May 30, 2014
Andrew Napolitano, in a review of Glenn Greenwald’s new book No Place to Hide, which is about Greenwald’s meeting with Edward Snowden and the resulting revelations about the National Security Agency (NSA):
The government has argued that when it engages in all this spying, it is looking for a needle in a haystack. It claims it can only keep us safe if it knows all and sees all. Yet, such an argument cannot be made with intellectual honesty by anyone who has sworn to uphold the Constitution.
The Constitution was written to keep the government off of the people’s backs. The Constitution protects the right to be left alone and the right to be different. The Constitution presupposes the existence of natural rights and areas of human endeavor that are insulated from government knowledge and immune to government regulation, except in the most carefully prescribed circumstances. Those circumstances require that probable cause of crime be possessed by the government about identifiable persons and demonstrated to a neutral judge before the government may engage in any surveillance of that person—and all those NSA conspirators and all their judicial facilitators know this.
Napolitano is, near as I can figure, a libertarian. He’s a legal commentator for Fox News. I doubt that he and I would agree on much of anything regarding economic or social policy. Yet we agree on this.
The reason is that, as I’ve explained before, there is a danger in not having the freedom to debate and discuss the issues we face as Americans:
Those who maintain that somehow all this intrusiveness and secrecy is necessary to keep us “safe” have clearly never considered what it’s like to not be safe from your own government. They haven’t considered what the cost is of corruption that can’t be punished because it can’t be revealed, or how many lives bad policy and bad government can cost. If they had, they’d know that what they were saying is utterly foolish. We lose more people every month for lack of health care, and for letting people who shouldn’t be near them have guns. We lost more people in Iraq and Afghanistan than we did to terrorism. We lost way more in Vietnam. All that death is due, at least in part, to foolish government policy. While we spend vast sums of money on surveillance equipment that may not even work, we don’t educate our young well enough to operate all those whiz-bang weapons we always seem to have money to build.
Unhindered, unsupervised surveillance by any government agency is an open invitation to that government to use it to target its enemies. When the government can secretly target people it considers its enemies, its citizens will be a lot more motivated to stay off that list. Staying off that list, inevitably, will entail not saying what the government doesn’t want to hear about itself. When that happens, all hope of correcting any of the things that ail us will disappear. Alexander Solzenitsyn taught us that, among others.
It’s surprising how many “progressives” and “liberals” still don’t get it.