Posted by: josephsiry | May 11, 2015

Do we see clearly the nation we inhabit and those people’s lives whom our actions inhibit?

What have we seen and heard to which we bear false witness by either turning a blind eye, or taking a distracted glance to get our minds off of the destructive acts we have become habituated to seeing?

“We live in a country where telling the hard truth with clarity has become a taboo.”

William Greider, Come Home America, (2002) p. 1.

“the government does not even suggest that all of the records sought or even necessarily any of them are relevant to any specific defined inquiry.”

GERARD E. LYNCH, Circuit Judge: ACLU v. Clapper (May 7, 2015.)

 “considering the issue of advocacy in the context of deliberations involving alleged state secrets, and more broadly, the ‘leak’ by Edward Snowden that led to this litigation, calls to mind the disclosures by Daniel Ellsberg, that gave rise to the legendary ‘Pentagon Papers’ litigation.”

Judge Robert Sack wrote in a concurring opinion.

The ruling this week by a three judge appeals court concerning the National Security Administration’s surveillance of domestic telephone conversations is unwarranted should cause thoughtful people to further reflect on the kind of power wielded in the name of “homeland security,” by our elected and appointed representatives. I am a complicit in this “national security state” as are those advocates who profess to support these repeated intrusions into our private conversations. I am complicit because I pay taxes. Unlike Henry David Thoreau who spent jail-time for refusing to pay a poll-tax in support of the expansion of slavery during the Mexican War, I am too comfortable, too responsive to other’s needs, and to enmeshed in contractual duties to stop paying my fair share to sustain this industrial machinery of war, terror, and subversion.

What is the purpose of electronically sweeping up every phone conversation beyond an exercise of control in the use of technically “sweet” opportunities to use available gadgets and sweep up the information about who is calling whom, when, how often and where? Is there an urgent, overriding necessity to listen to people’s allegedly “free” expression? To what ends are international security practices designed? Against what threats to the United States, its possessions, or its citizens –here and abroad– are we willing to sacrifice liberty of association and expression? If history suffices for the immediate backdrop to answer these questions, I am even more uneasy. The anxiety I have over the exercise of power for public or private ends is compounded by what the nation has done, not just now, but over the past seventy years in the name of “national security,” all the while arguing that we are really defending our ideals of four freedoms around the world.

Before we look past the “commercial curtain” at the work performed by our security agencies overseas, William Greider’s warning is worth reiterating because you may not believe my contention. I contend that we do not even see, comprehend, let alone take responsibility for, our actions or our nation’s intrusions around the world.  Greider insists ”The mass culture…marinates Americans in self-congratulation and triumphalism. We hear the same message from everywhere around us—politics, movies, talk radio, commercial advertising.” (Come Home America, p. 15.) We have been sold an image of our country as an unquestionable dispenser of justice and goodness in the world, despite any direct or indirect evidence to the contrary.

What do these other nations think of us? Where would we go to discover what our allies, adversaries, or other observers might think of us? Octavio Paz, the Mexican writer and diplomat, once called the United States a “Philanthropic Ogre.” Behind that oxymoronic image lies a trail of deliberate deceit on the part of national sources of information about the deeper motives of US foreign policy. Here a brief look at the nations in which the United States had a hand in destabilizing reveals a troublesome pattern.

A list of nations that the USA by covert action (of the OAS, CIA) destabilized & brought about regime change:

Place                leadership        (date)   Administration            comments


Cuba                Battista            (1940s)


Iran                  Mosodec                                             Shah of Iran

Guatemala       Arbenz (?)       (1953)


The Congo      Lamumba        (1961)

Iraq                  Bathists           (1963)

Cuba unsuccessful removal of Castro

Vietnam           Ngo Dinh Diem (1963)



Chile                Salvador Allende (197?)

Indonesia         Sukarno


Afghanistan     (USSR invasion)




El Salvador

Bush I             Fall of the Soviet Union




Bush I & Clinton



The Balkans    Serbia & Kosovo

Bush II

Afghanistan     Taliban

Iraq                  Saddam Hussein

That adds up to 20 nations between the 1940s-2002, while –up until then– Congress had practiced a bipartisan foreign policy.  With the recent Egyptian, Libyan, and Syrian upheavals, and excluding the Ukraine, the repeated habit of the United States has been to seek regime change in those parts of the world where our intelligence has revealed real or imagined threats to US interests. The cost of these intervention in terms of human lives lost or injured, money and treasure is not the only tangible outcome of these recurrent actions. There is the less-than-quantifiable cost of creating opposition, lasting resentment, and widespread misunderstanding of what we say and what we do as a nation overseas.

