When people feel endangered, they tend to forgo their aspirations as they grasp for a sense of security. Where the Bradley Manning Wikileaks and Edward Snowden NSA Revelations had finally pushed Americans beyond the intellectual paralysis brought on by the September 11th terrorist attacks to allow for criticism of National Security overreach, the Ukraine Crisis and the rise of the Islamic State have since overwhelmed those concerns. Given this is an era of widespread political dysfunction, unilateral policymaking, and unresponsive governance, the United States and many other nations are at risk from government overreach.
As the Obama Administration has tried to scare Americans into accepting the Iranian Nuclear Deal, instead of framing it as part of a broader vision for US-Iranian and US-Middle Eastern relations, tensions with China have also been growing while national security issues related to climate change now drive the discussion. Due to this era of national security threats, the world is ripe for government overreach, corruption, and oppression. In fact, America’s national security apparatus has stayed busy even in the wake of so many controversies, which is boldly exemplified by the never ending stream of national security leaks.
Recent allegations that the United States spied on Japan now compliment similar revelations from 2013 that demonstrated the US spied on German officials. Despite the focus on the wrongs of the US and the diplomatic leverage the situation afforded Germany leverage over the US, the outrage of the German government was, and is, superficial and hypocritical. Not only did German officials help the US spy on European powers, Attorney General Harald Range recently charged two journalists for treason after their ongoing investigations into the German secret service.
Ultimately, political pressured forced the Merkel government to fire Mr. Range. In turn, Mr. Range called fowl and accused politicians of undermining the independence of the justice system. It is true that an independent justice system is needed to safeguard the People from government corruption; however, the same is true of the media. Although journalists are obliged to obey the Law, it is their responsibility to provide oversight of the government and act as agents of the People, thus laws cannot be created or enforced that infringe upon this role.
Journalists can be punished for crimes they commit in the pursuit of a story and they can commit treason, if they use their investigative role to work as a spy for a foreign power, but it is never treason for a journalist to investigate the practices of a government on behalf of the People. Frankly, Mr. Range’s use of the legal system to suppress criticism of the German government thoroughly embodies the very notion of political corruption and abuse of power. He and those in the spy agency who have violated the rights of German Citizens have committed treason by working against the German People.
Where populous outrage helped pushed back this blatant attack on free speech and democracy in Germany, the greater concern is the lack of reaction to such violations throughout the rest of the world, especially the United States. Faced with a security threat, national security officials are essentially given a free pass to act with impunity thanks to widespread apathy when it comes to the need to balance democratic freedoms with national security concerns. At best, political leaders offer superficial outrage then use these situations as leverage in the pursuit of their own agendas, because the political class of the world likes to make deals that too often exclude the interests of their own Peoples.
Unfortunately, the best option at this point for wrangling in our spies and governments is to create official private and public channels for insiders to anonymously, securely, and responsibly submit material for review. People like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are the only effective tools we have when it comes to oversight of organizations like the NSA and CIA. These individuals and others are the only means of stopping the larger problems we have with national security overreach. Regrettably, we are prosecuting them instead of helping them leak and analyze information in a more responsible manner.
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