“This is an example of the banality of evil.”
In the movie plot of a spy thriller, our hero gets captured by agents of a repressive government, and they take him into a dark interrogation room, where the sadistic spymaster hisses at him: "We have ways of making you talk."
Meanwhile, in real life, the director of our National Security Agency hisses at journalists: "We have ways of keeping you from talking." Well, not quite in those words, but Gen. Keith Alexander, chief spook at NSA and head of US Cyber Command, did reveal a chilling disrespect for our Constitutional right to both free speech and a free press. In an October interview, he called for outlawing any reporting on his agency's secret program of spying on every American: "I think it's wrong that newspaper reporters have all these documents... giving them out as if these -- you know it just doesn't make any sense." Then came his spooky punch line: "We ought to come up with a way of stopping it... It's wrong to allow this to go on."
Holy Thomas Paine! Spy on us, okay; report on it, not. What country does this autocrat represent? Alexander's secret, indiscriminate, supercomputer scooping-up of data on every phone call, email, and other private business of every American is what "doesn't make any sense." It's an Orwellian, mass invasion of everyone's privacy, creating the kind of routine, 24/7 surveillance state our government loudly deplores in China and Russia -- and it amounts to stomping on our Fourth Amendment guarantee that we're to be free of "unreasonable searches and seizures."
That's the real outrage we should be "stopping." But no, our constitutionally-clueless spymaster doubles down on his dangerous ignorance by also stomping on the First Amendment. If this were a movie, people would laugh at it as being too silly, too far-fetched to believe. But there it is, horribly real.
Listen to this commentary:
Photo: Flickr creative commons.