The case of James Risen is illustrative of the problems we have with the overreach of the National Security State. If you look at the topics Risen has reported on, it’s easy to see why the government might want to intimidate and suppress his reporting. I would remind readers that the First Amendment says
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press
The “no law” part is kind of absolute. And we can thank the founding fathers for that bit of prescience, because governments will always overreach if not kept in check. We have millions of people with security clearances in the United States. These are the people running the technology that violates our Fourth Amendment rights. The government, contrary to the Constitution, makes these individuals sign an agreement to give up their free speech rights. Ostensibly, this is to prevent them from communicating state secrets to the enemy. But more and more we see that it is used to prevent potential whistleblowers from speaking out about abuses of power. And that’s what the Risen case is all about.
There will need to be more whistleblowers, and sooner rather than later. The surveillance state is working to take more humans out of the equation, so that secret government actions are not subject to independent moral scrutiny such as a human being might offer. As we move forward, there will be more automated systems, fewer “System Analysts” like Snowden with access to compartmentalized data, and an increasing government crackdown on “leakers.” For those of you with a security clearance, knowledge of government wrongdoing, and a conscience – the time to act is now. Don’t trust the laws to change to protect you, trust the technology to change to thwart you.
If you are an intelligence analyst reading this blog because I’m on some list identifying me as a threat, ask yourself why. Why are you going along with targeting a nonviolent citizen with no links to terrorists who is simply expressing his opinion? In what way is this serving the public interest? You have a First Amendment, use it – or know that I know you are nothing but a coward.