OPINION – It’s bad enough to have confirmed that the U.S. government actively spies on its citizens without probable cause. But even this revelation pales in comparison to the degree to which some are going in defending such practices.
A two-pronged attack is underway that began with politicians and pundits trying to smear the messengers to distract from the message. The next phase involves these same mouthpieces combined with former government officials coming out in support of the national surveillance state.
How many Americans truly appreciate the magnitude of the crossroads at which they stand?
We’ve just been informed that our nation’s security apparatus is indeed focused intently upon our phone calls, our emails, and our online interactions. This information gathering is being done in secret, without our permission, and without any specific articulable suspicion of the millions being monitored.
Our political leaders assure us that all this spying is being done “legally” and with “proper oversight” to protect civil liberties. But in this case, “legally” means that the U.S. government has given itself permission to exceed its Constitutionally limited powers.
Likewise, “proper oversight” is how these folks describe secret laws rubber-stamped by judges in secret courts. This means that secretive agencies must only brief a few select members of Congress before gagging them in the name of national security.
The American media is more interested in publishing pictures of then 18-year-old Edward Snowden showing off his boxer shorts for the camera than exposing the largest betrayal of public trust in our lifetimes. They have forgotten that power is inherently dangerous and prone to abuse. Snowden was correct in assuming that a story like this could not be trusted to media sources that no longer act as watchdogs but have instead become lapdogs for those in power.
Americans once were far less trusting that those who held power would not betray them by abusing it.
Edmund Burke described this mindset nearly 240 years ago when he wrote: “In other countries, the people, more simple, and of a less mercurial cast, judge of an ill principle in government only by an actual grievance; here they anticipate the evil, and judge of the pressure of the grievance by the badness of the principle. They augur misgovernment at a distance; and sniff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze.”
It’s telling that the primary outrage dominating the news cycle is directed at the whistleblower and not at the abuser of power. Have we been successfully indoctrinated into implicitly trusting those in power?
Too many Americans have forgotten that the founders did not create a government that needed to know about every communication we make. Nor did they write into the Constitution the protection of official deeds done in secret that would undo the limits on government power.
Scott Shackford said there are three things that those who “have nothing to hide” should remember:
- Every American is likely a criminal in some sense.
- Our government has abused its surveillance powers before.
- The people who make up our government include some who are petty, creepy, incompetent, and dangerous.
What this means is that whenever we are tempted to allow government power to operate beyond its upper limits, we are tempting tyranny to take hold. If we allow totalitarian tools to find a place in our government, we shouldn’t be terribly surprised when someone finds an excuse to use them against us.
But we are far from helpless against this betrayal and dismantling of our Bill of Rights that has already been revealed.
Jeffery Tucker, in describing the “architecture of oppression”, reminds us that tyranny “relies most fundamentally on our own cooperation and complacency. Withdrawing our consent, and doing so with integrity and openness, is probably the single most powerful blow any of us can ever strike for the cause of human freedom and the well-being of future generations.”
The key to withdrawing our consent is found in knowing and living our principles well enough that we are willing to face the world alone, if necessary. This requires being able to ask ourselves some tough questions.
Beyond family, is there anything for which we’d be willing to risk our reputations, our financial stability, or our lives?
Have we ever considered at what point we would be willing to stand and make a difference instead of standing by indifferently?
Historically, there have been very few individuals courageous enough to ask themselves these types of questions. But there has always been a need for them.
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.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.