The Barrett Brown Review of Arts & Letters & Civil Decline: Down With Thomas Friedman

  1. Based on the intelligence community’s own accounts, 9/11 would not have been prevented via PRISM meta data collection, since the central figures were known to intelligence and law enforcement.
  2. Though you wouldn’t know it from reading this Pulitzer winner’s column on the subject, Snowden’s leaks were not limited to, nor driven exclusively by, the particular program that had appeared in the press at the time of this writing, which Snowden and others familiar with the documents made perfectly clear to be the tip of the iceberg. Whether the leak was necessary, then, could hardly be determined by an assessment of whether one small portion of it could be considered consequential.
  3. Nonetheless, PRISM itself was consequential enough that had it been the only program leaked, it would have been worthwhile to do so, for reasons we’ll consider momentarily.
  4. Whether any PRISM abuse did “not appear to have happened” at the time of Friedman’s writings was hardly relevant given that the sort of inquiry necessary to reveal any abuse also hadn’t “happened.” Later, when it did, abuse was indeed revealed.
  5. By phrasing things such that 9/11 “has already happened once” but that abuse of PRISM hadn’t — even though it had — Friedman has set up a narrative in which any past terrorist act is relevant to the liberty vs security debate whereas the only danger that we must take into account from an all-seeing state equipped with opaque and extensive intelligence apparatus is the degree of abuse that the public is aware of having occurred under the auspices of a single program that was just revealed a few days prior and which had yet to be effectively audited. Put another way, if 9/11 “has already happened once,” why has Watergate not “already happened once”? Why has FBI founder Hoover’s wiretap-driven blackmailing of presidents not “already happened once”? Why has COINTELPRO, the FBI’s decades-long surveillance and sabotage campaign against antiwar and civil rights activists that Congress later found to have committed widespread crimes — and which was only revealed after activists stole documents and leaked them — not “already happened once”? Is the CIA’s illegal domestic surveillance program CHAOS not relevant to the debate? Does the now-established fact that the NSA served a central role in lying about the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which lead directly to further U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and thus millions of deaths simply not matter in the midst of a debate about how much more power the NSA should be allowed to accumulate in secret lest 3,000 more people possibly die in the cinematic way that actually makes an impression on most Americans? And is it relevant that even when such things do get discovered, they remain well below the threshold of awareness of people like Thomas Friedman, who are nonetheless cast by the establishment as the nation’s best sources of perspective on life-and-death decisions? I mean, Jesus fuck.
  6. Having framed the debate with cooked spaghetti, Friedman actually goes on to cite The Wire creator David Simon as pointing out that the government is clearly not actually paying attention to every single American’s phone calls and e-mails. He finds Simon’s argument so compelling that he spends the second half of his column quoting it at length. And it certainly would be, if the prospect of the NSA knowing what random housewives are making for dinner was the only risk entailed by giving vast new powers to an intelligence community with a documented history of assaulting democracy at home and abroad.

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