Our constitutional republic is under attack. It has been wounded by the rise of the national surveillance state. This is the real meaning of the explosive leaks from former intelligence employee Edward Snowden.
The 29-year-old computer analyst is on the run, hiding out in Hong Kong, rightly fearing for his life. His alleged crime: He leaked the existence of the National Security Agency's secret intelligence surveillance programs. We now know the NSA monitors the phone records, emails and Internet data of more than 120 million Americans. For this, many Republicans and Democrats are calling him a "traitor." The ruling class considers Mr. Snowden a digital Benedict Arnold.
The opposite is true. He is a hero and patriot, who exposed the rampant abuses of power at the heart of the Obama regime. In an interview with a British newspaper, The Guardian, Mr. Snowden revealed the pervasive lawlessness at the NSA. "Sitting at my desk, I had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president," he said.
Following Mr. Snowden's sensational leaks, President Obama claimed that although the government is conducting widespread data-mining, "no one is listening in" to Americans' phone calls. In short, the administration's response boils down to one seminal argument: Trust us.
Under President Bush, and now accelerated by Mr. Obama, the war on terrorism has led to the creation of a massive internal-security apparatus that tramples on basic privacy and civil liberties — the United States of surveillance. Big Brother has been born. The implications are ominous.
In 2008, ABC News interviewed several NSA workers. They admitted that they routinely spied on and listened in to phone calls made by U.S. troops in Iraq to loved ones back home. The goal: to hear titillating phone sex or pillow talk. In other words, NSA agents were amusing themselves by eavesdropping on the most intimate conversations of Americans. Hence, the claim by Washington officials that private phone calls are not being listened to is blatantly false.
Moreover, the NSA's actions directly assault the Constitution. The government has no business — none — monitoring the calls or emails of innocent, law-abiding citizens. Instead, our intelligence agencies should be targeting specific individuals, such as radical Islamists, who are likely to commit terrorist atrocities. In previous times (when the Constitution mattered), the government would ask for a specific warrant or subpoena to monitor someone's communications based on probable cause. Yet, for fear of being labeled "Islamophobic," the U.S. government is now placing the entire population under a blanket warrant. The consequences are not only dangerous, but authoritarian.
Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, is right. The NSA's programs directly violate the Fourth Amendment, which guards against "unreasonable searches and seizures." In fact, the mass revulsion triggered by general warrants was a major cause of the American Revolution. The Patriots of 1776 deeply resented the British soldiers' practice of going into Colonials' homes to search for and seize contraband. British behavior grossly disregarded fundamental liberties and property rights. It was why Americans eventually took up arms. The same thing is being done today, except our government is going from computer to computer, phone to phone. The result is similar: We are being reduced to vassals of the state, treated as potential hostile enemies.
America has crossed the Rubicon. Mr. Obama is slowly erecting the pillars of a soft police state. Our government is now spying on almost all of its citizens. The Internal Revenue Service has been turned into a political tool of the administration to persecute the president's opponents. The Justice Department has been caught snooping on countless journalists, including Fox News reporter James Rosen as a potential criminal co-conspirator, simply for conducting investigative reporting on North Korea. The State Department deliberately manipulated and altered CIA intelligence to cover up the Benghazi, Libya, terrorist killings.
According to a lawsuit, it also appears that 15 IRS agents illegally and improperly seized the medical records of more than 10 million Americans stored by a California health care provider. These were the records — which allegedly contain highly private psychological, gynecological, sexual and drug-use information — of prominent judges, politicians, actors and professional athletes. This is the kind of information that potentially can be used to blackmail individuals. Yet in 2014, the IRS will be responsible for enforcing Obamacare.
The federal government has become overly centralized, too powerful and intrusive. It has lost its sense of limits or any restraint. It runs roughshod over the checks and balances embedded within the Constitution. It has become a menacing leviathan, crushing individual liberties and democratic freedoms in its wake.
Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a radio commentator on WRKO AM-680 in Boston.
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