The added burden has been called by Noam Chomsky of MIT, “manufacturing consent.” Now deceased, Neil Postman of NYU warned us when Ronald Reagan was in office that the nation, in near blind pursuit of commercial entertainment, was in danger of “Amusing Ourselves to Death.” So Greider is not without intelligent company, in this fear of losing our sense of what the nation has been doing in my generation and yours.

Greider insists that the United States has changed “From being a vigilant defender to being an adventurous aggressor in search of enemies.” (2009, 117.) And as if to reinforce the way the events of the century’s initial decade was reported, he insists that  “Ignorance has been a hallmark of modern American war making for decades.” (2009, 150.) So the roots of our actions and of our hampered reactions to these many foreign interventions are set deep in the character, social fabric, and constructed narrative of the nation. Chomsky as well has developed his arguments that may be traced back to C Wright Mills 1956 work The Power Elite where he contended that democratic theory was undermined, if not replaced, by an experienced military, corporate, and politically astute elite.

Ungrounded anxiety was what I hoped was my response as I read the reports of the Appeals Court judges in telling the NSA they were without merit in listening ever so closely to everything we say, just because they can. But the more I think we pay to be spied upon, we pay to listen to commercials, the more I wonder how mad we have become in the craziest of all possible worlds. Justice Lynch correctly narrowed the purview of this suit filed against the federal government to the matter of   “whether a surveillance program that the government has put in place to protect national security is lawful.” That these three Justices had the intellect, experience and correct context to render the verdict is is the silver lining in the dark cloud that is our national security state where corporations are people and free speech has been equated with the use of money to influence elections. While the court recognizes the real and existing threats to national security, Justice Lynch argues that  “As in the 1970s, the revelation of this program has generated considerable public attention and concern about the intrusion of government into private matters.” At an even more sophisticated analysis of the claims in this case, Justice Lynch pointed out that “The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.” He emphasized “and seizures.” because  the “Appellants contend that the collection of their metadata exceeds the scope of what is authorized by § 215 and constitutes a Fourth Amendment search.” As a means of arriving at the three-judge decision, the finding of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals asserted: “We think such collection is more appropriately challenged, at least from a standing perspective, as a seizure rather than as a search.” Lynch’s argument here points to the fact that the collection of all phone records allegedly under the Patriot Act’s many provisions amounts to a seizure of personal information and thus violates the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution (The Bill of Rights.).

At even a deeper level of analysis of these arguments the court found ” When the government collects appellants’ metadata, appellants’ members’ interests in keeping their associations and contacts private are implicated, and any potential “chilling effect” is created at that point.” And in so arguing the Justices pointed out a violation of the First Amendment. The decision sets out several arguments that evaluate legislative intent, statutory authority, and threats to the security of the country. In summing up the decision, Justice Lynch  concluded “we conclude that the district court erred in ruling that § 215 authorizes the telephone metadata collection program, and instead hold that the telephone metadata program exceeds the scope of what Congress has authorized and therefore violates § 215.” (ACLU v. p. 97.) Heartened that the rule of law and the precise letter of the law must prevail over interpretations to the contrary, the decision is a tribute to a wise and timely intervention. This Judicial moderation of the widespread acquiescence to and popular support for excessive exercise of administrative practices is a wise move in fanatical times when many would  curtail liberty in the face of threat. When the power of a technology in the hands of an unchecked administering body goes without scrutiny, we risk, in this ubiquitous loss of perspective, the necessary will to defend the very freedoms we allegedly fight to sustain around the world.

William Greider. Come Home, America: The Rise and Fall of Our Country. (2009) Chapter 7, Chapter 8, The Next War.

C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite. (1956) Oxford University Press.


Full title of the case:

“AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION FOUNDATION, NEW YORK CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION, NEW YORK CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION FOUNDATION, Plaintiffs‐Appellants, — v. — JAMES R. CLAPPER, in his official capacity as Director of National Intelligence, MICHAEL S. ROGERS, in his official capacity as Director of the National Security Agency and Chief of the Central Security Service, ASHTON B. CARTER, in his official capacity as Secretary of Defense, LORETTA E. LYNCH, in her official capacity as Attorney General of the United States, and JAMES B. COMEY, in his official capacity as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Defendants‐Appellees. “*



  1. Reblogged this on Weblog at the edge of the world and commented:

    Justice Gerard E. Lynch defends liberty in a world of secrecy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: