By Matthew Rothschild on June 10, 2013

By Matthew Rothschild

How come we, as American citizens, weren’t allowed to be informed about this vast NSA surveillance operation, even by the elected officials in our own states?

Making the public aware of the existence of the system would not have aided our enemies; I’m sure they already believed the NSA or the CIA was watching them.

And this is not an operation against a particular suspected terrorist or terrorist organization.

Instead, it’s a huge vacuuming up of our electronic communications, with no predicate of criminal wrongdoing on our parts.

Our rights are the ones being violated here. And the Executive Branch should not have the authority to hide this from us. On Friday, President Obama said, “Congress was fully informed” about the NSA surveillance. “When it comes to telephone calls, every member of Congress has been briefed on this program,” Obama said. “With respect to all these programs, the relevant intelligence committees are fully briefed on these programs.” Obama may be making a distinction between the NSA’s grabbing of telephone records and its grabbing of Internet communications. In the first case, all 535 members were briefed, he says. In the second, it could have been just a handful of legislators. But even when he briefs all 535 members of Congress, why does he have the unilateral right to swear all those members to secrecy when no specific threat is being combated? And when only a few legislators are clued in, to what extent do we really have democratic rule in the United States? Two Senators who have been deeply troubled by the NSA’s surveillance, Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado, were allowed to issue only the most vague warnings about what their concerns were. They weren’t allowed to tell their own constituents, or the American people in general, how the Executive Branch was violating sacred Fourth Amendment rights. When our legislators in Congress are muzzled by the Executive Branch, they cannot adequately fulfill their duties as the people’s representatives. And when the people are kept in the dark, especially about operations that take away their freedoms, then we have neither democracy nor a functional representative government.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story Stop the Trial of Bradley Manning.

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

 

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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