"In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything...There would be no place to hide.Want to know who said that? No, it wasn't Glenn Greenwald or any other Snowdenista. It was Senator Frank Church in August 1975. In one of the most progressive victories against the national security state in this country's history, Senator Church chaired a committee that investigated illegal activities by the CIA, NSA and FBI.
"...I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."
The revelations that prompted the investigations of the Church Committee included not only the fact that the government was spying on American citizens, but also things like this:
Among the matters investigated were attempts to assassinate foreign leaders, including Patrice Lumumba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, the Diem brothers of Vietnam, Gen. René Schneider of Chile and Director of Central Intelligence Allen Welsh Dulles's plan, approved by the President Dwight D. Eisenhower, to use the Mafia to kill Fidel Castro of Cuba.Compare that to the kinds of things we're hearing from Snowden and you might understand why many of us who lived through those years are greeting these current revelations with a certain amount of "ho-hum."
As a result of the Church Committee's reports, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to stop these abuses, including the formation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). To hear many folks talk about FISC today, you'd assume its the root of all evil instead of one of the most important progressive victories in our history.
So now we have a federal judge appointed by President Bush who issued a ruling in favor of the guy who recently said that conservatives should demand that this president put the Quran down, get up off his knees, and figuratively come out with his hands up. And this one is being celebrated by so-called progressives even though it directly contradicts one recently declassified by FISC.
All I'll say is that a little history on the work of progressives in this area would go a long way towards some common sense on the issues at hand.