Dr. Obamalove or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love a Police State

220px-Drstrangelove1sheet-Below is my column in this week’s U.S. News & World Report, which is part of a debate over the question: Should Americans Be Worried About the National Security Agency’s Data Collection? On the other side was former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Professor John Yoo who answered the question in a predictable no. I suppose my answer was equally predictable.

The response of the White House and congressional allies to the disclosure of a massive surveillance program of all calls by all Verizon customers is eerily reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 movie “Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” Various leaders like Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., assured citizens that there is nothing to fear in having the government collect all of your calls, including details like their duration, location, time and your associations. Call it the sequel: “Dr. Obamalove or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love a Police State.” Our leaders are assuring us that such databanks will help them protect us from others, but who will protect us from our protectors?

The disclosure of the secret order for every call by every citizen (domestic or international) comes on the heels of a scandal involving the investigation of reporters by the administration. It came before the disclosure of another massive data-mining program that seized e-mail, photos and other private communications from some of the biggest Internet companies. It is all part of the same growing surveillance system in the United States – a system demanding absolute transparency of reporters and citizens alike.

[Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

Years ago, civil libertarians raised an outcry over the Total Information Awareness data-mining project, an operation viewed as so dangerous to privacy and civil liberties that it was formally stopped by Congress. It was designed to allow the government to follow citizens in real time by linking massive databanks and electronic systems. While many celebrated an increasingly rare victory for civil liberties, it now appears that the intelligence community merely broke the system into smaller pieces.

Each of these intrusions has been justified as making us safer, but collectively that creates a fishbowl society where privacy is little more than an illusion. We are approaching the tipping point in our system, where liberty is giving way to authoritarian power. While our current leaders may be benign, we are increasingly dependent on their good motivations and discretion for our liberty. It is precisely the system that the framers rejected at our founding. Benjamin Franklin warned of the siren’s call for power by government officials when he observed that “those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

If we allow these officials to strip us of our privacy, we have not failed the Framers. We have failed ourselves.

JONATHAN TURLEY is the Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University

U.S.News & World Report, June 7, 2013

95 thoughts on “Dr. Obamalove or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love a Police State”

  1. i cant help but wonder what is really going on.. as i believe this is just another distraction for us. i mean the people had to know the cia and dhs were spying on us. how else were the fbi able to ensnare the gullible into their lil terrorist traps? no one has truly forgotten about nixon? north? or plame? just to name a few.. they allowed this to hit the media for a reason seeing as how they could have put a stop to it and caught snowden long before hand and yet not only did they not stop it. but they allowed snowden to make it to hong kong? sorry that just doesnt sit right with me. there is something much more nefarious happening right now while we are all debating whether snowden, manning, and assange are traitors or heros. in my eyes they are heros.. IF THEY ARE NOT BEING USED AS DISTRACTIONS FOR SOMETHING FAR MORE DANGEROUS TO US..

  2. To jennifer: you will not give up a part of your privacy. Federal agencies are like Moloch. An offering does not slake its thirst, but it demands even more. No you will not give up a PART of your privacy; you will give up ALL of it.

  3. Yet, what Snowden has revealed is still the tip of the iceberg. -Thomas Drake

    Snowden saw what I saw: surveillance criminally subverting the constitution

    So we refused to be part of the NSA’s dark blanket. That is why whistleblowers pay the price for being the backstop of democracy

    by Thomas Drake, Wednesday 12 June 2013

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/12/snowden-surveillance-subverting-constitution

    When I was in the US air force, flying an RC-135 in the latter years of the cold war, I was a German-Russian crypto-linguist. We called ourselves the “vacuum-cleaner of the sky” because our capability to gather information was enormous at the time. But it was always outward-facing; we could not collect on US targets because that was against the law. To the US government today, however, we are all foreigners.

    I became an expert on East Germany, which was then the ultimate surveillance state. Their secret police were monstrously efficient: they had a huge paper-based system that held information on virtually everyone in the country – a population of about 16-17 million. The Stasi’s motto was “to know everything”.

    So none of this is new to me. The difference between what the Bush administration was doing in 2001, right after 9/11, and what the Obama administration is doing today is that the system is now under the cover and color of law. Yet, what Snowden has revealed is still the tip of the iceberg.

  4. shades of george orwell. Well enter the two words orwells boot into any search engine. The first article, (0ut about 2 million on google) will be mine, under the name factotum666. Unless there are paid links above it.
    Constructive criticism is welcome.

  5. “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”- James Madison

    ‘A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.”- James Madison

  6. General Turgidson:

    “Mr. President, we must not allow a data-mine-shaft gap!”

  7. Peacock Pugilism (lines 2688-2701)
    (From The Triumph of Strife: an homage to Dante Alighieri and Percy Shelley)

    The precious peacock poised upon his perch
    Perspires profusely, pondering his plan.
    In short: he must decide which way to lurch.

    Not if, but when should he attack Iran?
    How best prepare the public for this strike?
    Which lies to tell, the flames of war to fan?

    From where the ruler sits, what’s not to like
    About the usefulness of nameless fear
    And heads of Muslim preachers on a pike?

    Self-satisfied, he grins from ear to ear
    Reporting proudly of his latest kill.
    No charge, indictment, trial, or verdict clear,

    Just fiat disappearance, Newspeak swill:
    Iraq and Vietnam — again and still.

    Michael Murry,”The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2011

  8. “I will have no man in my boat who is not afraid of a whale”

    — First Mate Starbuck of the Pequod, Moby Dick

    Hence:

    Syndrome’s Revenge (lines 855-868)
    (From The Triumph of Strife: an homage to Dante Alighieri and Percy Shelley)

    See how the generals begin to quake
    As history, ironic and perverse,
    Reveals the rank careerism at stake:

    As yes-men officers salute and nurse
    The dreams of them not frightened by a whale:
    A Starbuck’s Syndrome written in reverse;

    Succeeding after decades to derail
    The bitter train of Southeast Asian guides
    Who warned that wanton willfulness will wail

    If sent to fight for him who fear derides
    A legion built for one who says, “I am,”
    When asked who is the leader that decides

    A force forecast to fail at Whack-and-Wham:
    An army unafraid of Vietnam.

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2006-2010

  9. The Fog of Warbucks(lines 701-728)
    (From The Triumph of Strife: an homage to Dante Alighieri and Percy Shelley)

    The truth of things has hardly ever known
    A less hospitable environment
    As overboard the concept they have thrown

    Those men who sail the ship of government
    Who see no need of stars by which to steer:
    Faint lights in some fantastic firmament

    They only heed the howling gales of fear
    Which they believe send every course askew
    And so they run before the wind they hear

    With no one perched aloft to better view
    The shoals and reefs that Ocean’s hunger fed
    No soundings taken of what no one knew

    No knowledge of the ocean bottom’s bed
    No sight of the horizon up ahead

    We must not lose what no one else would want
    We must prevail against what none contest
    While cakewalk-conquest carpetbaggers grunt

    Beneath the load of each corrupt request
    For yet more access to the Treasury
    Unguarded and unlocked at their behest

    None dare usurp their unctuous usury
    As Fearless Leader’s polls begin to slump
    Promoted as he is by puffery

    More blood and treasure we must proudly pump
    Into a mean miasma he would mask
    He says GIs must guard his garbage dump

    They must succeed in his ignoble task
    To gild the glory in which he would bask

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2006-2010

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