Such apologists have many excuses. Some of the most common include…
1. …inane statements like, “If you’re not a terrorist, then you don’t have anything to worry about.” This is not really an argument. Property rights, beginning with ownership of self, are the bedrock of a free society–the basis for all other rights. My property is my property. I choose not to allow the government to snatch all of my correspondence (emails, texts, phone calls, tweets, FB posts, Google searches, etc.). It’s mine. It’s my right to keep it, or destroy it, or give it away. It’s mine. But they take it anyway. This is theft. No, I’m not a terrorist, and yes, I may have nothing to worry about. But this is irrelevant. What I certainly do have is my right to my things, my property. Against my will, they are taking–stealing–my things anyway. Whether or not I have anything to “worry about” is completely beside the point; my things are not theirs to take. They are mine! Yet they steal it all on a daily basis, against my will, and if I resist–if I march into the NSA’s Utah facility and try to get it back, or delete it–I will be shot, or at least put in a cage.
2. …declarations like, “I have no problem with the regime collecting all of my private correspondence because it’s the price we must pay to stay safe.” This is preposterous. This is the price we are paying because the government has created monsters overseas. So the regime’s isolating (i.e. interventionist) foreign policies abroad spawn a monster. It then continues its efforts, with renewed vigor, in order to kill said monster; in doing so, it creates even more monsters. In the process, too, it begins to violate my civil liberties…to keep me safe from the monsters it created in the first place, from the monsters it is creating right this very minute. Rather than fight the monsters by violating my rights, why not change the policies that feed and spawn the monsters? The key to being “safe” has nothing to do with stealing hundreds of millions of Americans’ private correspondence and everything to do with changing a monster-spawning foreign policy.
3. …questions like, “Are we supposed to just take these terrorist attacks lying down?” In return, I ask: what is the ultimate goal here? Revenge? “Winning” a war? Humbling Islam? I should hope the goal is to make the attacks stop. To do so, we must understand why they are happening in the first place. You can hunt down all the alleged terrorists you want, but so far it has only succeeded in doing two very significant things: (1) vastly increasing the power, prestige, and recruiting capabilities of terrorist outfits, and (2) generally making the United States the most hated country on earth. If this doesn’t sound like a safer world for you or your children, that’s because it obviously isn’t one. If the government’s policies aren’t working, then they need to be changed. If a person goes to the doctor because she is sick, and the doctor prescribes Medicine A, and after taking Medicine A the person’s sickness only gets worse, then the doctor is certain to prescribe something else. The doctor is very unlikely to say, “Just take more Medicine A.” But this is precisely how the USG’s current foreign policy works. You want the attacks to stop? Change the policy. It will take time, but this is the only long-term solution. It also happens to be very American. On 4 July 1821, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams could say that the USG had, “in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations while asserting and maintaining her own. She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart. She has seen that probably for centuries to come, all the contests of that Aceldama, the European world, will be contests of inveterate power, and emerging right. Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.” In the same speech, the future president of the United States exhorted Britain, “ruler of the waves,” to adopt a foreign policy of peace, not war or conquest. This was the American way. “Her glory is not dominion,” Adams insisted, “but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield; but the motto upon her shield is Freedom, Independence, Peace. This has been her declaration: this has been, as far as her necessary intercourse with the rest of mankind would permit, her practice.” Adams’ words, echoing those of Washington, Jefferson, and other notable Founders before him, were uttered almost five decades after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. They would hold true, at least in terms of policy (if not always in spirit), for most of the nineteenth century. But this would change in the twentieth and twenty-first, and one result would be an outpouring of anti-Americanism and anti-American terrorism.
4. …such assurances as, “There are a wide variety of checks and security measures in place to ensure no abuses occur.” Actually, the program is abused or violated thousands of times per year (about seven times a day!) according to the NSA’s own audits. Some of these, surely, are inadvertent, but is that really the issue? A violation is a violation. Thousands of violations are thousands of violations. And the extra-legal FISA court system? One thousand eight hundred and fifty-six applications were presented to the court last year (2012), and one thousand eight hundred and fifty six applications were approved. That’s one hundred percent. How is this not a rubber stamp?
5. …assertions like, “Scores of attacks have been prevented since the passage of the Patriot Act and the establishment of the FISA court system and thanks to the NSA’s domestic spying program.” Nope–not scores. In fact, the answer is one, according to NSA Deputy Director John C. Inglis himself; start at around 4:10. One, probably. In any case, using this logic one might justify all sorts of rights violations. Surely this is not who we are.
6. …statements like, “Since the men and women working for said agencies are upstanding individuals, there’s nothing to worry about.” I happen to know from personal experience that agencies like the NSA are staffed by many wonderful people. This is beside the point. It only takes one bad apple, now that the keys have been surrendered to the government. Even if everyone working for these agencies and organizations (all tens and hundreds of thousands of them) were angels, who’s to say that this blessed state would continue ad infinitum? Can you guarantee that this will always be so? Such a guarantee would be absurd. Besides, each of these people took an oath on Day One of their “service” to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America from all enemies, foreign or domestic. I know, because I did. And yet they all continue to work for the entity that routinely shreds the Fourth Amendment and due process–and even defend that entity. The existence of a few (or even many) good people is no check on this sort of power.
7. …denunciations like, “Ed Snowden is a traitor, a nobody with an agenda who doesn’t know what he’s talking about anyway.” Say what you will about Ed Snowden, but at least he had the courage to say what he said, knowing what the consequences might be. I don’t know if he did it out of an allegiance to the Constitution he’d sworn to protect or for some other reason, but I’m extremely glad he did it. Surely the people deserved to know that their private property, their correspondence, was being snatched and stored without their consent. When Candidate Obama was campaigning for the presidency, he promised to protect whistleblowers; yet another lie. The efforts of the government to capture Snowden, including its bullying of allied governments and embarrassingly bold violations of diplomatic protocol, are particularly disturbing (and an abuse that most Americans would simply not tolerate had it been suffered by “us”).
America! Remember the Glorious Cause that started it all!
We have become what we once despised, the very thing that our Founders fought against. Be a true patriot–and protect your country from your government.