So, national intelligence chief James Clapper lied under oath to the U.S. Senate back in March when he said that the U.S government does not collect information on millions of Americans. Today’s Financial Times (Intelligence chief under scrutiny) reports that he qualified his answer by adding “not wittingly.” Perhaps he should have said “nit-wittingly.”
The FT quotes Clapper as saying he gave the answer “he considered to be ‘the least truthful.'” The Irish call this being economical with the truth. Lawyers call it equivocation.
One of the many jobs Clapper held prior to being tapped to be director of national intelligence, a post created after 9/11, was a stint with the Geospatial Intelligence Agency. Those who prefer an Orwellian bent to their paranoia will note that Geospatial is almost an anagram for Gestapo. But I digress…
As the Obama administration “pivots” towards Nixon (illegal bombings of countries we are not at war with, going to China, domestic spying on U.S. citizens, using the IRS to muck with your enemies, and health care reform – remember it was Ted Kenndey who helped defeat Nixon’s proposals for comprehensive and universal health care), and with the administration’s intent to ramp up the war in Syria, you have to wonder if the Nobel Foundation is thinking of asking for their Peace Prize back. Although Henry Kissinger was also a recipient of the Peace Prize, so perhaps the Swedish definition of “peace” loses something in translation to English.
Just as Richard Nixon had his Daniel Ellsberg, Barack Obama has his Edward Snowden. Ellsberg worked for the RAND Corporation and leaked the famous Pentagon Papers. Snowden worked for Booz Allen Hamilton and now resides in Hong Kong. His fame is as yet undecided, but he leaked what may one day be called the Prism Papers.
To stretch the 70’s analogy further, we even have hunger strikers. Although it was actually in 1980 that IRA members began their hunger strikes at the notorious Maze Prison in Northern Ireland. Detainees at the notorious Guantanamo have been on hunger strikes since 2005 (different detainees at different times, obviously). But now the world hardly takes notice.
Allow me one more digression here, because words matter. The British called the IRA paramilitary prisoners “internees,” as if they were gaining valuable on the job experience. Which in a way they were. The U.S. calls the prisoners at Guantanamo “detainees,” as if one is temporarily inconvenienced. Like when the Captain of the airplane comes on speaker and says your flight will be slightly delayed while they offload some luggage, for something like ten years.
But to close this rant, I would like to repeat the language used by a very different and much wiser Supreme Court than the current incarnation. From its ruling on the publication of the Pentagon Papers, 403 U.S. 713 (1971):
…the Executive Branch seems to have forgotten the essential purpose and history of the First Amendment. When the Constitution was adopted, many people strongly opposed it because the document contained no Bill of Rights to safeguard certain basic freedoms. They especially feared that the new powers granted to a central government might be interpreted to permit the government to curtail freedom of religion, press, assembly, and speech..The Bill of Rights changed the original Constitution into a new charter under which no branch of government could abridge the people’s freedoms…
The word “security” is a broad, vague generality whose contours should not be invoked to abrogate the fundamental law embodied in the First Amendment. The guarding of military and diplomatic secrets at the expense of informed representative government provides no real security for our Republic…The greater the importance of safeguarding the community from incitements to the overthrow of our institutions by force and violence, the more imperative is the need to preserve inviolate the constitutional rights of free speech, free press and free assembly in order to maintain the opportunity for free political discussion…Therein lies the security of the Republic, the very foundation of constitutional government.