11 June 2013

Secrecy, Scandals, and Snowden

This is a bit contrary to the usual progressive stance on the latest NSA data collection revelations. Although I believe that the legal system that is in place might very well be infringing on our Fourth-Amendment rights, I don't see a major scandal here. Rather, I see an opportunity highlight the danger of excessive secrecy.

Back in September 2008, after giving birth to by book, No Stranger To Strange Lands, had sadly come to an end, I felt like the only way to rid myself of a sense of post-partum depression was to keep writing, indulging myself in writing an undisciplined screed titled Secrecy, Democracy,and Fascism: Lessons From History. Having been watching a lot of episodes of House, the theme was to discover the disease that was manifesting itself as through the unfortunate symptom of runaway conspiracy theories and, I was arguing, unwarranted distrust of the government. "Mis-diagnosing the disease, "I wrote, "can be as bad or worse than just ignoring it." I was deeply troubled by such issues as Karl Rove's plan to politicize the judiciary and create one-party rule, Dick Cheney's penchant for secrecy and his abuse of power in lashing out against Joe Wilson for outing the administration's flawed argument for going to war in Iraq, and George Bush's excessive use of signing statements, and I decided to take a look at what critical terms Like "tyranny" and "fascism" that were being bandied about really meant — what it was that our failing democracy was becoming. The issue of secrecy seemed to me to be one of the greatest forces eroding at democracy, which depends upon informed citizens to function properly. Secrecy also erodes trust, and a crisis in trust can turn into an earthquake, catastrophically tearing apart the foundation of democracy.

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