The people who have excused, defended, rationalized, and given the benefit of the doubt to the U.S. government and the NSA since Glenn Greenwald began publishing Edward Snowden's leaks are looking more and more pathetic with every new revelation. If nothing else, this shows that you can rarely go wrong assuming the worst of the State.
When Greenwald first published the court order requiring Verizon to give phone records to the government, the NSA apologists said, "I'm sure there is a good reason, and this isn't permanent, and it was approved by a court, so it isn't unconstitutional."
When the Guardian revealed PRISM, the program that gives NSA access to tech companies' user data, all the NSA apologists could focus on was Greenwald's supposedly inaccurate phrase "direct access" and his supposed agenda in trumping up the accusations to foment outrage at the government.
When the Guardian published the details of NSA's program known as Boundless Informant, the NSA apologists cried, "Oh, it only collects metadata, so no one's privacy or Constitutional rights have really been violated. It's all approved by the FISA Court anyway, so it's not illegal."
When the "only metadata" defense was proven blatantly wrong, the NSA apologists said, "They only record the phone calls believed to have some connection to terrorism, and they don't even listen to all of them anyway. If you are doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear."
When the Guardian detailed NSA's warrantless collection of Americans' communication records, the NSA apologists said, "It doesn't need a warrant because it only inadvertently collects the data, and it is only targeting communications with non-U.S. people anyway, and it won't act on any of it unless there is a legitimate connection to terrorism."
When the FISA Court allowed the declassification of a 2011 ruling that found some of NSA's surveillance activities unconstitutional, the NSA apologists said, "See? The system works! They stopped their unconstitutional activities! And I'm sure they will never do anything unconstitutional again! And no, of course the perpetrators shouldn't be held accountable for their crimes. They're protecting us from Terrorism! With a capital T and that rhymes with 'me' and I'm a Statolatrist boob who is constitutionally incapable of thinking for myself or distrusting a government official!"
When civil libertarians around the country accuse Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, NSA Director Keith Alexander, and President Obama of lying directly to Congress and the American people about what NSA does and what it is capable of doing, the NSA apologists cry, "What lies, specifically? Who has lied, what did they lie about, and who did they lie to? What specific statement is materially, factually incorrect or misleading?" They make these bewildering comments despite the abundance of evidence of lie after lie after lie after lie after lie after lie after lie.
When the Guardian publishes further damning evidence of NSA's unconstitutional transgressions in the form of XKeyscore, the NSA apologists say, "Whose rights, specifically, have been violated? What harm has come to anyone because of this?"
Well, besides our right to privacy, which has been violated regardless of how our private information was used by NSA, and besides Edward Snowden, who was unjustly driven from his home, charged under the ludicrous Espionage Act, and harassed while seeking asylum from the predatory U.S. government, it seems that Ladar Levison had to shut down his email service Lavabit to avoid giving its users' private information to the NSA or Department of Justice [sic]. In case it still isn't clear to the dolts who continue to make excuses and rationalizations for the NSA and the Obama administration, I will explain basic human rights to you: Ladar Levison and any other individual and any other company has the right to keep their information, their files, their computers, and their data out of the government's hands because there is no reason to suspect them of any wrongdoing and no reason to suspect that information will reveal anything about a crime committed by one of its users or anyone else. Snowden has done nothing wrong and committed no aggression against any person or group (except, I guess, the U.S. government, which we should all realize by now is a good thing, to be celebrated). The government is the aggressor in this situation and Levison the victim, and he is perfectly within his rights to act in self-defense to protect his private property and the private property of Lavabit's users. He would also be perfectly within his rights to continue running the service and to defend himself, his home, and his business with lethal force when the government came knocking, but he would almost surely lose that fight, along with his freedom and possibly his life. These absolute rights are shared by all of Lavabit's users, which is why Levison was right to stand up for them by refusing the government's demands and shutting down the service.
When Charlie Savage revealed that NSA is searching the contents of nearly all Americans' emails and text messages that cross U.S. borders, the comments defending the practice are so stupid they practically drool. "If that's the cost of saving several thousands of lives, I think it's a pretty small price to pay." "This is a common accepted corporate/business practice...why are we worried about the government doing this to protect us from terrorists?" "Of the billions of emails sent every day, less than .01 percent will ever be reviewed by human eyes. If you are a law-abiding citizen, those eyes are not wasting their time on you."
One of the many problems with such "reasoning" is that governments are by their nature in conflict with their subjects and inevitably seek to grow more powerful and more controlling. The U.S. government has grown more powerful by the year since its inception, especially since about the 1930's. One way they do this is by outlawing more and more things so that it is impossible to live a truly "innocent" life in the eyes of the law. Some lawyers and civil libertarians say that state or federal prosecutors could find reason to prosecute every single American adult for breaking some law, and innocent Americans are pushed into confessing to crimes they didn't commit every day.
Now we know via Reuters that the targets of DEA and IRS criminal investigations may have had their due-process rights violated because the government officials conducting the investigations and the federal prosecutors trying the cases lied about the sources of their information on the accused. They lied about the specific nature of their evidence and the specific sources of their evidence, prompting many defense lawyers to challenge the practice and request access to DEA's hidden evidence. To NSA's credit, it denies most requests from other agencies for its own surveillance data, but it's not a big leap for NSA to start sharing its data to help prosecute Americans for victimless crimes. It is short-sighted to start opposing violations of privacy and due process only after they have resulted in wrongful convictions. How many NSA apologists would have defended this DEA practice and its "Special Operations Division" before they heard about it obstructing the due-process rights of criminal defendants? For god's sake, how many defend it now? Can they even concoct a scenario in which they wouldn't support everything their government did as long as the president's name is followed by the correct letter and he says the words "terrorism" and "9/11" often enough?
There has been no instance in this NSA/Snowden controversy in which it has been wrong to take a default stance against the government. It has never proven rash or overreactive to assume that NSA's activities were at least as bad as each new revelation indicated, if not worse. It has never once proven unwise or inaccurate to believe Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden and to assume every word out of every Obama administration official is a lie (keeping in mind that lies of omission, for example keeping secrets about surveillance of American citizens, are still lies).
Those of us who assumed the worst, who believed Snowden and Greenwald when they said the worst was yet to be revealed, have been vindicated time and again. Skepticism of the State and its claims and its intentions has proven the wiser course, as it so often does. Those who gave the benefit of the doubt to the U.S. government and its NSA, who chose to focus their skepticism on Greenwald and Snowden, should be unable to say any more for all the crow they're eating. They should be embarrassed. They are an embarrassment. They're an embarrassment to freedom and individualism, to the civil disobedience and mistrust of power that characterize any healthy society. People like the NSA apologists and the Obama cheerleaders are the main threat to peace and freedom in the world today, far more so than any president or dictator. They are the ones who give tyrants their power. They are the masses who give the illusion of consent to all the violations of our rights that governments perpetrate. I don't see too many of them apologizing or admitting they were wrong on Twitter, Facebook, or the comments sections to the increasingly frightening articles that provide each new revelation. I want to see them publish blag posts, Twitter updates, and opinion columns admitting they were wrong—admitting they should have trusted Glenn Greenwald and not James Clapper or Barack Obama. I want to see them admit their shame at having supported Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner and all the other elected criminals who defeated the Amash amendment. I want to see at least some of them come into the light of civil libertarianism and start calling for actual reductions of State power, not mere Congressional acts to contain it or limit it to less unconstitutional means.