OK, now that we’ve lauded Antonin Scalia, let’s take a look at Edward Snowden, currently notorious for blowing the whistle on the NSA’s clandestine monitoring of the world’s communications.
Not that many of us would have a problem with our government’s recording the communications of foreigners since most of us think of that as the usual intelligence gathering that all nations routinely perform to strengthen their own security. Nor would most Americans have been all that surprised to learn that the NSA was tracking their communications along with those of foreigners. After all, we’ve all been reading for years accusations from various sources that we’re being spied on by programs like Echelon, Predator, and AT&T’s infamous Room 641a right here in their San Francisco offices on Folsom Street. So Snowden’s revelations were not exactly news.
But Snowden did not simply accuse the NSA of spying on us, an accusation that when made by others has always been stoutly denied at all levels of our government. No no. What Snowden did was was release actual copies of NSA papers describing this surveillance, thus exposing all our government’s denials as lies and leading figures like James Clapper, our Director of National Intelligence, to describe his denial of NSA survaillance in front of Congress as responding in the “least untruthful manner by saying no”, which is utterly hilarious when we consider that the alternative to “no” is “yes” and that the truthful answer to the question he was asked was, in fact, “yes”.
And the revelations didn’t stop there. After the CEOs of Apple, Google, Facebook, and Yahoo fell all over each other denying that they’d had any idea at all that the NSA was reaping a great harvest of their material, declassified NSA documents demonstrated that the NSA had been paying these companies for mass releases of data. Not, of course, that any of us were surprised to discover proof that these corporations were liars on the same scale as our government officials.
Next, Snowden went ahead and released NSA documents proving that RSA had been paid millions of dollars by the NSA to build back doors into its cybersecurity products. Revelations that other companies had provided similar back doors followed, including details on how the CIA managed to download spyware onto the hard drives of computers before delivery to customers.
Where will it all stop? Who knows. In the meantime, both the New York Times and the Guardian published editorials proposing clemency for Snowden. The one in the Times has a sentence in the ending paragraph that i must quote: “When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government.”
Amen, but how about a pardon rather than clemency?
I don’t have a recent photo hideous enough to be appropriate, so here’s a lovely ferocactus in Walnut Creek’s Ruth Bancroft Garden: