"There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear. There's a man with a gun over there A-tellin' me I got to beware." --The Buffalo Springfield, For What It's Worth
Strange Days Indeed
Something weird's going on when I find myself agreeing with Carl Bernstein. But fighting for freedom makes strange bedfellows.
Carl Bernstein was a reporter with the Washington Post in the 1970s. With Bob Woodward, Bernstein brought down President Nixon. Since then, he's become something of a roving crusader for the press.
Alan Rusbridger edits The Guardian, the UK newspaper to which NSA technician Edward Snowden leaked volumes of classified information that implicates the National Security Agency in illegal spying on American citizens.
Alan Rusbridger has been called before the British House of Commons as the US and UK governments apply arbitrary power to quash the Snowden documents.
Doing Good Has Its Consequences
For the record, I am grateful to Mr. Snowden for exposing government crimes, but I acknowledge that, in doing so, Snowden broke the law. He is paying the price for his crimes, even if he hasn't been arrested, tried, or convicted. Snowden lives in exile in Russia.
Those who say Snowden should escape punishment for breaking the law miss an important point. Actions have consequences. I'm pretty sure I lack the courage to suffer as Snowden has. But the suffering we do for our beliefs is what makes our actions noble. If our actions have no consequences, there is no great honor in doing right.
So, while I thank Mr. Snowden for uncovering the abuses and crimes of the NSA, I expect that he'll be punished for his actions. Someday, we'll get around to changing the law to protect such action. Those who break unjust laws in the meantime will suffer the consequences.
Back to Bernstein
Mr. Berstein published an open letter to Mr. Rusbridger in The Guardian. The letter commends Rusbridger and The Guardian for their handling of the Snowden documents and condemns the US and UK governments for using untoward intimidation to cow and subordinate the press.
[Y]our appearance before the Commons today strikes me as something quite different in purpose and dangerously pernicious: an attempt by the highest UK authorities to shift the issue from government policies and excessive government secrecy in the United States and Great Britain to the conduct of the press – which has been quite admirable and responsible in the case of the Guardian, particularly, and the way it has handled information initially provided by Mr Snowden.
Do you see the danger here?
The government spied on free citizens without a warrant, as required by law. When the press exposed these government crimes, the government used its power to intimidate and subdue the press. The British government arrested a reporter's partner to demonstrate its unquestionable authority to dictate what we write and what we read and what we say.
The NSA abuse is no different from the IRS abuse of conservative groups. And both demonstrate what happens when free people allow a government to exercise powers that the people have not delegated.
Mr. Berstein goes on:
As we have learned following the recent disclosures initiated by Mr Snowden, intelligence agencies – especially the NSA in the United States – have assiduously tried to avoid and get around such oversight, been deliberately unforthcoming and oftentimes disingenuous with even the highest government authorities that are supposed to supervise their activities and prevent abuse.
We let this happen. We let the NSA and the IRS exercise power in violation of the law that limits government powers. That's our fault. We can't really blame the abusers when we, the police, turned a blind eye to their abuses for decades. Some people even encourage the government to abuse its citizens and break the law.
What We Can Do Is Learn Self-Governance
We can chop government down to size, but we can't do with the tools we've been using. It's time for new tools.
Last fall, I completed Level One training from the Center for Self-Governance. The training and its results are so impressive, St. Louis Tea Party Coalition is repeating Level One training on January 11, 2014, at The Pillar in Ellisville, MO.
If you've been to Level One, we'll be holding Level Two training at the same time and location.
You can register at The Center for Self-Governance. Here are the links:
This training has produced amazing results all over the United States. Learn how to supervise and control your government, from school boards to Congress. It's worth the investment of a few days and few dollars. And beats the daylights of complaining.