Monday, September 30, 2013

So Brave and Yet So Timid

Trey Smith

Last week the US Senate held another hearing about the NSA and their mass surveillance programs. While most of the Senators lobbed softball questions at NSA officials, according to Glenn Greenwald, two asked more substantive questions -- Democrats Ron Wyden and Mark Udall -- and these two have been sort of warning the American public about NSA excesses for some time.
Those two spent years publicly winking and hinting that the NSA under President Obama was engaged in all sorts of radical and abusive domestic surveillance (although - despite the absolute immunity protection they enjoy as Senators under the Constitution - they took no action, and instead waited for Edward Snowden (who had no such immunity) to bravely step up and reveal to the American people specifically what these two Senators kept hinting at).
In a manner of speaking, these two Senators have acted so brave and yet so timid at the same time.

In terms of the elite Washington power brokers, they have been courageous. Though both have been encouraged by their colleagues and the President himself to keep their mouths shut, they have steadfastly drawn attention to the fact that what NSA officials and members of the Obama administration say is not altogether accurate. Basically, they have pointed out repeatedly that a lot of lies have been told without necessarily calling them lies.

But while one could characterize them as being brave in a limited sense, they concurrently have been chickenshit cowards! Though they have known the truth from the lies, they have hidden themselves behind the idea that they aren't allowed to discuss classified information in public. As Greenwald makes abundantly clear, this assertion simply isn't true! The US Constitution grants them virtual immunity for anything they say -- at the very least -- on the floor of the US Senate.

In others words, rather than hinting at improprieties, both have had numerous opportunities to spill the beans. They have had numerous opportunities to bring the truth to light. Despite these repeated opportunities, they each chose to duck for cover.

So, it is hard to pat them on the back for being cowardly heroes of democracy and transparency.

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