What Inalienable Rights?

Chloris the pig eats flowers

If you listened to the talking heads on last Sunday’s shows, you may have come away with an uneasy feeling about how the U.S. does its business, particularly in the embarrassing matter of the most famous whistle blower since Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon papers – we’re talking about Edward J. Snowden and his disclosures about how our government has been vacuuming up our private information at home and abroad.

We should first review the especially lawless and bellicose remarks of Republican U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham from South Carolina.

Senator Graham would rather have Hong Kong disregard the serious legal issue raised by the Virginia federal indictment charging Snowden with “espionage,” namely, that the treaty we signed states that Hong Kong need not extradite an American if the underlying indictment is deemed “political” (and espionage charges are almost always considered “political”).

Of course, given the right charges, Hong Kong might have decided to extradite Snowden.  But these charges, namely, “espionage,” appear to have been drafted by politicians who wanted a headline instead of by smart criminal lawyers who might have found criminal charges that didn’t run afoul of the extradition treaty.

Fox News Sunday Anchor Chris Wallace weakly insisted the extradition failed because Hong Kong was “legalistic” — for actually insisting the United States satisfy the terms of the extradition treaty we signed.

Graham blusters and fulminates about using our nation’s considerable raw economic force against any nation state that would “harbor” Snowden.

It’s fascinating how these guys in our government leak what they wish, but anyone who releases information revealing their lies and misconduct, triggers a manhunt to the ends of the earth to bring him down and shut him up – and we have the proof of this in the case of Snowden.

In fact, Senator Graham said, “I hope we’ll chase him (Snowden) to the ends of the earth, bring him to justice and let the Russians know there will be consequences if they harbor this guy.”

Apparently Snowden was going to catch a flight in Russia elsewhere and never actually enter Russia.

“They (Russia) want to be part of the world community, the (World Trade Organization). They want a good relationship with the United States. They should hold this felon and send him back home for justice,” Graham said.   So much for the lawful process we’ve endorsed in various treaties including with Russia.

Increasingly, we are instructed by our government’s misconduct that our government believes might makes right.  That’s how empires act.  This nation was created because Great Britain was an empire dictating what we colonials could and couldn’t do.  We’ve at last become what we decried at the birth of our own nation.

Another instructive exchange occurred on ABC, when several correspondents topped each other, with all but the hand-slapping high-5s, on how desperate Snowden must be going from country to country, asking what Snowden thinks he’ll find “that’s better” in these other nations where he’s seeking asylum.

These correspondents ignored what prompted Snowden’s status, as a man without a country who so loved his nation he had to leave to save it from its government’s excesses.

As for the “high-5ing” question, what Snowden hopes to find, is a safe haven where he can avoid torture, and a confinement dark and solitary, like what Army Sergeant Bradley Edward Manning suffered for exposing the lies our government told about how we were warring in the mid-East.

The media has been subpoenaed and scrutinized itself but somehow fails to connect the dots from those intrusions by government into journalism with what Snowden has disclosed is happening to everyone else including media.

One ray of illumination was an op-ed from media maven, Max Frankel, the former New York Times Executive Editor, in a piece titled, “Where Did Our Inalienable Rights Go?”

Frankel rightly said there’s a big difference between an individual deciding to share information on social media and the government ensnaring private individuals in criminal prosecutions that can result in prison time based on the government sucking up every bit of information it can about our associations from phone and email records in the absence of any suspicion or charges.

Until Snowden’s disclosures, Frankel notes, this “top secret” enterprise was “publicly denied, even in Congressional hearings.”  We still don’t know who has access to these storage bins of information about us.  Nor can we trust a malleable secret court to protect us.

We have pundits aplenty and public officials in every direction who believe the United States can do anything it wants, and play the bully we condemn in every other nation state.

Shame on these pundits and public officials who lack the wit of our family’s pet pig, Chloris.