Over the past few days, EB3 has complained several times that there has not been enough discussion of the NSA’s scandalous grab, in the name of counterterrorism, of details about every single phone call made or received by a Verizon customer. I’m sure this policy has been applied to most, if not all, phone carriers and email services as well. Who knows where it ends?
Ernie’s right. We can debate whether the harm done to any specific person by this snooping is as severe as the harm done by past wrongs. But the sheer breadth of this program, the absolute lack of any limiting principle whatsoever, make this situation deeply troubling in its own right, with no need for comparisons.
It is my hope that the recent revelations will prompt a serious discussion in this country, that there will be an outcry sufficient to force a changing of course from the paranoid post-9/11 security state. I applaud Rep. Mike Capuano and those Democrats and Republicans who legitimately are shocked by this news. I applaud Ed Markey, whose candidacy for the Senate I support strongly, not only with my vote but with my time and money, for voting against the Patriot Act’s renewal in 2005, 2010 and 2011, and against reauthorizing the Foreign Intelligence Security Act (FISA) in 2012.
I applaud Ed Markey for saying this:
“As they’re looking for the guilty needle, they gather an innocent haystack of millions of Americans’ information, and we have to make sure that all of that information is protected. We have to make sure there is no compromise of the privacy, of the security of ordinary American families, who are no security risk in our country. That’s why I vote no any of these programs which do not require a warrant.”
I do not applaud Ed Markey for this:
But Markey declined to criticize Obama for the surveillance.
Look, I want to root for Barack Obama. I just went to see him in Roxbury. I voted for him twice. I worked my tail off for him and donated a number of times in 2008. I did not do so in 2012 because I preferred to focus on Elizabeth Warren’s campaign, and because I’ve been deeply disappointed in his presidency. Never more so than with the revelations of this widespread surveillance. I didn’t travel to four different swing states in 2008 to elect the East German Stasi or the KGB. I didn’t work so he could continue this policy – started under George W. Bush – without anyone telling us about it.
In my view the anti-federalist, states’-rights crowd has done a lot more harm than good in our history. The one thing they got right, really right, was the Bill of Rights. It is not appropriate for a President, of any party, to put the Bill of Rights on hiatus because there’s some danger out there in the world. I understand that any President, of any party, has an awesome responsibility these days trying to protect this country’s people from terrorists. But, as somervilletom has pointed out, in April we saw right here in Boston that there’s no way to keep us safe every minute of every day. Two total amateurs, total clowns, the terrorist equivalent of the Keystone Kops or Roscoe P. Coltrane’s Hazzard County Sheriff’s Department, managed to create mayhem and kill and maim our fellow Bostonians.
Particularly distressing is that, if there is political fallout from this mess, it will only benefit those who would make things worse. In the past few days, as I’ve visited the gym, I’ve been treated to the surreal spectacle of Fox News, whose hypocrisy knows no bounds, acting like staunch defenders of civil liberties and Senator Dianne Feinstein acting like we don’t have the right to know this program exists.
C’mon Democrats. The Republicans, and Fox News, should have no credibility on this issue at all. They spent most of a decade branding anyone who DIDN’T support the Patriot Act and the FISA law that made this possible as a terrorist sympathizer or worse. It takes a pretty big screw-up to make those guys look like the defenders of individual liberty against a security state run amok.
But guess what: we live in a two-party, winner-take-all system. Our politics are binary as a result. When people get pissed off at Democrats, a lot of them vote for Republicans next time. Democrats pursuing bad right-wing policies only gives Republicans cover.
Nor is this limited to the NSA situation by any means. In the past week I’ve seen Gabriel Gomez tell the debate audience on Tuesday that Keystone XL is OK because Obama’s State Department, now run by John Kerry, signed off on it as safe. The same Gabriel Gomez told the Newton TAB that he’s got “bipartisan” bona fides because he’d love to work with President Obama to cut Social Security. Then there was the GOP Congressman who told his constitutents all about Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) taking freshman Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee to have lunch with Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein.
The GOP should own all of this. And it would, if Democrats didn’t work so hard to claim bad policies as their own. All together now:
- We are FOR the Bill of Rights, not against it;
- We are FOR the environment, not filthy Canadian oil running across our country in a leaky pipeline to a designated export zone in Texas where it will be sold to the highest (foreign) bidder;
- We are FOR Social Security, not for cutting it at a time when alternative retirement savings are very limited for most seniors and we’ve just asked workers, over the last 30 years, to pay more in payroll taxes than was needed for benefits so we could use the surplus to paper over tax cuts for the wealthiest;
- We are FOR regulation of Wall Street, not for letting the Wall Street lobbyists write the bill that guts the already weak Dodd-Frank act (this bill passed the House overwhelmingly with 73 Democratic votes in favor- who says bipartisanship is dead in DC?)
This is why it’s so important for Democrats to stand up for what are supposed to be Democratic principles. And that’s why it’s up to us to support those Democrats who will do so.