If you’ve had time to let it sink in this weekend as you touched and manipulated your second brain–a/k/a your smartphone–then you know Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old CIA operative out of Hawaii, really shouldn’t be in hiding.
He should be hailed as a 21st century patriot, a latter-day Paul Revere who let us all know, “One if by land, two if by Verizon.”
Or Google, Skype, AOL, Microsoft, Apple, et al.
Snowden’s leakage of confidential information last week was nothing less than a heroic effort to alert us of the ways of our current secret government and its catch-all anti-terrorism gopher, the National Security Agency.
Snowden has surfaced in Hong Kong, where he told the London-based Guardian this weekend why he blew the whistle:
The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.
I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.
On Friday, President Obama defended the NSA data collection on common Americans. “It is important to recognize that you can’t have 100 percent security, and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience.”
But by Asian American math standards, where does that leave us on the balance sheet of democracy?
Is less than 100 percent freedom really freedom in what’s become “America, Land of the Snooped?”
Perhaps the irony of ironies is that the news of government surveillance leaks coincided with the weekend meeting in California between President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jenping to discuss, among other things, cyber-hacking.
How can one seriously enter a conversation with Xi over China’s hacking of U.S. government computers when the U.S. government has no qualms about hacking its own citizens?
Indeed, one residual effect of Snowden’s leaking is the common ground between some strange political bedfellows. The abuse of the Fourth Amendment is bringing all the good patriots together like no other issue.
Fourth Amendment privacy nuts, meet the gun-nuts.
And over there to your far left, meet those First Amendment folks.
Imagine: You can now have an actual tea party with people who drink and like good tea.
And they all hate the secret government.
Funny how as capitalism goes more global, the U.S. and China seem to be morphing into something entirely different. China, the heavy-handed communist capitalist hybrid, is becoming a lot more like the U.S. Meanwhile, the U.S., the paragon of capitalism and democracy, is actually becoming less democratic, more autocratic.
Maybe it’s just good timing to hit rock bottom on civil liberties at the same time as the Senate begins its big floor debate on immigration this week.
All those border enforcement hawks can send a new heartwarming message to foreigners and would-be visa applicants:
You want freedom? Stay home. Don’t immigrate. Don’t come to America. It’s not what you think.
You want all the luxury goods you see on TV and the internet? You want to live like the “Real Housewives of Atlanta?” Just wait. All that will come to you in time. We’re exporting it all, the landscape of American culture, from fast food to retail products.
But don’t come to America to be free. You probably have more freedom where you are. It’s all relative. And if you immigrate, we won’t let you bring in your relatives. They’ll definitely have to stay home.
If you still want “America,” you can always Skype. Telecommute. We’re a virtual democracy now, with virtual rights to boot.
The Founders would never have stood for that. And neither should we.
In fact, many senators, who approved the leaked documents and set them to be declassified April 13, 2038 (well past their political tenures) have lost all credibility.
This week, when you hear them debate immigration and talk about the need for stronger border security, it will be laughable.
What we need strengthened isn’t the border–it’s our sense of that pre-digital, pre-analog bit of genius known as the Constitution. That’s in more trouble than we know.