An essay in yesterday's Wall Street Journal totally ignored one basic and overriding consideration while offering a defense of America’s intelligence establishment and harshly criticizing Edward Snowden’s leaks of the agencies’ practices.
An open society can and will tolerate secretive security institutions only if and to the extent that citizens generally trust their government and, in particular, are confident that its official clandestine instrumentalities will not be turned against them.
The U.S. today has a government that:
* Has been staffed at the highest levels by individuals who have cheated on their personal income taxes in ways that would lead to severe sanctions against less favored citizens;
* Allows members of favored minorities to thuggishly assault and intimidate citizens who are racially less favored, as it did not long ago in the case of the New Black Panther Party in Philadelphia;
* Itself engages in criminal conduct as in the Fast and Furious gun-running case;
* Fails to protect those serving it in hostile foreign environments and then lies about the resulting murders of its employees and falsely attributes their deaths to a nonexistent demonstration over an obscure video, as in the Benghazi case;
* Allows leaders of its intelligence agencies to commit perjury in testifying before Congress about the extent to which and how their agencies are monitoring the activities and communications of the nation’s citizens, and to not only escape punishment for doing so but also to continue in their high offices; and
* Uses its tax collecting agency to target its domestic political opponents, to make public for political purposes private information that the agency is legally obligated to maintain in confidence, and continues to refuse to hold accountable those responsible for such transgressions.
A government that conducts itself in such a way forfeits the trust of its citizens, and no citizen can be confident of not being targeted by any of the government’s multitude of clandestine agencies. This is particularly true when the government has enacted so many laws and laws of such complexity that any of its citizens can be destroyed by being subjected to prosecution at any time that he of she is targeted by anyone in high office.