Does it Matter Who's Rummaging Through Our Lives?
By William Boardman (6.17.13)
When you have leaks, you need plumbers. by [Fox News]
National Security Agency (NSA) Covertly Inspects Anyone's Private Life
How many people do you know who, hearing that the NSA was busy obliterating privacy, have reacted to the effect of: well, duh, or that's old news, or worse: didn't we make that legal? It's not as though the NSA is carrying out break-ins, is it?
Forty-one years ago, on June 17, 1972, the break-in at the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate Hotel evoked similar reactions along the lines of big deal, or who cares? The Nixon White House officially dubbed it a "third-rate burglary attempt," with a secret irony that Oval Office operatives could enjoy right through the fall election and President Nixon's sweeping, landslide victory.
Secretly (except from himself) taped six days after the break-in, the President asked: "Who was the a**hole who ordered it?" Some take this to mean he didn't know about the break-in in advance, others think it means he was aware that he was taping himself and needed to sound innocent. Either way, he ordered a cover-up that was effective for a time.
Like current White House, with its record number of prosecutions under the 1913 Espionage Act, the Nixon White House could also behave obsessively about leaks. In May 1969, when the New York Times revealed the secret bombing of Cambodia (not that it was secret to the Cambodians), Nixon ordered more than a dozen FBI wiretaps, but didn't find the leaker. So the White house created its own secret team, called the Plumbers Unit, to stop leaks by wiretapping, burglarizing, and any means necessary.
Thanks to Congress and 9/11, Obama Doesn't Need to Break the Law
But just because the President may not need to break the law, that doesn't mean his administration hasn't broken the law anyway.
The first wave of post-Watergate legislation in the early 1970s did much to make government more accountable and transparent, at least in principle. But the second wave of post-Watergate legislation has had a counter-revolutionary effect, expanding the powers of government and curtailing the freedoms of citizens, most notably in the fear-driven and wildly misnamed USA PATRIOT Act, but in many less sweeping but equally freedom-inhibiting bills as well.
Most characteristic of the relationship of Americans and the law over the past three decades is the response to the Bush Administration illegally wiretapping Americans -- about which the Congress did nothing but make the activities legal and give the phone companies retroactive immunity from prosecution. This is what is generally referred to in popular demagoguery as "the rule of law."
By Now American Discourse is Deep into Orwellian Obfuscation and Deceit