Submitted by Michael

I realize that I am rooting for Edward Snowden and therefore against the very government I voted for. But I think that what he did was invaluable in making people aware of the threat to freedom that covert intelligence gathering represents. That’s the important part; however the Snowden affair comes out, the bell he rang cannot be unrung.

It’s not as if we hadn’t suspected something like that all along. This story broke once already, in 2006, and the government handled it by making some previously illegal things legal. That was done without a noticeable public debate, and heaven knows no one in government is going to bring it up.

“We’re doing fine, and we don’t want to talk about it,” was the general attitude. I think the Obama administration, with all its professed pieties about open debate, was really mad that the Snowden leaks put that entire conversation on the boil again.

Put it this way: If the government is spying on us, we really should have the right to spy on it. The way we do that is through leaks. Leaks are an essential part of American political culture – everybody does it all the time, to gain some perceived or actual tactical advantage.

It makes no difference whether the Snowden revelations inspired an international kerfuffle. Other nations are doing the same thing, or trying to do the same thing. Privacy no longer exists. You could be as clean as fresh rainwater and still have your entire life pried into, all because of secret warrants issued by a secret court.

Think of that for a moment – secret warrants by a secret court. We didn’t used to have that. It’s a new tool for the government to control its citizens. The problem for me is not so much the programs, because I understand that we have real bad guys and we require a real national defense organization, but that no one wanted to talk about it.

The Snowden leaks gave us reason to examine this situation. Of course it’s all legal – the same government that wants to do this also writes the laws. That’s not the issue. The question is: Is it wise? Is it part of the American tradition of government, or what we would like to be the American tradition of government?

Dianne Feinstein has been a fine representative of the Permanent Government throughout all this. “It’s called protecting the country,” she snapped when reporters first questioned her about it. She did not seem to understand that some people might have a right to be upset.

If you were building a police state, putting this snooping infrastructure into place would be the way to start. Suppose the next fellow in line is, I dunno, Dick Cheney, back to be president, only this time without a sock puppet. What enemies might he wish to root out with his big data spying apparatus?

One thing that Snowden’s leaks demonstrate – it’s not just intelligence heads who have access to this information. It’s midlevel programmers and sysops working for military subcontractors who have access to raw data. Are there not disgruntled ex-boyfriends and political radicals working for the government who could do all kinds of stuff with this information? I’m sure there are; it’s a human institution.

I think this episode has proved that, at the very least, we need more effective oversight. The FISA court is a joke, a rubber stamp; it doesn’t judge requests, it expedites them. A change to make that practice more adversarial would be welcome – maybe the people could have their own lawyer.

And the government should be forthcoming about its efforts at espionage. We know this stuff is going on, everybody knows this stuff is going on, so why not make more of it public? The president should say what criteria he uses to protect the privacy of citizens. He should be prepared to defend that position.

Finally, the Senate Intelligence Committee could use a shakeup. It’s obvious that, really, only a few members get the complete picture – and those that do, like Feinstein, are members of the defense establishment fan club whose basic message to the American people is, “Trust us.”

I do not trust the government to refrain from seizing power; that’s what a government does. That’s why we had all those brilliant checks and balances, to save the government from itself. But now the checks and balances have been washed away, and everybody’s on the same side; full speed ahead to the surveillance state.

The point is not who leaked it, although that’s a good story; the point is what was leaked.

“I’ll just see what this bottle does. I do hope it’ll make me grow large again, for really I’m quite tired of being