Lies, spies and choices: Dangerous freedom or peaceful slavery? - The Daily Progress: Guest Columnists

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Lies, spies and choices: Dangerous freedom or peaceful slavery?

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Posted: Sunday, January 26, 2014 12:15 am

President Obama has managed, with singular assistance from Congress and the courts, to mangle the Constitution through repeated abuses, attacks and evasions.

This is nothing new. However, with his recent speech on the National Security Agency — a heady cocktail of lies, obfuscations, contradictions and Orwellian doublespeak — Obama has also managed to pervert and propagandize our nation’s history, starting with Paul Revere and the Sons of Liberty, likening their efforts to secure our freedoms to NSA phone surveillance.

Frankly, George Orwell’s Winston Smith, rewriting news stories for Big Brother and the Ministry of Truth, couldn’t have done a better job of revising history to suit the party line.

While it didn’t bode well for what was to follow, here’s how Obama opened his speech:

“At the dawn of our Republic, a small, secret surveillance committee borne out of the Sons of Liberty was established in Boston. And the group’s members included Paul Revere. At night, they would patrol the streets, reporting back any signs that the British were preparing raids against America’s early Patriots. Throughout American history, intelligence has helped secure our country and our freedoms.”

Obama’s inference is clear: Rather than condemning the NSA for encroaching on our privacy rights, we should be commending it for helping to “secure our country and our freedoms.” Never mind that the Sons of Liberty were actually working against the British government, to undermine what they perceived as a repressive regime guilty of perpetrating a host of abuses against the colonists.

After such a “1984”-esque send-up, it doesn’t even really matter what else Obama had to say in his speech about NSA reforms and the like. Rest assured, it was largely a pack of lies.

Mind you, Obama said it eloquently enough and interspersed it with all the appropriately glib patriotic remarks about individual freedom and the need to defend the Constitution and securing the life of our nation while preserving our liberties. After all, Obama has proven to be very good at saying one thing and doing another, whether it’s insisting that “you can keep your health care plan,” that he’ll close Guantanamo, or that his administration’s controversial drone strikes only target terrorists and not civilians.

When it comes to the NSA, Obama has been lying to the American people for quite some time now. There was the time he claimed the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is “transparent.” Then he insisted that “we don’t have a domestic spying program.” And then, to top it all off, he actually insisted there was no evidence the NSA was “actually abusing” its power.

So in terms of Obama’s latest speech on the NSA, if you read between the lines — or just ignore the president’s words and pay attention to his actions — it’s clear that nothing is going to change. The NSA will continue to abuse its power by spying on Americans’ phone calls and emails. It will continue to collect metadata on our various communications and activities. And it will continue to carry out its surveillance in secret, with no attempts at transparency or accountability.

Remember, Obama is the chief executive of a super secretive surveillance state whose overarching purpose is to remain in power by any means available. As such, he and his surveillance state cohorts have far more in common with King George and the British government of his day than with the American colonists who worked hard to foment a rebellion and overthrow a despotic regime.

Indeed, Obama and his speechwriters would do well to brush up on their history. In doing so, they will find that the Sons of Liberty, the “small, secret surveillance committee” they conveniently liken to the NSA, was in fact an underground, revolutionary movement that fought the established government of its day, whose members were considered agitators, traitors and terrorists not unlike Edward Snowden.

In much the same way that the U.S. government under the leadership of Barack Obama is today going after whistleblowers and activists who oppose their tactics, the British government went after the Sons of Liberty. These were ordinary people groaning under the weight of Britain’s oppressive rule who, having reached a breaking point, had decided that enough was enough. Through the use of Committees of Correspondence, they alerted the colonists to the abuses being meted out by the British crown by way of pamphlets, speeches and resolutions, inciting them to actively resist the acts of oppression, and conspiring with them to revolt.

However, the colonists suffered under the weight of countless tyrannies before they finally were emboldened to stand their ground. They attempted to reason with the British crown, to plead their cause, even to negotiate. It was only when these means proved futile that they resorted to outright resistance, civil disobedience and eventually rebellion.

More than 200 years later, we are once again suffering under a long train of abuses and usurpations. What Americans today must decide is how committed they are to the cause of freedom and how far they’re willing to go to restore what has been lost. Nat Hentoff, one of my dearest friends and a formidable champion of the Constitution, has long advocated for the resurgence of Committees of Correspondence. As Nat noted:

This resistance to arrant tyranny first became part of our heritage when Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty formed the original Committees of Correspondence, a unifying source of news of British tyranny throughout the colonies that became a precipitating cause of the American Revolution.

Where are the Sons of Liberty, the Committees of Correspondence and the insistently courageous city councils now, when they are crucially needed to bring back the Bill of Rights that protect every American against government tyranny worse than King George III’s? Where are the citizens demanding that these doorways to liberty be opened? What are we waiting for?

What are we waiting for, indeed? As Thomas Jefferson said, “I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery.”

 

John Whitehead is president and founder of the Albemarle County-based Rutherford Institute, a civil-liberties organization. He can be reached at johnw@rutherford.org. A longer version of this commentary is available at www.Rutherford.org.

 

 

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