The Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, who admitted to lying to the National Committee of Intelligence last year about the scope of domestic NSA data collection, has recently testified in front of Congress, claiming that the information provided by Edward Snowden- and reported on by myriad journalists- is providing terrorists with valuable information they are using to change their methods of communication and action. He provides no evidence for this, and in spite of his proven willingness to lie in order to insulate the narrative, members of the media are acting as if his word is irreproachable.
It’s important to note that throughout recorded human history, any time a government has needed to create support for a policy, manipulate public perception of an enemy, or rationalize an action, it has almost always resorted to fear. This fear can be real or imagined, it doesn’t actually matter. As long as the populace believes that with these policies and actions- no matter how much they might infringe upon their personal liberty- they will be safe from the source of their fear, the exploitation of that fear will require minimal to no evidence. Machiavelli wrote about this extensively. Hobbes underscores it in The Leviathan, when he engages the dynamic between the Sovereign, its people, and what reasonable ratio of freedom to security the people can expect. The Founders also remarked on the danger of governance by evocation of fear, warning that there is no greater threat to liberty, than when the government uses an ambiguous fear as a means to gain more power. It is a timeless method of control, designed to receive tacit approval for suspect policies that usually involve a shrinking of liberties that the masses always appear willing to relinquish when their worst fears are summoned.
In our modern world, the fear most exploited, is terrorism. Our government has declared a War on Terror, perpetual by design and illimitable in scope, that has no borders, and whose enemy is stateless, landless, and timeless. The irony is that many of the means we invoke to extirpate this boundless concept, does the opposite. We seek to expunge the recurring threat not by means of diplomacy, education, peace or refraining from intervening in the affairs of sovereign nations, but by matching violence with violence. Thus, as our government disdains the ideological rationale of the enemy, it enacts policies that ensure only the continuation of the conflict. We would do well to recall this fact when our government argues for the necessity of covert security programs that exist precisely because it does its part to stoke the antagonistic flames of ideological warfare.
Strangely, our media allows someone like Clapper, who has openly lied to Congress about NSA capabilities, to be the unchallenged voice of both the continued necessity of these programs, and the dubious claim that making them public has given terrorists the advantage. The pertinent question here is why Clapper still possesses a job? And why should we believe anything he says? He shouldn’t, and we shouldn’t either. But you cannot convince the establishment press of that. It’s as if they have experienced collective amnesia.
If the Administration insists on allowing Clapper to not only remain employed, but to also be its mouthpiece, then the media must insist on ignoring all unsupported claims regarding the necessity of NSA programs as they currently exist. It has been the method of this Administration and its predecessor, to vociferously ululate “Terrorism!” any time information is disseminated that reflects negatively on their purported intents and endeavors. It is a battle hardened political tactic that the media must counter so that more liberties are not voluntarily forfeited under a false premise of security. Yes terrorism is real, and yes we should expect our government to do what they can to protect our borders, but little evidence has been produced proving the efficacy of these programs, relative to their encroachment on the personal communications of millions of innocent civilians. Until the government can justify such intrusion, and show their commitment to earnestly engaging the debate between privacy and security, the people (and our media) should not fall victim to our fear.