[Breaker: Too secure for comfort?]
When President Bush confirmed that he'd authorized the National Security
Agency (NSA) to conduct an enormous secret program to monitor Americans'
telephone calls, as reported in USA Today, I assumed that this remarkably
unpopular president had finally taken a fatal step too far. Now the
American public, already revolted by this administration's blunders,
crimes, lies, scandals, domestic surveillance, deficits, et cetera,
would roar "Enough!"
It soon appeared not. In fact, a poll the day after the story appeared
found that most Americans, including many who generally disapprove
of Bush's job performance, accepted the program as a legitimate "national
to contain terrorism.
As Bush told it, no laws were broken, the Constitution wasn't violated,
no calls were wiretapped without court orders. The NSA was merely studying
patterns of phone calls in the records of three major phone companies
(a fourth refused to cooperate).
Innocent people, in short, had nothing to fear. A huge, shadowy government
agency, known to most of us only by its initials (not to be confused
with the National Security Council, mark you), was merely exercising,
without telling us, another power we didn't know about. That power
isn't authorized by the Constitution, but it isn't forbidden by it,
either. The U.S. Supreme Court has permitted similar things in the
past, under certain conditions, which are being scrupulously observed
by the NSA. Possible abuses aren't worth worrying about.
Big government is just a wee bit bigger than we knew, that's all.
But then, we're also more secure than we knew. No telling how many
terrorist plots the NSA has foiled! And no telling how much it has
cost the taxpayer to collect untold volumes of useless information.
But that's not for us to know, either.
As long as most of us support our government, that's what counts.
And of course we do support it, without knowing quite what it is now.
We are assured it's a democracy, responding to our needs (as it defines
them) and under our control.
What? Your civics teacher didn't explain this to you? Well, the old
civics books may be a little out of date. As Donald Rumsfeld has explained,
there are some things about our enemies that are known, and some that
are unknown, and the latter can be further broken down into the known
unknowns and the unknown unknowns.
I suppose the same is true about our rulers. We know a lot about
what they do, and we also realize that a lot more than we know is concealed
from us. In the case of the NSA, it happens that some of the unknown
unknowns have come to light. But countless unknowns remain.
The film United 93 has been hailed for showing and celebrating
the courage of the passengers on a hijacked airliner on September 11,
2001, who immediately fought back against the terrorists. But who will
fight back against those who have hijacked our country?
This column appeared originally in the April-May 2006 edition of SOBRAN'S:
The Real News of the Month.
Back to The Reactionary
The Reactionary Utopian columns are copyright © 2008
by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfbooks.com.
All rights reserved.
Editor may use this column if copyright information is included.
Joe Sobran is an author and a syndicated columnist. See complete bio
Watch Sobran on YouTube here.
To subscribe, renew, or support further columns by Joe Sobran, please send
a tax-deductible donation to the:
Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation
P.O. Box 1383
or sponsor online.