America’s newspapers are supposed to fight for freedom of speech and transparency in government, both at home and abroad. But when it comes to whistleblower Edward Snowden, who revealed the NSA’s massive surveillance program, they are rolling over and retreating.
The editorial pages of both the Washington Post and the New York Times seem more concerned with national security than civil liberties. It’s an unfortunate sign of the times that even on the pages of such esteemed beneficiaries of the First Amendment, one finds so many voices championing such a significant expansion of state power, while only paying lip service to the shrinking space in the public debate devoted to our rights as citizens.
Take, for example, Thomas Friedman’s knee jerk ‘remember 9-11’ reaction to the leak. Friedman is one of America’s most respected journalists, a man who made his career covering the Arab-Israeli conflict. Looking back, his book “From Beirut to Jerusalem” is probably one of the reasons why I’m pursuing journalism today. But Friedman, who supported the Iraq War, has been something of a hawk since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
“…I do wonder if some of those who unequivocally defend this disclosure are behaving as if 9/11 never happened – that the only thing we have to fear is government intrusion in our lives, not the intrusion of those who gather in secret cells in Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan…,” Friedman wrote in his June 11 New York Times opinion piece.
Who can pretend that 9-11 didn’t happen? We have collectively chosen to let the event define our future. The Western and Muslim words have been watching tragedy unfold day after day for the past decade, from suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices to torture, rendition and drone strikes. And this NSA program is only latest evidence that the “long war” may be both boundless and endless. Mr. Friedman wonders if those of us who support the disclosure and oppose PRISM remember 9-11. Yes, we all remember 9-11. Some of us are just trying very hard not to forget the Constitution as a consequence.