Friday, August 9, 2013

The whistleblowers are winning

I'll say it again: I have yet to hear any American say, "I wish I didn't know about the NSA's spying on us."  And if more and more Americans are turning against the NSA's domestic spying, then that means the whistleblowers are winning:

Meanwhile, Snowden and Glenn Greenwald and Wikileaks are winning. At the outset Snowden said his biggest fear was that people would see "the lengths that the government is going to grant themselves powers unilaterally to create greater control over American society and global society and that 'nothing will change'". But his disclosures have already created a new debate, and political change will follow

Two weeks ago there was a surprisingly close call in the US House of Representatives, with the majority of House Democrats and 94 of 234 Republicans defying their House (and Senate) leadership, the White House, and the national security establishment in a vote to end the NSA's mass collection of phone records. The amendment was narrowly defeated by a vote of 205 to 217, but it was clear that "this is only the beginning," as John Conyers (D-MI), ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee announced. 

A week later Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Democratic Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called a hearing where he challenged the Obama administration's claims that the NSA dragnet had been effective in disrupting terrorist plots. According to Leahy, the classified list that he had been shown of "terrorist events" did not show that "dozens or even several terrorist plots" had been thwarted by the NSA's surveillance of domestic phone calls.

It is beginning to sink in that the main target of the NSA's massive spying programmes is not terrorism but the American people themselves (as well as other non-terrorist populations throughout the world). 

Weisbrot sums it up with a few provocative questions:

And as Washington threatens to worsen relations with Russia - which together with the United States has most of the nuclear weapons in the world - over Snowden's asylum there, it's hard not to wonder about this fanatical pursuit of someone Obama dismissed as a "29-year-old hacker". Is it because he out-smarted a multi-billion dollar "intelligence community" of people who think they are really very smart but are now looking rather incompetent? 

If Snowden really leaked information that harmed US national security, why haven't any of these "really very smart" people been fired? Are we to believe that punishing this whistleblower is important enough to damage relations with other countries and put at risk all kinds of foreign policy goals, but the breach of security isn't enough for anyone important to be fired? Or is this another indication, like thegenerals telling Obama what his options were in Afghanistan, of the increasing power of the military/national security apparatus over our elected officials?

It's another matter that whistleblowers and journalists themselves may suffer personally for their revelations.  For their suffering for the sake of our liberty we can only thank them.

UPDATE (08.11.2013): Julian Assange called Obama's decision to reform Section 215 of the Patriot Act and Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act a victory for Edward Snowden, despite Obama's denials that it has anything to do with Snowden. Yeah, right.

By Mark Weisbrot
August 7, 2013 | Al Jazeera

No comments: