Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) once asked Director of Intelligence James Clapper, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper replied “No.” He now says, “I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner…”
Government lies. It is incompetent and inefficient. It cheats. It destroys. It deceives. Conservatives know this. Our entire philosophy is dedicated to that knowledge.
The rollout of the Affordable Care Act has taught millions this lesson in spectacular fashion. Americans have seen their plans dropped and premiums doubled or tripled. Healthcare.gov is a joke. The President’s approval ratings have plummeted. The Washington Post’s Marc Thiessen says it’s about to get worse: “5.5 million. That is how many people the administration needs to sign up in just 23 days because Obamacare drove them out of their health-care plans. That’s some 240,000 sign-ups every single day, just to break even.”
The revelation in June that the National Security Agency was collecting the phone data of every American outraged millions. Recently we learned that the Guardian newspaper, responsible for publishing Snowden’s leaks, claims to have only released 1 percent of the information he gave them. The original leak about NSA collecting phone metadata was only the starting point in painting a picture of an agency completely unbound in its surveillance power.
On Sunday, we learned that NSA officials are so worried about what Snowden might yet reveal, there is talk of amnesty in exchange for him returning his documents.
As with Obamacare, the more we have learned about the NSA’s activities, the worse it gets. Both the ACA and NSA have quickly become exemplary models of how abhorrently the government mismanages its commitments.
Perhaps no one is more fed up than young Americans. A Harvard poll released this month showed that among millennials, 57 percent disapproved of Obamacare. National Journal also reported: “In addition to health care, domestic spying is an issue that puts Obama on the wrong side of the rising generation … strong majorities of 18-to-29-year-olds oppose the government collecting information from social networks, Web-browsing histories, email, GPS locations, telephone calls, and text messages…”
Added National Journal: “A majority of Americans under age 25 — the youngest millennials — would favor throwing Obama out of office.”
Obamacare is not the same thing as national security. We do not have to have government healthcare but we certainly do need intelligence and spying for security purposes. Still, it is not an accident that the Obamacare mess is mirrored by an out-of-control NSA. Both are massive government bureaucracies and behave as such. Both abuse their power and the people they allegedly serve.
Americans deserve to know the truth about the damage caused by the ACA and NSA. With Obamacare, we continue to see this monstrosity before us, with each passing, painful day.
But how would we have known about the NSA scandals if not for a whistleblower like Snowden? The NSA and James Clapper seemed prepared to conceal or lie about it forever. It was classified information, and anyone who did speak out was obviously going to have to break the law, as Snowden unquestionably did.
The same tendency toward corruption we see in domestic government is just as true of the national security state, and perhaps worse, because agencies like the NSA expect complete secrecy and immunity. It is not practical or wise for the average citizen to be privy to everything that happens with national intelligence. But neither is it wise to put blanket trust in any part of government.
If Snowden had not come forward, it’s unlikely that we would be aware of the NSA abuses that most Americans were glad they learned about. In revealing the horrors of Obamacare, we are all Snowden. But for the public to discover the NSA’s abuses, there had to be a Snowden.
Some of the first conservative gut reactions to Snowden’s revelations were probably the most accurate. Sarah Palin said, “I really don’t think that Snowden is the issue, though, in any of this. I think the issue is, again, is that government is so large and so intrusive in all aspects of life that we need more revelations, we need more truth about what our administration is doing so that we can hold our government, that works for us — to hold them accountable.”
Said Glenn Beck of Snowden, “This guy is a hero.”
Parts of Obamacare might end up benefitting some citizens, but might never overshadow the image of the ACA as an overall disaster. Some of Snowden’s actions, or perhaps future actions, may prove to be irresponsible. But any possible missteps or criminal misdeeds will not obscure his larger service of revealing what terrible things the NSA has done, and continues to do, to American citizens.
It is one thing to question whether a whistleblower has crossed lines. It is quite another to say there should be no such thing as a whistleblower.
In an insightful column at The Federalist, “Americans Don’t Trust The Government, And That Could Be Great For America,” Ben Domenech writes, “The failure of government to live up to its promise is an opportunity for honesty and clarity and for the American people to reexamine the role of the citizen and the state — not a moment for despair.”
For conservatives and libertarians, this could be an important teachable moment for the country. If we want to see the demise of big government, it will have to start somewhere. There will have to be monumental events that cause citizens to start asking the right questions and drawing certain conclusions.
The more Americans know about their government the better. Perhaps the ACA and NSA debacles might have a silver lining yet.