Chas Freeman on Snowden and snooping

The former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Chas W. Freeman, said at MIT on Thursday: We live in what the National Security Agency [NSA] has called “the golden age of SIGINT [signals intelligence].” We might have guessed this. We now know it for a fact because of a spectacular act of civil disobedience by Edward Snowden. His is perhaps the most consequential such act for both our domestic liberties and our foreign relations in the more than two century-long history of our republic.

This past spring, Mr. Snowden decided to place his oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” and his allegiance to the Bill of Rights above his contractual obligations to the intelligence community and the government for which it snoops. He blew the whistle on NSA’s ruthless drive for digital omniscience. When he did this, he knew that many of his fellow citizens would impugn his patriotism. He also knew he would be prosecuted for violating the growing maze of legislation that criminalizes revelations about the national security practices of America’s post-9/11 warfare state.

Mr. Snowden does not dispute that he is guilty of legally criminal acts. But he places himself in the long line of Americans convinced, as Martin Luther King put it, that “noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.” As someone long in service to our country, I am upset by such defiance of authority. As an American, I am not.

Like Henry David Thoreau and many others in protest movements in our country over the past century and a half, Mr. Snowden deliberately broke the law to bring to public attention government behavior he considered at odds with the U.S. Constitution, American values, and the rule of law. One point he wanted to make was that we Americans now live under a government that precludes legal or political challenges to its own increasingly deviant behavior. Our government has criminalized the release of information exposing such behavior or revealing the policies that authorize it. The only way to challenge its policies and activities is to break the law by exposing them. [Continue reading…]

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4 thoughts on “Chas Freeman on Snowden and snooping

  1. rosemerry

    Freeman still has the Cold War, antiRussian mentality. As a European, I would be unwlling even to visit the USA with its aggressive interference in personal behaviour.

    “In the Cold War, we Americans and our allies justly saw ourselves as threatened with nuclear annihilation or ideological subjugation.”
    Surely he knows enough history to understand that the US policies and actions from Eisenhower on were not based on genuine fear of the “Commie threat”. The USA was always ahea, and, as now, just extended the arms race for ideological and commercial reasons.

  2. Willy Bach

    Like most citizens of the rest of the world, I am deeply suspicious of US Ambassadors. Yet Freeman makes a lot of good sense here, one of the best articles I’ve read on the Snowden revelations, why he was right to blow the whistle and, yes, the damage to the USA has been entirely (my word) self inflicted.

    One correction I would make to Freeman’s argument, and Rosemary’s comment is that the USA was the dominant power in the world during the Cold War. To the extent that this was the case, the arguments in favour of a long list of brutal and illegal interventions by the US, do not hold up very well at all. Imperial over-reach was a universal norm. Weakness and lack of serious threat were the condition of the USSR and PRC. I recommend Gareth Porter’s ‘Perils of Dominance Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam’. To document these secret wars, coups, assassinations and acts of terror committed by the USA read John Prados’ book, ‘Safe for Democracy The Secret Wars of the CIA’.

    Freeman seeks to steer the USA back to where it said it intended to go at the beginning of the Republic. That would seem to be a very commendable aim, but the USA will have to live with a long, dark past and will need to address our concerns.

  3. Norman

    Reading this and the continuation piece, a new addition to the older one, that being a “Peeping Tom Clusterfuck”, that’s what we have today in the good old U.S.A. Lifers, as far as those who run the Military go. Congress/the P.O.T.U.S., have they been “Blackmailed” into accessioning to what the NSA wants/says it needs, along with the other departments of the Pentagon, or as Mr Freeman writes, “Incompetent”?

    How close are we to having a “Revolution” here in the U.S.A.? Apparently the Government/Military, believe it’s not too far off, thereby turning the Police departments into quasi-military components. One only has to look back at the Occupy demonstrations to see what I mean.

    The truth of the matter is, if such does happen, you can be sure that the source cause of said revolution won’t be taking credit for it. One might even ask, “where are those members of the “Supreme Court” on this? Are they too afraid of sticking their collective necks out upholding the “Constitution” or are they cowed by the NSA too?

  4. ralph harrison

    Charles Freeman is a career bureaucrat and concurrently a career apologist for the “State.” The “State” is a failed endeavor and no
    tinkering around the edges can ever reform it. Consequently, the solution is to dismantle the entire federal bureaucracy and return
    to the sovereignty of 50 individual states. Once that is accomplished, additional sovereignty to the individual should voluntarily endorsed.
    A free society is just that: free from involuntary servitude.

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