The hypocritical nature of the American government was highlighted recently, when FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court) documents were declassified stating that a judge ruled the NSA’s snooping operation illegal in 2011. This means that the government, elected to uphold and institute law, were breaking laws in an attempt to stop future law breaking. The same government that runs roughshod over laws is pursuing whistleblower Edward Snowden in order to bring him to justice, for breaking the law by exposing the government for, you guessed it, breaking the law.
It is important that the government sets an example for the citizens on expected conduct and how to navigate societal norms, to stay on the good side of the law. And haven’t such stunning examples been set. Agent Orange and white phosphorus are chemical weapons, used by America in violation of international law. Drones violate the sovereignty of Pakistan and Yemen, illegally. Attacking Iraq and now potentially Syria without the consent of the United Nations, illegal. And to bring us full circle, the NSA’s creation of an Orwellian spy sate, also illegal and admittedly so by the American government.
In our current reality, individuals are hunted by 16 different American government intelligence agencies. They operate with a black budget, which was recently exposed by Mr. Snowden. To keep tabs on millions of average Americans and other individuals around the world, it costs $52.6 billion dollars a year. To put that price tag in perspective, the United Nations says it would cost roughly $30 billion a year to end world hunger by developing agricultural independence and in 2010, an estimated 925 million people were chronically hungry.
This reality is one where the NSA has the capabilities of breaking pretty well every encryption on the Internet, which in essence makes the Internet, American. There is nowhere to write, blog, Instagram, Tweet, post, or e-mail that is secure. So what is the reaction of the government when this overzealous spying is revealed to the public? Well, it is to use the sanctity of the aforementioned law to bring whistleblowers like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden to justice of course. Manning has been locked away for 35 years, for disclosing classified materials to Wikileaks, while Snowden has sought asylum in Russia to avoid American justice.
These two young men were in the employ of the American government. One as a soldier and one as a defense analyst, contracted by the NSA. During this time, they both uncovered unbelievable truths about the American government. Manning provided the chilling video of an American Apache helicopter spraying bullets at unsuspecting Iraqis to Wikileaks. Snowden showed the world the state of American spying.
These two men were disenfranchised by the injustices being committed by the government, in the name of the clueless American people. It should come as no surprise that the government has gone through all the posturing of persecuting and tarnishing them as traitors. Their crime? Exposing the truth and hypocritical nature of a power drunk country.
Post 9/11, governments have capitalized on the fear of their people to push through extraordinary measures and increase financing for military endeavours dramatically. No country has done this more than America, having spent $7.6 trillion on the military and homeland security since the attack.
America is quick to condemn countries and to sever their commitment to them when they flout human rights or act aggressively in the public sphere. America’s morality is now one of its greatest exports. The moral obligation that brought us Iraq, drones, snooping and potentially Syria is costing trillions of dollars. It also costs the stability of sovereign nations, individual freedoms and the reactions of alienated angry victims.
When we can no longer account for the actions of our governments, that we elect and fund through our taxes, they have failed. However, I am not disillusioned enough to believe that it is the people that governments care about failing. It isn’t the people who put a potential candidate’s face all over the evening news. It isn’t the people who take out a full page spread in the New York Times. So long as money continues to buy presidencies (Obama cost $1bn in 2008), our hope for accountable, honest, and transparent governance seem as unlikely as acquittals for Snowden and Manning, two pioneers in the fight for true democratic freedom.