Monday, June 17, 2013

The Silence Of The Sheeple

As a new week begins, there is both a new debate on American involvement in Syria, and the debate that remains to be truly addressed, over security and privacy. Today, we'll try to finish what we started a week and a half ago, since - unlike Congress - we don't like to fall asleep on the job.

Over the weekend, more muddled information from Barton Gellman in the Washington Post, and Glenn Greenwald in the Guardian were released about the NSA's spying programs.

While the new info is interesting, much of the mainstream media is still avoiding addressing the truly important debate, of security versus privacy. What's more, Congress - the ones who are truly responsible for making this NSA mess such a disaster - appear to have been sleeping while the wolves of the military/industrial/spying class fleeced the sheeple of America.

Adam Serwer noted back in 2012 that members of Congress who reauthorized these programs didn't even understand what they did. That obviously didn't keep someone like Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner from feigning shock over the NSA's programs last Friday, as Serwer also reported. We say "feigning" because if Sensenbrenner had actually attended the meetings he was supposed to, he'd already have been well-versed in what the NSA was doing.

It's a good thing a handful of writers and journalists - like Serwer and the Washington Post's Greg Sargent - have thankfully stayed focused on the real debate over privacy and security that President Obama recently said he welcomed.

Sargent, in fact, engaged in a serious Twitter conversation with our own staffer Shawn Peirce on Friday, after Greg spoke with the ACLU's legislative counsel, Michelle Richardson. As Greg noted, Richardson claims that the Obama administration could declassify enough information about the NSA programs so that Congress and the American people could have that debate over privacy and security.

The problem, as both Greg and Shawn noted in their discussion on Friday, is that if President Obama or members of his administration declassified the NSA material without any action from Congress, with the adversarial addiction of the mainstream media, it would almost certainly lead to further partisan political attacks that would likely bring America no closer to solving the problem.

As Sargent said in that discussion on Friday, "…obviously the best way for this to happen is for Congress to compel it". That would mean our Congressmembers would have to wake from their legislative slumber, so they might actually protect the American people. Frankly, we're not sure some of them are willing to wake up.

There are a few in Congress who aren't completely asleep, as Greg noted last week, like Sen. Jeff Merkley, a progressive Democrat, and Sen. Mike Lee, a Tea Party Republican. Still - Congress can't do this alone.

To truly neuter the NSA's wolfish habits will require a full court press from both the Congress and the Obama Administration, working together, with an assist from the judicial branch.

Of course, to get the debate to generate a policy change will also require the American people to refuse to remain quiet on this issue. In that respect at least, both Gellman and Greenwald are keeping parts of this debate at the top of the minds of the mainstream American media, and therefore, the American people. That may not seem like much, but it's better than the willfully ignorant silence on this issue that Americans have been sounding since 2001.