DALLAS, June 26th, 2013 - When Edward Snowden leaked internal documents proving the existence of a dragnet domestic spying program, most Americans were angry. Most, regardless of their political leanings, are wary of secret courts rubber-stamping orders without much oversight. Most are disturbed that the PRISM program collects and stores an unfathomable amount of sensitive information, which can be retroactively reviewed.
But some self-professed conservatives turn their rage and disgust toward Edward Snowden, the whistleblower. Their main complaint: he is a treasonous traitor for revealing to our enemies strategies used in the endless, unwinnable "War on Terror". These "conservatives" join RINO/Neocon Sen. Lindsay Graham and leftist authoritarians like Sen. Dianne Feinstein in their calls for Snowden to die or spend his life in a cage for "aiding Al Qaeda" with his leaks.
Please stop. Al Qaeda and terrorist networks have understood since before ECHELON that we monitor their cellular and digital communications. Even our politicians haven't attempted to make this claim because it's nonsensical. A large cross-section of Americans have suspected widespread government surveillance of all communications since the Patriot Act was rubber stamped unread and without debate. This is not really news to the politically savvy or international terrorists.
But what is news is the proof that these spying and intelligence-gathering programs have been expanded to monitor the American people, not "terrorists". The billion dollar data center in the mountains of Utah wasn't built to track the estimated 500 strong-point members of Al Qaeda. It is monitoring YOU. Emails, social media, GPS locations, private exchanges, text messages, pictures shared and even phone calls. All of it in secret, all of which could be used in nefarious ways if history is any guide.
How can anyone support this, particularly those that claim they support limited government and the rule of law? Conservatives once respected the Constitution and its limits, they were once skeptical of big brother intrusions on their lives, and once upon a time, they became angered by power abuses. What happened? Did neoconservative militarists so thoroughly poison the concept of conservatism that the definition is lost?
One struggles to imagine what Barry Goldwater himself would say of these events.
Some say, but this makes us safer from Islamic fundamentalists! I won't quote Franklin's quip about exchanging liberty and security, but if we cannot win the "War on Terror" (a military tactic) without destroying the Constitution, have we not already lost?
And why do Islamic fundamentalists want to murder us? If it was for our freedom, the war would be over. It is largely because decades of horrific, arrogant and immoral foreign policies have emboldened and inspired mad men.
Sure, there are rabid jihadists that seek death to all non-believers, but many motivated extremists desire the West's destruction because we've occupied, imprisoned, deposed, invaded or hunted fellow Muslims at a whim and without remorse.
We feed the hate machine and as our politicians embed our military into one conflict after another, they destabilize the globe and pave the way for blowback attacks against this country. If General McCrystal's math was correct, we have created 10 terrorists for every innocent murdered by our feckless, boorish foreign policy.
So do we change course? Of course not. Now we are arming the very enemies we're professing to guard ourselves against in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, just as we did with Al Qaeda decades ago.
Americans are not safer because we invade, snatch-and-grab or drone Muslims countries, nor are we safer because we're spied on. Our security and liberty are at greater risk because of these two perverted elements of our state. We should scale back both, not morph our republic into a surveillance state to fight enemies we arm!
To call oneself a conservative then argue that anyone questioning or exposing the illegal, Orwellian American panapticon is simple hypocrisy. To argue Americans must exist under virtual surveillance to protect ourselves from repercussions of our own foreign policy to justify widespread, creepy domestic spying is just mind-boggling.
Snowden's actions provide us with an opportunity we would be wise to take: we must act to reign in these tools and the bureaucrats that use them before they can be used to abuse people further. Instead of characterizing Snowden as either an idealistic whistleblower or narcissistic turncoat, we should evaluate our relationship with our own government and what they've done in our name.
Rarely do we have such a chance, where the classified information is already public record, for an honest, open dialogue regarding the national-security state. And whether it is still operated by the citizen, for the citizen, both civilian and military.
Lawmakers and civil liberties organizations are joining to legally challenge both this unconstitutional program and the FISA court. Restoring the Fourth Amendment should be a concern for every American. Can we focus less on shouting "treason!" and "Snowden helped our enemies!" and more on the facts? Can these conservatives shouting "But Al Qaeda" at every turn please remember their roots?
Food for thought: