After all, in its essence, the Bradley Manning Case, and the Edward Snowden case, are really all about 9/11 and our response to it.
I remember 9/11. I was at Disney World with my then wife and young son. I saw a restaurant closing and thought it odd, but then, for a second, thought the owner must be taking a break. Just a for second, however, because then I realized that there are no privately owned restaurants in Disney World. I had a bad sense of foreboding, as I saw more and more facilities closing. Then came the announcement I will never forget, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, due to circumstances beyond our control, the park will be closing immediately. Plan A.” I knew enough to know that “Plan A” was an emergency code to the staff regarding evacuation. I also knew that Disney World had never ever closed, even for weather. Something was very very wron
People around me, and then I, tried to make phone calls on our cell phones. But the cell phone networks were overloaded, and we could not get through. We did not know why. We thought there was no cell phone service any more. Rumors started floating around. Some true, you know them: (1)World Trade Towers attacked and collapsed; (2) Pentagon attacked; (3) Capital a target; (4) planes hijacked; (5) thousands dead….Add that to the rumors which were not true, and sitting there in the middle of Disney Land, with my young son, and with Disney Land a feared target or another attack, it seemed like Armageddon.
Writing this more than a decade later is still very emotional. Few Americans have fully recovered. I was very affected. I have no respect, no compassion, no quarter for these terrorists. It is hard to compare evils, but they are right down there with the Nazis and others.
I am a pacifist. But I make an exception for the most evil people. The day they killed Bin Laden was a very good day. The people who did it are heroes.
ARE YOU WITH ME? LOOK AT THE COSTS:
But we have paid, and keep paying, so much more than a mere mortal like Bin Laden could take from us. We need to stop. Our fear is destroying us, and even worse, it is destroying “Who we are.” It has been said, “It is not the number of years in your life that counts. It is the life in your years.” We are letting Bin Laden destroy the quality of our life and the essence of who we are.
I am not just talking about the expense and delay of TSA checks at airports, or the fact that I cannot go into an office building in Philadelphia without passing security, since 9/11. Nor am I referring to extra police everywhere, especially in New York City, with dogs, extra weapons, and so on.
These are monetary costs and inconveniences. Perhaps they are worth it, even though I don’t think so. Yes, they may save lives by preventing a future attack. But people die every day, and money can be better spent saving lives in other methods. What is the cost of saving a life? But that is another debate. Our fear of terrorists compels us to take these security measures.
WHERE THE COSTS RUN TO0 HIGH:
But most importantly, it is the diminishment of our civil rights, the very definition of who we are as Americans, where the costs run too high. The Declaration of Independence states that we are endowed with “certain unalienable Rights” and most Americans hold that these include those rights contained in the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution. Most importantly, rights such as: (1) Due Process of Law; (2) Trial By Jury; (3) No Cruel and Inhuman Punishment; (4) Freedom of Speech; and, most importantly; (5) the Right to Protection Against Unwarranted Search and Seizure. The United States Supreme Court, and most Americans, also hold that the Constitution and its Bill of Rights contain implied privacy rights.
These rights are what we believe make America great. These are the very things that define who we are. These are the Rights that we defend, with our lives if necessary. In fact we have spent many lives defending these rights, such as in World War II. To toss away, to discard, these Rights is to diminish, to redefine, and to degrade who and what we are. It hurts us far more than Bin Laden was ever capable, and could ever be capable.
We have seen these rights degraded and impaired in response to 9/11. We did it to ourselves. We did it voluntarily. Most people are never affected, so most people don’t care. But most people would not be affected if the Bill of Rights were renounced. Nonetheless, we have always cherished and defended the Constitution. We take oaths to defend the Constitution. We pledge our allegiance, and sing songs about defending the Constitution. Now we just discard it as though it were outdated and frivolous.
We think that only terrorists are having their rights affected, and we don’t care about these “sub-humans.” While the welfare of true terrorists is of no moment to me, it is not what they do which defines who and what we are. It is what we do, how we act, and by what laws, rules, codes, and ethics we live by which defines who we are. This is why even animals are entitled to humane treatment. When we let these terrorists, in response to their actions, change our actions, our legal codes, are moral standards, we have let them hurt us in ways otherwise impossible.
The most obvious degradation to the Bill of Rights began with imprisonment without due process, and, in extraordinary cases, torture and/or rendition. “Rendition” is when a person in the custody of America, but is given to a foreign country that freely and openly engages in such practices as torture. When in the foreign location, the prisoner is tortured, without ever having even been charged or found guilty of a crime. The person may not even have any knowledge of terrorism, and may have previously loved America. Our torturing or prisoners has in fact created more extremism and terrorists than any other occurrence or reason.
While we may claim that the Constitution was upheld because these people were tortured in another country, that is a façade, as it was done by America, at our direction, and on our behalf. Abu Ghraib and disclosures about Guantanamo Bay in Cuba proved that we didn’t often bother to go to the façade of rendition.
It is far from clear that every tortured victim, who never had a trial (or prisoner at Abu Ghraib or Gitmo), is or was ever guilty. One simply needs to watch the movie “Rendition.” While it is fiction, clearly the potential for such a situation to happen exists, and has probably occurred more times then we want to know. Watch “Rendition” and ask yourself, “How many innocent people can justifiably be tortured, before it is too much?” Even if the failure to engage in torture allows a terrorist to attack and costs me my life, my answer remains, “Zero.” I refuse to engage in condone in, be a part of, or stand silently by, while I, any group I am associated with, or my country engages in such practices.
I recall (from documentaries) those heroes of WWII who gave their lives to destroy regimes (Nazis and Japan) who were engaging in these activities. We have invested so much, and expended so many lives, to protect who we are; now a mere Bin Laden gets us to voluntarily throw all this away?
While I agree that every American with access to classified information can’t be judge and jury as to whether such information needs to be disclosed, in Snowden’s case, he made the right call, showing bravery in the face of inevitable severe consequences. We owe a debt to Snowden, and need to defend him and his actions.
It is settled law that the Fourth Amendment to the Bill of Rights, which protects us against unreasonable search and seizure, extends to the interception of electronic communications, such as phone calls, e-mails, etc. In Snowden’s case, each and every American was having their Fourth American rights violated with every phone call and e-mail they made. The fact, that the government may not have been interested in most of us, is of no moment. There is no difference between what the NSA is doing then a random and unwarranted search of your house, for no reason and with no search warrant, which results in no arrests because the victim is a law abiding citizen. Most people would not tolerate the later. Why tolerate the former?
In 1971, a man named Daniel Ellsberg released classified information called “The Pentagon Papers.” It was a specifically commissioned top-secret report about the Vietnam War which concluded that the Vietnam War could not be won. At the behest of the government, he made many secret trips to Vietnam, serving the government, having worked both for the Pentagon and the State Department. He had a very high security clearance, and the Pentagon Papers were classified as “Top Secret.”
The public needed to know this information, because America was still actively engaged in the Vietnam War, spending countless amounts of money, and more importantly, sending our young men to their death in order that they could kill Vietnamese people fighting for their independence. The Vietnam War needed to end, and the release of this document helped end it. People were being misled by the government about the war, including that we could win it. History has proven that we did not win it, and probably could not have won it. But several administrations, both Republican and Democrat, had told the American public that the war was necessary and winnable. Ellsberg’s act was an act of conscience, and Ellsberg was not charged with espionage, treason, or any other crime.
It was obvious that his disclosure was a necessary, moral, and courageous act. It was clear that Ellsberg, like Snowden, sought only to help America by disclosing something which the public needed to know, regardless of its “classified status.” There is no difference between Ellsberg and Snowden. Ellsberg was quoted recently as saying that had he done now what he did then, he would be prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced.
I don’t want, and you should not want, your Fourth Amendment Rights violated, even if there are never any consequences to us. I don’t want to live in a country which does not have and follow, with the strictest defense, the Bill of Rights. I have, as many Americans have, personally tasted the bitter pill of t constitutional rights violations, for example, of my “Due Process Rights,|” and that pill is not fit for human consumption.
We have paid enough already. We need to become “America” again.