Is there a silver lining in the hysterical reaction, on left and right alike, to NSA snooping?
I’m not sure that I fully agree with him, but Alec MacGillis makes a few provocative points HERE:
Put me in the camp that finds the outcry over this week’s revelations of NSA snooping a touch overwrought. The declamations are of course particularly rich coming from the right, given both the post-9/11 security state’s roots in the Bush administration, and the readiness of many Republicans to blame President Barack Obama for any plots that have been allowed to slip through our defenses. Yes, several high-profile conservative standard bearers are defending the National Security Agency’s surveillance, but other Republicans have not been able to resist scoring points off the moment. Some of the outcry on the left has been equally tedious, suffering from the sort of grandiose abstraction that one normally associates with late-night college-dorm bull sessions: “Dude, they might be watching us right now!…” Based on what we know so far of the NSA surveillance, I can’t help but incline toward the contextualization in today’s Wall Street Journal editorial: “The critics … say the NSA program is a violation of privacy, or illegal, or unconstitutional, or all of the above. But nobody’s civil liberties are violated by tech companies or banks that constantly run the same kinds of data analysis. We bow to no one in our desire to limit government power, but data-mining is less intrusive on individuals than routine airport security.”
All that said, I welcome the uproar. It is a sign that we are moving, belatedly, beyond a permanent-war mindset that for a while now has been neither justified by global reality nor healthy for the country. Over and over, even as the troop drawdowns began in Iraq and then Afghanistan, we were told we were a nation at war. It was a stance that justified rampant remote killing from the skies above Waziristan and Yemen and, at home, the sprawl of a huge and lucrative new security-industrial complex in which 850,000 Americans hold top-secret security clearances. Few dared call the latter what it was: a massive overcompensation for the utter failures that preceded the September 11, 2001, attacks…Yet rather than simply address the obvious flaws in our turf-obsessed apparatus, we went about building a leviathan far beyond even what we had deployed against the nuclear-equipped Soviet Union, all to fend off the next Mohamed Atta. We were like the boy bouncing up from a schoolyard blow: “9/11 didn’t count. Betcha can’t hit us again.”
This is no way for people in the most powerful nation on earth to view the world around them, but the reaction to the NSA revelations suggests it is starting to shift. We now have people like Rep. James Sensenbrenner, the conservative Wisconsin Republican who introduced the Patriot Act in 2001, saying that the NSA’s phone-record seizures went beyond even what he had ever conceived of. Yes, chances are he would not be speaking out as strongly if these disclosures had occurred under a Republican president, but that’s politics. If reining in our security-state mindset and leviathan counterterrorism apparatus requires a Democratic president to be attacked not un-hypocritically from the left by Republicans, then so be it.