(Friday’s Populist Capitalist Blog Post)
National security! Terrorist threats! These have been Washington’s mantra for close to 8 years as our civil liberties have been trashed, our personal privacy treated as an inconvenience, our Constitution used like tissue paper, our email read, our conversations wiretapped: “NSA’s domestic-surveillance activities were far broader than previously acknowledged, monitoring huge volumes of records of domestic emails and Internet searches, as well as bank transfers, credit-card transactions, travel and telephone records.”(1)
Turns out it all was virtually for nothing: A report ordered by Congress last year and the combined work product of the inspectors general of five federal agencies concluded: “Most of the leads passed on to the Federal Bureau of Investigation didn’t have any connection to terrorism. The report concluded that the program “generally played a limited role in the FBI’s overall counterterrorism efforts.”(1)
Furthermore, “Most intelligence officials interviewed ‘had difficulty citing specific instances’ when the National Security Agency’s wiretapping program contributed to successes against terrorists,” the report said.(2)
I hope next time our government offers to take away our freedoms, our liberties, and our privacy in return for “keeping us safe” we remember how hollow those promises can be. As Oregon Senator Ron Wyden stated, an “obsession with secrecy” and “refusal to accept oversight“ made the program “actually harmful to U.S. national security, not to mention the privacy rights of law-abiding Americans.”(2)
The strength and security of a free people lie in their collective freedoms and their unwillingness to surrender their liberty. “Live free or die” was the motto of New Hampshire, one of the founding U.S. colonies. It rang true then and today it still does.
(1) The Wall Street Journal, July 11, 2009
(2) The New York Times, July 11, 2009