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On Morning Joe this AM, they referenced the serious journalism of comedian John Oliver when in his show last night he interviewed security leaker Edward Snowden in Moscow. So I watched the show, which I record from DirecTV. In it, among other things, Oliver asked Snowden if a dic pic sent from a husband to his wife over the internet could be captured by the NSA, and Snowden answered yes, it could. Funny bit. But disturbing, in the sense of the degree of invasion of privacy the NSA can accomplish into the personal lives of ordinary Americans. Of course, the rationalization is that national security might require such invasions, on rare occasion, to protect the country from terrorists. Thus, we all must give up all, figuratively and literally, of our privacy for such protection. Excellent journalism, indeed by Oliver. Perhaps he deserves a Pulitzer Prize for journalism,for making plain the sacrifices we are all making, whether we realize it or not, for the sake of potential protection from terror. Of course, I became suspicious when the end of the Snowden interview was cut off by my video recorder, leading me to wonder, just wonder, if the NSA was blocking a portion of John Oliver’s Snowden interview, perhaps because they didn’t want America to discover what bald and bold truths were revealed in the final minutes of the show. Am I jumpy? Maybe. Do I have reason to feel that way? I think so.

Snowden — here is my blog post of June 10th last year. I stand by my thesis that part of the price of democracy is transparency.

New revelations of vast NSA programs to monitor telephone use to intercept terrorist plans again raises the question of whether the effect of such whistle-blowing of top-secret security processes adds to the cleansing potential of democratic transparency or degrades the ability of our government to protect the population.

The answer is that such revelations result in both increased public oversight, or in other words, enhanced democracy, but also a possibly somewhat weaker security apparatus. In our post-1984 world, where our national politics have been accurately described as “a carnival of dysfunction,” the regular exercise of democratic oversight by the people, through intrusions by well-meaning whistle-blowers and responsible news media, is one way to preserve the fundamental principles of our democracy. My belief is that the cost of such “intrusions” into the inner sanctums of our government security establishment are justified by the balancing results of political and governmental accountability to a society of free people — a people who yearn to remain free in a complicated, dangerous information age.

August 2022
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