Bob Franken


We live in an inverse universe. Where else but in an upside-down society would private be public and public be private. We now must take for granted that our personal lives can be scrutinized by almost anyone, particularly by the authorities. That was reinforced recently by a federal appeals-court ruling that cellphone-company location records may be searched to determine where an individual has been. The court found that the practice is not prohibited by the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protections against “unreasonable searches and seizures” — even without a warrant. Let’s not forget the Supreme Court majority decision that a DNA sample may be taken from a person who has been arrested for a serious crime, and put into a registry well before conviction.
Of late, our government has been cracking down hard on anyone who dares to make information about sensitive parts of the people’s business available to the, uh, people. Just ask Pfc. Bradley Manning, former Army intelligence analyst. The authorities have lowered the boom on him for releasing to WikiLeaks thousands upon thousands of classified files containing material that officials didn’t want released. What we discovered, thanks to Pfc. Manning is that there was much we should have known all along, and we benefited from its disclosure. But some of it was embarrassing — or worse, revealed out-and-out dishonesty if those in power — so they went after Manning with a vengeance. After all, there is a certain amount of prestige that goes with access to secret information. But, suddenly everybody knew what the In Crowd knew. What’s the fun in that? Arguably, Manning could be lauded as democracy’s hero. Instead, he faces decades in prison.

Meanwhile, his mole mate Edward Snowden is stuck in limbo, desperately trying to stave off a full-scale assault by the United States government to extricate him from Russia and drag him back to the U.S. of A. for similarly harsh revenge. His offense was the same, taking the cloak off of America’s cloak and dagger. In effect, he’s charged with spying on the nation’s intelligencd services, specifically the National Security Agency. Of course out electronic spooks were spying on us and sure didn’t want us to know that. But thanks to Mr.Snowden, we are now aware that with the acquiescence of a puppet court, NSA has been routinely collecting the data on the who-what-when of our every communication. For his revelation, Snowden is a man on the run, finally released from his Moscow airport purgatory into whatever hell awaits in Russia. Critics argue that he should have stayed behind to face the music. In what songbook is that written ?
Why on earth would he want to face a lifetime in prison because he did what was right? Actually, the more practical question at the moment is where on earth he will end up. Right now, he’s on the tenants of a Cold War chess board, a pawn of Vladimir Putin and his merry Moscow band who are taking some delight in giving their American geopolitical playmates what amounts to a noogie.
The noogie-ees are accused of responding in typical fashion, which is to say dishonestly. At an open hearing, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy cast doubt on claims by the the espionage folks that these sweeps had put a serious dent IN terrorism. It was, really barely a scratch. Meanwhile, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper actually released the very same records that Snowden leaked, along with a statement that Clapper “has determined that the release of these documents is in the public interest.” If so, why should the one who disclosed them in the first place be A fugitive? And should Manning, who put out material that enhanced our knowledge of our leaders’ dealings and candid opinions, have to undergo brutal treatment even before his trial? He did. Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden committed the unpardonable sin: They exposed the actions of our so-called public officials who strenuously believe the government is their private domain.

(c) Bob Franken
2013 King Features Syndicate

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