The recent revelations that the New York Times, at the request of King George’s courtiers, withheld for a year information of illegal, unconstitutional domestic spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) and of our government paying writers (often media whores who present themselves as “journalists”) to produce propaganda presented as legitimate news and commentary bring a couple of quotes.
“The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.”
Thomas Jefferson to Lafayette, 1823. ME 15:491
“The most effectual engines for [pacifying a nation] are the public papers… [A despotic] government always [keeps] a kind of standing army of newswriters who, without any regard to truth or to what should be like truth, [invent] and put into the papers whatever might serve the ministers.”
Thomas Jefferson to G. K. van Hogendorp
Oct. 13, 1785. (*) ME 5:181, Papers 8:632
I doubt Jefferson would have been impressed by Times Executive Editor Bill Keller’s pathetic explanation as to why he prevented Times reporters from doing their job and alerting Americans to the fact the NSA was violating the Constitution by conducting domestic wiretaps without warrants. Keller explained “the Administration argued strongly that writing about this eavesdropping program would give terrorists clues about the vulnerability of their communications and would deprive the government of an effective tool for the protection of the country’s security.”
In fact, the government has this very “tool for the protection of the country’s security” in the form of The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978; and the fact that Keller nor anyone else at the Times was aware of FISA is a commentary on just how pathetic the Times management has become. FISA established a secret court which issues warrants for the conduct of just such surveillance as the NSA has been doing illegally. FISA even permits the Attorney General to approve such surveillance without a warrant so long as the AG seeks an after-the-fact warrant from the FISA court within 72 hours. Additionally, the FISA court has never denied a warrant request.
King George, whose courtiers have issued legal opinions that the president’s authority is limitless so long as the he finds a threat to national security (in this case John Yoo who also advised King George that he could ignore the Geneva Conventions so long as the torture did not result in organ failure or death), justified the NSA spying in his weekly radio address to his subjects. The King informed us “The existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk.”
The existence of the FISA court process puts the lie to the King’s specious justification.
What I find especially alarming is that revelations such as the unconstitutional NSA spying and the government production of illegal propaganda no longer shock us. I guess the almost daily revelations of Bush administration constitutional desecration have inured us.
Which brings to mind another relevant quote:
“Those willing to give up a little liberty for a little security deserve neither security nor liberty.”