Over the last couple of days we have been learning the terrifying news that our government has been monitoring the phone calls, emails, and internet activity of hundreds of millions of Americans since 2006. Today, we are learning something even more terrifying – the British government cares more about its citizens’ right to privacy than we do!
Only in the minds of the most farfetched science fiction authors could there have been even a thought of Britain having a better record on individual liberty than the United States. Yet here we are – so appalled at the apparent disregard for the rights of our citizens that Britain is sending special investigators to the US to demand proof that British citizens were not caught up in this intolerable dragnet.
Now, not everyone in the British government cares so much for their citizens’ right to privacy. Over the past few months there have been several attempts to pass laws that would strengthen the government’s ability to “snoop” on the lives of the average British citizen. Time and time again those attempts have been defeated, but now with the unmasking of these new spying techniques that the NSA has been employing, many in the British Parliament and media are wondering if their government has been working with ours to spy on their own people.
It’s very likely they have.
British intelligence organization Government Communications Headquarters (or GCHQ) is under fire now because they have seemingly had access to the NSA’s work since 2010. The obvious connection is that even as the British Parliament had been defeating attempts to legalize the work that GCHQ was doing – they continued their illicit spy program. You can sense that the British media will be asking a lot of questions over the coming weeks, and I suspect many heads will roll in the halls of British intelligence.
Meanwhile, back on American soil, the practice that has the British up in arms is completely legal! Never mind that it runs completely contrary to the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, our Justice Department and the judges they’ve found to sign the warrants have allowed the NSA unfettered access to all of our electronic communications.
To be fair, there are Americans who are upset about the NSA dragnet that has been sweeping up our phone call logs, emails, and internet activity over the last seven years. Some of our politicians and members of the media have expressed disappointment, outrage, disgust, and anger. However, it seems likely that this issue may fade soon because of bi-partisan support for the program at the upper levels of our government. If this President were a Republican perhaps the media would continue to doggedly pursue the story – keeping it at the forefront of the news cycle and shaming those politicians into discontinuing the program. However, the President is not a Republican. He’s not even an unpopular Democrat. He is the most messianic Democrat politician since FDR,1 and it seems very unlikely that the press will maintain their energy for this topic if he continues to endorse it.
It’s a heartbreaking moment when a young patriot comes to believe that the Brits may care more about individual liberty than his government, his press, or his fellow citizen.
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt [↩]