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KUHNER: Not Uncle Sam, but Uncle Spy

- - Thursday, October 31, 2013

America has erected a world surveillance network. Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the United States has established a national surveillance state. President George W. Bush gave birth to this Frankenstein's monster. It has dramatically — and dangerously — grown under President Obama. The result is that we have become one of the most reviled nations on Earth. America is no longer a constitutional republic, but a multinational empire. Like ancient Rome, there is almost no country whose internal affairs we don't meddle in. This is creating global resentment and intense backlash.

The latest National Security Agency spying scandal concerns the Vatican. Media reports say the National Security Agency (NSA) was eavesdropping on Pope Francis before and during the secret conclave that elected him to the papacy. NSA officials are said to have listened in on his phone conversations — including those with other cardinals. The NSA is also accused of reading the pontiff's emails. The question must be asked: What business is it of ours to spy on the Holy See? The Vatican is not a mortal enemy of America. In fact, Pope Francis is the very opposite: a man of God, a peacemaker fiercely opposed to violence and war. He is the last person who poses a danger to our national security.

In fact, Pope Francis increasingly represents the liberal wing of the church. He champions "social justice" and economic redistributionist policies. He calls for industrialized nations to combat "man-made global warming." He has urged Catholics, especially bishops and other church leaders, to stop "obsessing" about abortion and same-sex marriage. (That prompts the question: If Catholics should not be preoccupied with preventing the mass murder of unborn children or defending the basic institution of society, then what should they be concerned about?) Some of his statements have bordered on moral relativism, such as the claim that atheists should "follow their own conscience" in the attempt to "understand the difference between good and evil." The problem is an atheist's "conscience," for example, may lead to that person excusing abortion — or other sins, such as murder, theft, lying and adultery.

The pontiff's liberalism may be disconcerting to Catholic traditionalists like myself, but it is right up President Obama's ideological alley. In some ways, Pope Francis is Mr. Obama's man in the Vatican: an economic leftist, who is pro-environment, pro-social democracy, a proponent of the United Nations and anti-war. So why is the Obama administration obsessed with keeping tabs on the gentle Argentine pope?

It is not just the Vatican. Europeans are furious about the stunning revelations that the NSA has spied on the leaders of France, Spain, Italy and Germany. In 2010, senior U.S. intelligence officials told Mr. Obama that Washington was eavesdropping on German Chancellor Angela Merkel's private cellphone. They supposedly wanted to know her positions on the eurozone crisis and on Libya. The president not only knew about the espionage, he reportedly authorized the NSA to continue and even expand the spying operation. German media reports are full of lurid stories about the U.S. Embassy in Berlin being the center of a clandestine campaign to listen in on the conversations of countless German citizens. The NSA is now viewed as the successor to the dreaded Stasi, East Germany's communist secret police. In all, it is thought that the NSA has been spying on at least 35 world leaders — most of them America's friends and allies.

The damage to our reputation has been immense, almost irreparable. We now have been exposed as shameless hypocrites. The United States preaches democracy and human rights. Yet, it routinely tramples upon basic civil liberties and democratic freedoms. For years, liberals denounced Mr. Bush, claiming that he had made America reviled around the world — especially in Europe. Under Mr. Obama, however, U.S.-European relations are in tatters. He was supposed to be the great healer, the one who would restore our standing in the world. In fact, Europeans — Germans, Spaniards, Italians, Poles, Czechs and the French — despise him. He insults and disrespects our allies, while coddling fascist Iran, revanchist Russia and a bellicose China.

Mr. Obama's ultimate legacy is something that should be feared by every American: the creation of the paranoid state. Born in hubris, driven by an insatiable lust for power and control, and protected by an official web of lies, it is slowly sapping the very essence of our democracy. America's mission is not to police the world, but to preserve the constitutional liberties of its citizens. The American experiment in self-rule and republican government is dying. Sadly, the world knows it as well.

America, it's time to come home.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a radio host on WRKO AM-680 in Boston.