Kadner: Snowden’s a reminder of what we don’t want to know
By Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org January 3, 2014 6:12PM
In this image made from video released by WikiLeaks on Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, former National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden speaks during a presentation ceremony for the Sam Adams Award in Moscow, Russia. Snowden was awarded the Sam Adams Award, according to videos released by the organization WikiLeaks. The award ceremony was attended by three previous recipients. (AP Photo)
Updated: February 6, 2014 6:20AM
There are many things we don’t want to think about as we head into 2014.
Edward Snowden is one of them.
Is he a hero or a traitor? Perhaps for some it is a simple decision.
For most, the line between right and wrong becomes so blurred it is easier to ignore the controversy and move on.
It does seem important to know the government is spying on all of us. It may even be illegal, according to the rulings of two federal judges.
But the threat of terrorism is such that Americans demand their government take extraordinary measures.
That’s why the Guantanamo Bay detention camp continues to function, even though President Barack Obama vowed to close it when he first ran for the White House.
It has been reported that 155 detainees remain in the camp; most have been incarcerated without a trial for more than a decade.
Someone has determined they are a threat to U.S. security, but we don’t know exactly how that conclusion was arrived at or who is involved.
There have been reports of torture, but we don’t want to know about that either.
You don’t have to be a legal scholar or constitutional purist to know something is wrong about that.
But if these prisoners were released, the government tells us, the lives of innocent people would be endangered.
As with the secret surveillance program, we are told valuable information has been uncovered in interrogations.
That’s good enough for most of us. Especially if we don’t think too much about the erosion of American ideals.
There are things a people must do to survive. Compromises must be made in time of war.
Secret courts where the government presented its case against enemies of the State used to be associated with tyrannical governments. Now it happens here on a regular basis. We know that. We try not to think about it. It’s one of those things that must be done to protect our way of life.
What this sort of behavior does to the justice system, to the judges, intelligence agents, and military officials is of little concern.
Unlike the rest of us, the people on the front lines must confront the realities of this war on terror and somehow rationalize what they are doing against what they were taught in their homes, their schools and their churches growing up.
Our country kills its enemies with drone strikes. Such decisions, we are told, follow strict protocols and there is thorough oversight.
In the course of normal events, law enforcement officials make mistakes in fighting crime. Innocent people are sent to prison. Some have been executed.
Our government leaders, of course, have made terrible decisions even when there is debate and intense public scrutiny. Somehow things still go horribly wrong.
But we are told that when decisions are made in secret, by a handful of unknown people, such errors simply do not happen.
It is 2014. Exactly 30 years after the fictional 1984 of George Orwell’s vision.
And it is best for most of us not to think much about such things.