In the name of keeping us safe, it’s now indisputable that the U.S. national-security state has enveloped the American people in an extensive web of surveillance, one that characterizes communist regimes. It’s just the latest episode in the sordid, dark-side history of the national-security state apparatus that was grafted onto our constitutional order as part of the Cold War.
Yesterday, the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald exposed a secret, longstanding court order authorizing the National Security Agency to secretly order telephone companies to turn over their telephone records on the American people to the government. No, the court order did not target specific individuals who were suspected of terrorism. It ordered the companies to deliver everyone’s records to the government. The companies were also ordered to keep the court order secret and their compliance with it secret.
How in the world is this sort of thing reconcilable with a free society? This is what communist countries do—they closely monitor the activities of all their citizens in secret. Just travel to communist Cuba and you’ll see a good example. On second thought, you better not do that. The U.S. government has made it illegal for Americans to travel to Cuba and spend money there, under the rational of, you guessed it, “national security.”
As we have been arguing for years here at FFF, the national-security state is the principal threat to the freedom and well-being of the American people. What the national-security state is doing is precisely what our American ancestors were concerned about when they reluctantly called the federal government into existence with the Constitution. That’s what the Bill of Rights was for — to guarantee that this sort of communist-type nonsense never pervaded our nation, at the hands of American politicians and bureaucrats. The fact that the Bill of Rights was even enacted shows the concern that our ancestors had about U.S. public officials’ abusing their powers, especially in the name of “keeping us safe.”
This is just more example of why The Future of Freedom Foundation has taken a leading role in the defense of civil liberties ever since our inception. Why, in our very first year, the July 1990 issue of our monthly journal Future of Freedom was almost entirely devoted to the vital importance of civil liberties.
But it was especially after the 9/11 attacks that we went into full gear in the defense of civil liberties. We knew what the Patriot Act would bring. Guess what law the government used to secure its sweeping communist-like surveillance order from the FISA court. You guessed it—the Patriot Act! This is precisely the type of thing that we have been warning about in our many articles condemning the Patriot Act. (Is it too late to rename it the Treason Act?”)
That’s what our two big conferences in 2007 and 2008 were all about — to raise people’s awareness of where our country was headed. That’s why we featured speakers such as Glenn Greenwald himself, Jonathan Turley (who himself has an article about the current surveillance scandal in today’s Guardian), Ron Paul, Judge Andrew Napolitano, Robert Scheer, Daniel Ellsberg, Joanne Mariner, Joseph Margulies, Bruce Fein, and so many others speak at those two conferences. That’s why we have videos of their speeches posted on our website.
Our speakers at those two conferences consisted of a combination of libertarians, liberals, and conservatives. What mattered to us was not their ideological label. What mattered to us is that they were among the foremost defenders of civil liberties in the nation. When it came to civil liberties, those liberal speakers and conservative speakers were all on the same page as us libertarians.
That’s why we had two College Civil Liberties tours in conjunction with the Young Americans for Liberty, featuring Glenn Greenwald himself, along with Bruce Fein, Jack Hunter, and me. We believed and continue to believe that it is vitally important to make young people aware of how critically important civil liberties are to a free society.
That’s why I recently wrote a 12-part series in our journal Future of Freedom entitled “The Evil of the National Security State.” As I emphasize in that series, it is not enough to reform the national-security state. It is a malignant cancerous tumor on the American body politic that has taken our nation to the dark side, corrupted our values, and infringed on our freedom and privacy. It needs to go if we are to restore a free society to our land.
Today the New York Times has a featured article on Greenwald. It’s worth reading. It’s also worth reading his blog today, entitled “On Whistleblowers and Government Threats of Investigation.” Responding to the possibility that the federal government might come after him for disclosing its massive, top-secret surveillance scheme on the American people, Greenwald writes: “They can threaten to investigate all they want. But as this week makes clear, and will continue to make clear, the ones who will actually be investigated are them.”
Wouldn’t it have been nice if the chief executive of those telephone companies had that type of independent mindset rather a deference-to-authority mindset? Wouldn’t it be nice if the American people themselves were to acquire that sort of independent mindset?
Long before 9/11 and especially since 9/11, Americans have been lulled into trading their freedom for the pretense of security. We are now seeing that it’s a siren’s song, one by which Americans lost both their freedom and their security.
Sometimes it is events such as these that can cause a critical shift in people’s thinking. That’s where ideas on liberty come into the picture. Ideas on liberty have a power that is immeasurable. They can sweep across a society, suddenly and unexpectedly, and inflame people’s hearts and minds with a passion for liberty.
That’s why we do what we do here at The Future of Freedom Foundation. But we can’t do it without you. In a few weeks, you will receive a special fundraising letter from us. We hope you will respond as generously as you can because we truly need your help to carry on the work we are doing.