Breaking the NSA Spy Ring: “What Rule of Law” Would Look Like

“An open, public, informed conversation on surveillance,” writes Philip Bump in The Atlantic Wire, “has been the president’s stated goal since shortly after the Edward Snowden leaks began” (“It Doesn’t Count as Outreach When Obama Talks About the NSA in Secret,” August 9).

In a society governed by “rule of law” as portrayed by our, um, “rulers,” such a conversation — based on US President Barack Obama’s own public admissions and other existing evidence — would begin like this:

Police Officer: Barack Obama?

Barack Obama: Yes?

Police Officer: You are under arrest for violations of United States Code, Title 18, Section 241, Conspiracy Against Rights; and Section 242, Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law. You have the right to remain silent when questioned. Anything you say or do may be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to consult an attorney before speaking to the police and to have an attorney present during questioning now or in the future. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning, if you wish. If you decide to answer any questions now, without an attorney present, you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney. Knowing and understanding your rights as I have explained them to you, are you willing to answer my questions without an attorney present?

I’ve carefully scoured recent editions of American newspapers, and as best I can tell this hasn’t happened yet. It also seems quite unlikely to happen any time in the near future. From this we can safely conclude two things:

First, that Obama’s claim to desire “an open, public, informed conversation on surveillance” is, not to put too fine a point on it, a dirty rotten lie; and

Secondly, that American politicians (or members of the political class in other countries) don’t much care to subject themselves to “rule of law.”

Obama has begun the usual process of nudging the public back into its usual state of apathy, appointing a “Review Board”  to “assess whether, in light of advancements in communications technologies, the United States employs its technical collection capabilities in a manner that optimally protects our national security and advances our foreign policy while appropriately accounting for other policy considerations, such as the risk of unauthorized disclosure and our need to maintain the public trust.”

Note the missing piece: No reference at all to the fact that use of these recently revealed “capabilities,” versus anyone, without warrants based on probable cause, is plainly illegal. This “Review Board” is a pale imitation of, and will serve the same function as, the 1975 “Church Committee” (formally the “United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities”), which — after a bit of public self-flagellation — gave us the secret FISA Court and other extensions and ratifications of prior government lawlessness.

Neither political government nor its “intelligence” functions can be “reformed.” The political class treats “rule of law” as a weapon against, not a protector of, the public. Give these crooks an inch and they’ll take a mile. It’s time to stop giving the enemies of freedom those inches … and to take back the inches they’ve abused. The United States must be abolished.

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