1) Ed Snowden is not the story. I wish he'd remained anonymous. He is a distraction, and for some a too convenient distraction.
2) If you want to know how serious this is, read what Jeff Merkley had to say:
This type of secret bulk data collection is an outrageous breach of Americans' privacy. I have had significant concerns about the intelligence community over-collecting information about Americans’ telephone calls, emails, and other records and that is why I voted against the reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act provisions in 2011 and the reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act just six months ago.3) If you want to know how serious this is, read what Mark Udall had to say:
This bulk data collection is being done under interpretations of the law that have been kept secret from the public. Significant FISA court opinions that determine the scope of our laws should be declassified. Can the FBI or the NSA really claim that they need data scooped up on tens of millions of Americans?
Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) says he "did everything short of leaking classified information" to bring attention to the National Security Administration’s seizure of Americans’ phone records.4) If you want to know how serious this is, read what Ron Wyden had to say:
"I did everything in my power to bring attention" to the program, he told the Denver Post....
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder last year, Udall and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said, "We believe most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of . . . these secret court opinions. As we see it, there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows.
Wyden, a high-ranking Democratic senator on the committee, said he had been concerned about such surveillance for a long time but continues to be barred by Senate rules from discussing many of the details that he learned in classified intelligence briefings.5) If you want to know how serious this is, read what Loretta Sanchez had to say:
"However, I believe that when law-abiding Americans call their friends, who they call, when they call, and where they call from is private information," Wyden said. "Collecting this data about every single phone call that every American makes every day would be a massive invasion of Americans’ privacy."
In a separate comment on his Twitter feed, Wyden also noted that James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, had assured him in a March hearing that the National Security Agency was not collecting data on millions of Americans -- an assurance that Wyden now appears to find suspect.
"What we learned in there," Sanchez said, "is significantly more than what is out in the media today."6) If you want to know how serious this is, listen to what Joe Biden once had to say:
Lawmakers are barred from revealing the classified information they receive in intelligence briefings, and Sanchez was careful not to specify what members might have learned about the NSA's work.
"I can't speak to what we learned in there, and I don't know if there are other leaks, if there's more information somewhere, if somebody else is going to step up, but I will tell you that I believe it's the tip of the iceberg," she said.
If I know every single phone call you made, I'm able to determine every single person you talked to. I can get a pattern about your life that is very, very intrusive.7) If you want to know how serious this is, read what German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger had to say:
The more a society monitors, controls and observes its citizens, the less free it is. In a democratic constitutional state, security is not an end in itself, but serves to secure freedom....8) If you want to know how serious this is, read what Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor had to say:
We should remember that the strength of the liberal constitutional state lies in the trust of its citizens. Constitutional guarantees protect this trust and pursue two objectives: to punish the guilty and to protect the innocent or those who are unjustly suspected of a crime against wrongful actions by the government. These are precisely the tenets Germany adopted in 1949 from the tradition of the American Constitution of 1776 -- namely that in a free and open democratic process, it is important to avoid the impression that the protection of basic rights is not being taken seriously enough.
The American politician and author Benjamin Franklin once wrote: "Those who give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
The suspicion of excessive surveillance of communication is so alarming that it cannot be ignored. For that reason, openness and clarification by the US administration itself should be paramount at this point. All facts must be put on the table.
But the flock will come together again and will submit once more, and then it will be once for all. Then we shall give them the quiet humble happiness of weak creatures such as they are by nature. Oh, we shall persuade them at last not to be proud, for Thou didst lift them up and thereby taught them to be proud. We shall show them that they are weak, that they are only pitiful children, but that childlike happiness is the sweetest of all. They will become timid and will look to us and huddle close to us in fear, as chicks to the hen. They will marvel at us and will be awe-stricken before us, and will be proud at our being so powerful and clever that we have been able to subdue such a turbulent flock of thousands of millions.It's not about Snowden and it's not really even about Obama. It's about who we want to be, as a people.