It’s been almost a month since Edward Snowden released a series of classified documents revealing the National Security Agencies mass surveillance program. The fallout has resulted in a public desperate for real answers, but more specifically, real solutions. The solutions most have been calling for, including by the director of Human Rights Watch, is an update to our privacy laws and further oversight of the NSA, specifically with regards to the FISA Court.
The problem with asking our government for legal solutions is that our government itself sees itself as above the law. James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, lied to Congress last fall when he denied the scope of NSA surveillance. He perjured himself on the stand when asked by the Senate intelligence Committee whether the NSA was collecting “data of millions of Americans.” “No,” he flat out said.
Of course the intelligence committee knew he was perjuring himself. They had available the same intelligence Clapper did, but could not accuse him of lying because the nature of the program was classified. Instead, Udall and Wyden urged Americans to be cautious in supporting laws like FISA or the Patriot Act because they “allowed for abuse.” Now we know what abuses were being hinted.
Today the program has been revealed by Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor. The fall out has forced the NSA to finally play some defense. But their defense has never included an apology. While James Clapper only just today apologized for lying under oath, he will likely never see jail time for his FELONY. Instead, the NSA and FBI maintain that these programs have kept Americans safe, without offering specific examples of how the NSA program in question SPECIFICALLY stopped these attacks.
How can we expect the government to take our civil liberties laws seriously when they position themselves above the law? Not only is the NSA program unquestionably unconstitutional, their agents have directly misled and lied to the American people — and have gotten away with it without any punishment. Congress has failed to take any action on various bills in both houses related to improving loopholes in surveillance legislation like FISA and the Patriot Act.
The law in this country has been eroded to only work in favor of the select few. That is not justice! In order for justice to brought to remedy this serious issue of wanton civil liberties abuse, we must hold government accountable in election season. And since most Americans blindly re-elect their officials, the cycle is bound to continue because the power balance in support of the NSA is unlikely to change. One can only hope that by remaining persistent on these issues that we may turn the tide of public opinion.
However, when the law only works for a select few, public opinion is of little consequence. As a result, things are unlikely to change.