Benumbed as we are about the extent of the National Security Agency’s systematic spying on the American people, I thought nothing could surprise me anymore. I was wrong. The news that the NSA is intercepting newly-ordered computers en route to their purchasers and installing them with back doors really takes the cake: it conjures the kind of nightmare world a writer of dystopian fiction might imagine. I don’t even want to think about the possible scope of such a program, or its implications for the future. But I must: we all must.
In a rational world, there would be no question about the moral and legal status of the man responsible for exposing this treason to the Constitution: he would be hailed as a hero by every sector of society, from the political class to the working class, and given the Congressional Medal of Honor. In our sorry, sinful world, however, Edward Snowden is on the lam, charged with two counts of violating the WWI-era Espionage Act and one count of stealing "government property." Facing at least thirty years in prison, probably much more, he has been forced to seek asylum in Russia, of all places: condemned, as the New York Times put it in an editorial calling for leniency in his case, to “a life of looking over his shoulder."
In the Bizarro World that enveloped us after 9/11, all values were inverted: good became evil, war was transmuted into peace, and the very concept of liberty was erased, replaced by the false idol of security. And the nightmare continues: long after the smoke that choked Manhattan cleared, our queer condition persists. In our new world-turned-upside-down, the guilty are glorified and the innocent pursued to the ends of the earth.
Glenn Greenwald, one of the journalists contacted by Snowden to act as a conduit for his revelations, wrote a book before all of this happened that perfectly explains why and how this came to be possible. In With Liberty and Justice for Some (2012), he prefigured Snowden’s predicament with eerie accuracy:
"Those with political and financial clout are routinely allowed to break the law with no legal repercussions whatsoever. Often they need not even exploit their access to superior lawyers because they don’t see the inside of a courtroom in the first place — not even when they get caught in the most egregious criminality. The criminal justice system is now reserved almost exclusively for ordinary Americans, who are routinely subjected to harsh punishments even for the pettiest of offenses."
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