Saturday, July 13, 2013

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution

The Fourth Amendment

I, personally, hope Edward Snowden gets away, because I've been following from beginning to end what our government has done to Bradley Manning, during his military show trial that's about to conclude and all the while it was trying to break him and make him give evidence against Wikileaks' Julian Assange, how it held him incommunicado for months, how it made him sit on his bunk and stare straight ahead all those months, how for all those months it made him come out of his cell in the nude and stand at attention whenever it wanted him to. I've seen what our government has done to Thomas Drake, Stephen Kim, and the rest of the record number of whistleblowers whose lives have been ruined as they were pursued like wild game by the Obama Administration while it tries to satisfy its neurotic need for secrecy.

The important thing, however, is what Snowden exposed, and the US government and its media lapdogs have for the most part succeeded in diverting attention away that, from our government's massive and illegal spying programs, and onto the person who happened to blow the whistle on it.

Lost also on most people is the significance of this week's revelations about the secret FISA court, which the New York Times shows to be acting -- in the New Yorks Times' words -- like a "parallel Supreme Court," but one that works in the dark, that's been establishing legal precedent for any and all spying the governments wants to do, and will keep on giving legal gloss to whatever violation of our rights and privacy the government feels like engaging in according to whatever whim strikes it or whatever technological advance comes along that allows it.

Most members of congress have lined up to assert that they are overseeing the ones doing the spying. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has said that's not true, that when the programs were initiated during the Bush Administration, congress explicitly told the administration they didn't want to be informed because that would guarantee word about the spying leaked out.

But if what congress says is true, that they are overseeing all this, that means they have no problem with a government spying on its citizens, or on its allies, or on its allies' citizens. (This includes New Mexico's federal legislators, who with their silence have voiced their assent to everything.)

More likely is that the almost daily revelations of what the intelligence agencies are doing is as much a surprise to congress as to anyone else, and that congress will be just as surprised when more revelations come forth, as promised, that promise to be even more breathtaking.

I've been copying the text of the Fourth Amendment above my blog posts, in hopes that someone will read it and understand what it means. That it was a reaction against a government that had no respect whatsoever for the right to privacy of its subjects. That it was an attempt to make make sure that, as a US citizen, you'd be guaranteed that government agents could never break into your house in the middle of the night, go through everything you owned, take what they wanted, and leave.

That like other parts of the US Constitution that guarantee personal rights, it was an acceptance of the principal that yea, OK, if we give people these rights that means a few bad guys will get away, but the risk is worth what you gain when you restrict a government's power over you.

Ask a Palestinian what it's like live without any rights. Better yet, ask one of the US officers in Iraq, whose phone calls to their wives and fiancées were eavesdropped on by NSA agents, who, when they heard "juicy" conversations, alerted everyone else so they could listen, too.

Then ask a Palestinian what it's like to have soldiers beat down your door in the middle of the night, order the whole family outside in their night clothes and make them stand in the winter cold for a few hours while young Israeli soldiers, recruits acting like what they basically are, a gang of young punks barely out of high school, rummage through your personal belongings, empty all you drawers on the floor, topple all all your cabinets, break all your glasses and dishes, tear the family pictures off the walls, then mark on the walls with their excrement and leave.

Think about the abuses of power you read about every day in the paper -- someone taking some off the top, someone getting some on the side, cops beating the crap out of someone who comitted the crime of pissing one of them off.

Whoever told us what our government is doing, whatever happens to him, whether he violates somebody's notion of honor, none of it matters. It's a side show. What matters is what we know governments have done, what we know governments are still doing, what we should damn well know the frail, sometimes malevolent, often fallible, utterly corruptible human beings who make up ours will surely do if they're given license to get away with it.


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