From Hoover to the NSA; Raines’s to Snowden
The New York Times today has an article and a video on the 1971 robbery of a small FBI office in Pennsylvania. The video is stunning:
It brings back an entire era for those of us old enough to remember it. The protesters became paranoid for very good reasons. They knew the FBI was watching everyone it could. The Agency didn’t have the same kinds of tools it does today, but the attitude and the justification for secrecy was the same (“National Security”). The difference was the numbers of people who would not accept that what the FBI was doing was right. People today have let their fears control them and inhibit their objections to the NSA’s shenanigans, but it has taken the same kind of gutsy individual courage to expose the facts as it did then. The only difference is that the Raines and their friends were able to maintain their secret identities for 42 years. Edward Snowden didn’t have that chance. Neither did the reporters who worked with him, because apparently government has become even more paranoid about covering up it secrets than it was during the Nixon/Hoover era. We should give that difference some real deep thought.
Excessive secrecy in government has always led to abuse, but the abuse has so far equally found a way to leak out into public. It makes you wonder why government in a democratic republic like ours keeps trying to pry into the lives of its citizens to protect itself from them, and other phantoms of their imaginations, when its greatest strength lies in openness and truth. Maybe that has something to do with why democracies have never succeeded for long. It’s past the time when Americans and their government let fear overrule common sense.