Freedom versus The National-Security State
by Jacob G. Hornberger
U.S. officials are poking fun at the fact that Edward Snowden, whose commitment to a free society motivated him to disclose the NSA’s massive secret surveillance scheme over the American people (and the people of the world), has fled to China and Russia, two countries that are near the top of the list of violators of civil liberties and privacy.
I find that very amusing. When U.S. officials point their finger at China and Russia, they conveniently ignore the fact that there are three fingers pointing back at them.
In their rage over Snowden, they miss the big point. In communist and totalitarian regimes, such as those in China and Russia, there are no such things as civil liberties and privacy. U.S. officials are absolutely right about that. There is no way that the Chinese people or the Russian people can be considered to be living in a free society so long as their governments wield the power to spy on them and monitor their activities, especially by monitoring their telephone calls or reading their mail. In fact, government surveillance over the citizenry was always one of the hallmarks of the communist regimes in East Germany and Eastern Europe.
But that’s the point! That’s precisely why Snowden, libertarians, and a few principled liberals and conservatives are objecting to the massive NSA surveillance scheme! Duh! It has no place in a free society. It is antithetical to a free society—not only in China and Russia (and North Korea and Cuba) but also right here in the United States!
U.S. officials take the position that it’s bad when the communists spy on their own citizens but good when the U.S. government spies on its own citizens. How ludicrous is that? The fact is that it’s bad when any government spies on its own citizens. It’s what an unfree society is all about!
The problem is this: Since the first grade, the American people have been inculcated with the notion that they live in a free society. They’re convinced that this is true. That’s why they tear up at sports events when they’re asked to sing “Thank God I’m an American because at least I know I’m free” and when they praise the troops for “defending our freedom” by killing people thousands of miles away from American shores.
Thus, since most every American living today has been born and raised within the national-security apparatus that was grafted onto our constitutional order after World War II, we have ended up with a citizenry that thinks that this entire “national security” scheme constitutes “freedom” and is grateful for it.
Secrecy, secret courts, secret surveillance schemes, MKULTRA, wars of aggression, assassinations, torture, invasions, occupations, coups, support of dictatorships, state terrorism, murder, kidnapping, rendition, torture partnerships with brutal dictatorships, execution, foreign aid, perjury, interference with foreign political and economic systems, interventionism, foreign military bases, militarism, and imperialism.
In the mind of the average American, all this is freedom, owing to the false mindset that has been inculcated within him since the first grade. It’s tyranny only when foreign governments do it, not when the U.S. government does it.
The sad part about all this is that not only do modern-day American think that living under a national-security state constitutes freedom, all that matters to them anyway is safety. Many of them really don’t care if they live under a tyrannical regime so long as it keeps them safe from the terrorists (or the communists, the drug dealers, the illegal aliens, or any other boogeymen that national-security state officials come up with to terrify people into continuing to embrace the national-security state way of life).
What matters to me, as a libertarian, is freedom. And the biggest impediment to my freedom and well-being lies not with the terrorists but instead with the entire U.S. national-security state apparatus, the anti-freedom apparatus that was brought into existence to fight anti-freedom apparatuses in communist countries.
The time is past to talk about “reforming” the national-security state. The Cold War ended a long time ago. This anti-freedom apparatus needs to be dismantled. I choose freedom. I’m willing to take my chances with the terrorists.