Obama: Who Needs the Fourth Amendment? My Spying Is OK

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Obama today had to address the government’s spying on Americans, so he suggested that it was harmless because he wasn’t actually listening to conversations or reading e-mails. His honeyed assurances did not say that the U.S. government, Supreme Court included, has gutted the Fourth Amendment. He didn’t say that this spying is the latest in a pattern that goes back years, and that this pattern shows a one-sided increase in government’s capacity to monitor every American’s communications, financial transactions and movements, and that all of this is about as strong a totalitarian marker as one could ask for. He didn’t say that he has tightened the screws on leaks and whistleblowers so as to heighten government secrecy, another totalitarian marker.

Government spying is bound to chill the discovery and publication of news that tells Americans what the government is really doing. If a newsman or correspondent makes long distance calls to people he knows or wants to know in Syria, Iran, Yemen, Pakistan and dozens of other lands, he may well come under suspicion. The government spies will find out who he is and may monitor him. If the FBI opens a file on Justin Raimondo and Antiwar.com because of some of its perfectly harmless citations of publicly available information, why won’t they and the CIA and the NSA and a dozen other intelligence agencies open files on innocent correspondents or just about anyone? Long ago, J. Edgar Hoover taught us how these powers of spying are misused and how they compound  government corruption.

The current results of the kind of spying that Obama is supporting include  fear among many potential whistleblowers, critical commentators, activists, reporters, and administration critics, the suppression of their free speech, and investigations of citizens who are actually above suspicion.  Careers are ruined. Suspicions are raised about innocent people. Black marks are placed on their names and reputations. And all of this serves no national security purpose whatsoever. The end results are trials and imprisonments designed to disburse fear, quell discovery and speech, and  maintain government secrecy on behalf of government power and the steady stream of crimes, usurpations and derelictions of duties of government officials.

1:12 pm on June 7, 2013