and amend the constitution. Until then, these programs are powers being exercised which do not exist.

    • Daniel June 12, 2013 at 2:03 pm

      You dont have to be doing anything illegal for the government to attack you. All you have to do is express an opinion or idea that is against them and they will go after you with the IRS. A few months ago you may have said I was crazy for saying that, but you can’t honestly say that now can you?

  • Big Don June 12, 2013 at 9:39 am

    I have a definite problem with big brother spying on US Citizens without probable cause. I believe this country has hit that slippery slope, and that there is going to be no turning back. I do not and can not support the liberal idea that “the government will take care of us.” It won’t, nor should it.
    I fear uncontrolled “authority.” And with good cause. A look at history should be all it takes for even a half-way educated individual to realize what can happen when government has free reign. And when you look at the politicians, you just have to know that the only interests they have, are their own.
    God help this country, because I don’t believe that man can.

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