An Act of Freedom, But For Whom?
On this most auspicious day, when the USA FREEDOM Act passed through the Senate on it’s way to president’s desk, I spent the afternoon listening to some of law professors Eben Moglen’s excellent talks about Snowden and the Future.
One of the things that I noticed he mentioned, which I don’t recall hearing anywhere else, is our (the US citizenry) continued complacency about spying, as long as they aren’t spying on Americans.
Military control ensured absolute command deference with respect to the fundamental principle which made it all “all right,” which was: “No Listening Here.” The boundary between home and away was the boundary between absolutely permissible and absolutely impermissible—between the world in which those whose job it is to kill people and break things instead stole signals and broke codes, and the constitutional system of ordered liberty.
Of course, we all know how that turned out:
Not only had circumstances destroyed the simplicity of “no listening inside,” not only had fudging with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act carried them into the land where law no longer provided them with useful landmarks, but they wanted to do it—let’s be frank, they wanted to do it. Their view of the nature of human power was Augustan if not august. They wanted what it is forbidden to wise people to take unto themselves. And so they fell, and we fell with them.
Nearly every time that the USA PATRIOT Act is demonized in the press (even the leftist press), it seems to only be because the NSA dared to spy on us. But, shouldn’t we be questioning why they have to have such a large net at all, irrespective of the national boundaries?
Or, as professor Moglen so succinctly put it (emphasis mine):
The empire of the United States, the one that secured itself by listening to everything, was the empire of exported liberty. What we had to offer all around the world was freedom—after colonization, after European theft, after the forms of twentieth-century horror we haven’t even talked about yet—we offered liberty; we offered freedom. … It is, of course, utterly inconsistent with the American ideal to attempt to fasten the procedures of totalitarianism on American constitutional self-governance… Partly, as I shall suggest next time, because freedom is merely privilege extended unless enjoyed by one and all. But primarily because there is an even deeper inconsistency between American ideals and the subjection of every other society on earth to the procedures of totalitarianism.
Something to think about the next time someone talks about “freedom”.