June 15, 2013

The Spoils of Secrecy: Media Madness and NSA Conspiracies Run Amok

In one of the arguably most classic lines in any film, Strother Martin, in his role as "Captain" in 1967's "Cool Hand Luke," famously noted that: "What we've got here is ... failure to communicate."

When it comes to the current mixed-up, confused, conflated, and contradictory mess of NSA-related stories now being deployed as click-bait on media sites around the Net, that observation couldn't be more true.

It's difficult to imagine how the Obama administration could have screwed up the messaging any worse than they have on all this, unless they appointed Donald Trump as White House spokesman.

More and more, this whole situation seems like the escalating madness of a Fellini movie, with a dash of Kafka and a pinch of George Orwell thrown in for good measure. A tasty treat it isn't.

This evening, basing their blaring headlines apparently mainly on an out-of-context quote from a single Congressman, we have stories that range from NSA targeting specific phone calls without conventional court warrants (likely), all the way to the "every call is being recorded and no special authorization of any kind is required to listen in" (extremely unlikely on both counts). And of course, all manner of theories regarding email and other Internet communications surveillance are being haphazardly tossed into the mix as well.

As this narrative has morphed to ever more dramatic levels in the absence of clear, concise, comprehensive explanations to the American people of actual capabilities and associated policies, we're faced with a mishmash of hearsay and rumors, bit and pieces of information that can be interpreted in myriad ways without context, and all manner of agendas being played out simultaneously like some sort of circus of the bizarre.

Mass hysteria plays into conspiracy theories, and most observers don't have the technical background to even begin reasonable analysis of what's actually happening, even apart from the policy-related aspects.

These are the spoils of secrecy, the ration of Tantalus, and unless the Obama administration puts its cards completely on the table now -- not in terms of operational data but regarding programs and policies actually in place -- we will shortly pass the point of no return for any sort of rational discussion about these important national security issues.

We may, in fact, have already passed beyond the event horizon into a black hole of distrust from which we cannot readily escape. And such deep distrust is almost certainly far worse than the actual realities of the NSA and other national security programs that are now being revealed in disparate fragments, encouraging the most alarming, most conspiratorial assessments, no matter how exaggerated those assessments may be compared with the underlying realities themselves.

Congress and George W. Bush created this PATRIOT Act monster, sleeping like Godzilla on the ocean floor, waiting to be awoken and render random destruction in his wake.

Barack Obama and later congressional officials voluntarily chose to keep this nightmarish behemoth alive and well fed -- the responsibility now falls directly on their own heads.

A vacuum of truth is easily filled with fear, hysteria, and insanity. Paranoia breeds where facts are sparse.

It's time for the administration and congress to come clean with the American people and the rest of the world. The reality of what you're doing is almost certainly far less dramatic and invasive than the conspiracy theories you've allowed to flourish are now insisting.

Tell us what you're doing. Tell us why. Make your case.

No more pontificating. No more evasions. No more clever word games and dissembling that aren't fooling anyone.

Treat us like Americans.

That's all we expect. That's all we ask.

That's all we demand.


Posted by Lauren at June 15, 2013 07:03 PM | Permalink
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