Wednesday, July 7, 2010

TrUSt?

Spies Among UsOur latest spy caper, now all the rave--comprised of ten Russian citizens--is not your usual cloak and dagger escapade.

It's certainly all of these--invisible ink, secret code words, fake names--and it's also this: quiet family time in the burb, hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill, and other concessions to American culture to allow these Russian spies to blend in. One person has described one husband-wife team as a "nice couple."

That's us: "Nice."

"'They’re such a nice couple,' Susan Coke, a real estate agent who sold a home in Montclair, N.J. to two of the suspects — who called themselves Richard and Cynthia Murphy — told The New Jersey Star-Ledger. 'I just hope the FBI got it wrong.'

"Prosecutors say that for the past decade the alleged Russian spies, while passing as everyday people in suburbia and elsewhere, engaged in secret global travel with false passports, secret code words, fake names, invisible ink and encrypted radio messages."
More here.

What does these arrests on espionage charges say about governments' ability to forge understandings--treaties, and other international agreements--when they don't trust each other?

And if governments don't trust each other, what does that say to a people who place their trust in governments so that they may have their common defense, and their common welfare secured?

I say: Take your lead from governments around the world. These governments are actively engaged in knowing what the other is about using surreptitious means, if necessary, to do so.

We don't have to go that far, however, but it behooves a people to use whatever democratic means that are at their disposal to maintain those checks and balances to which the founding fathers were so partial.

And staying informed--our becoming a knowledgeable electorate--should be an indispensable part of holding governments accountable. If the Russian government is willing to go to such great pain, to such amazing lengths, as to insert spies in our midst to stay informed about our government's intentions, and to gather sensitive information, how much more us, the people, the one's who'll suffer the most for government's missteps.

Wikileaks is one of those organizations that is on the frontline of that information gathering, and a young Army private, one Bradley Manning, faces "an Article 32 Hearing, which is similar to a grand jury" because of an alleged leak to Wikileaks which it promptly brought before the American people.

The U.S. has formally pressed criminal charges against Army Private Bradley Manning for allegedly leaking secret military files to Wikileaks, including the hugely controversial video of U.S. helicopters killing civilians in Iraq. Manning faces several charges, including espionage, that could carry a sentence of up to 52 years in prison. These charges, however, raise more than they resolve about the complicated case. Here's what we still don't know.

Private Manning charged with disclosing iraq-slaughter video. Trigger happy Apache crew remain uncharged.
More here.

How far the people should be willing to go to gather information on government activities, and coverups, will always be debatable, but what is not debatable is the role of the people: We the people should be the final arbiters, the ultimate checks and balances to counter the potential tyranny that's always inherent in power, and within the confines of government, because of the power that it wields in our names.

Be certain of one thing: Government will not always work in the best interest of the people it claims to serve. It will always exercise power that's not in the interest of the people--from illegal wiretaps, to a financial reform bill that still leaves the country exposed to rapacious Wall Street bankers, to a laxity of regulatory policing of Big Oil (to name a few), who will still seek to drill in environmentally sensitive areas, without appropriate safeguards, or the means to respond responsibly, and adequately, to catastrophes when they occur.

And they will surely occur.

Just as other countries spend millions watching what other governments are doing that may be inimical to their welfare, it behooves us to do the same with equal enthusiasm.

The news media is often seen as the fourth branch of government, but there's a fifth branch that's often overlooked, and--for all its usual diminished positioning--is the most important when it comes to buttressing our democratic superstructure: the American people.

As citizens of this country we have a duty to perform--a duty that's more important than the duty of government. That duty is to be vigilant. That duty is to insist that government works on behalf of the people, and not just on behalf of other societal entities, whether they're corporate special interests, or non-corporate special interests.

We the people--our interests--should always come first, and not last, which is too often the case in our current political climate.

It's when we take our eye off of government, and allow it to operate in secrecy, striking deals behind closed doors--just as Cheney did with Big Oil, and Obama with Big Pharma--that our democracy is put at risk.

Further, we need to take a proactive role in our own governance. Always we should insist that government is responsive to the people, and beholding to us. At the end of the day, it is us, the people, that will either succeed or fail when government succeeds or fails.

Where there's trust--real trust--governments don't need spies to guarantee that trust. Where there's trust--real trust--the people can relax their vigilance. But that day isn't yet upon us.

Until that time, as Jefferson warned, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." It's also the hallmark of a democracy.

12 comments:

msladydeborah said...

Having grown up during the Cold War Era, I find this latest discovery in the world of Spy vs. Spy to be a true myth buster.

So much of the national focus has been on people of Middle Eastern origin being the ones who are moving in our midst. Since the Cold War has ended-there was no reason to keep an eye on any other group of people.

Have you noticed how quiet this situation has become? If the spies had been Middle Eastern we would know every detail about their lives.

I have often wondered who is really looking out for our interests? I don't think that it is just the banks that are too Big to fail. I suspect that corporate America is so vast these days that the average American can't even begin to guage how vast their interests are.

Greg L said...

How far the people should be willing to go to gather information on government activities, and coverups, will always be debatable, but what is not debatable is the role of the people: We the people should be the final arbiters, the ultimate checks and balances to counter the potential tyranny that's always inherent in power, and within the confines of government, because of the power that it wields in our names.

Be certain of one thing: Government will not always work in the best interest of the people it claims to serve. It will always exercise power that's not in the interest of the people--from illegal wiretaps, to a financial reform bill that still leaves the country exposed to rapacious Wall Street bankers, to a laxity of regulatory policing of Big Oil (to name a few), who will still seek to drill in environmentally sensitive areas, without appropriate safeguards, or the means to respond responsibly, and adequately, to catastrophes when they occur.

And they will surely occur.

Just as other countries spend millions watching what other governments are doing that may be inimical to their welfare, it behooves us to do the same with equal enthusiasm.

The news media is often seen as the fourth branch of government, but there's a fifth branch that's often overlooked, and--for all its usual diminished positioning--is the most important when it comes to buttressing our democratic superstructure: the American people.


Amen and a different take on this most recent "spy gate". Many of the problems faced by our nation revolve around the citizens not paying attention, and more importantly, not behaving as if we living in the democracy. The average person knows more about what's happening with Lindsay Lohan than they do about some of the most pertinent issues facing our nation.

This is so due to the "dumbing down" of the American public, but that also requires our cooperation. We have to turn away from the titillating nonsense that's on the airways and printed media and actually search for knowledge and form views and opinions on a more objective basis rather than what's spoon fed to us.

G

Black Diaspora said...

The distinction of being first here with your comments falls to you once again.

I'm impressed.

"Have you noticed how quiet this situation has become? If the spies had been Middle Eastern we would know every detail about their lives."

Good observation. Now that we have an improved relationship with the Russians there's no problem with a little spy skullduggery going on between friendly countries, and a trading of same.

It keeps both countries on their toes when it comes to the world's real threat--those suitcase nuke carrying Islamic terrorists.

Hillary Clinton is making some noise of late for this nation's continued support of Georgia--still a thorn in the Russian side.

To be sure: Our two nations aren't all that touchy-feely one towards the other as they'd have us think.

"I suspect that corporate America is so vast these days that the average American can't even begin to guage how vast their interests are."

And those interests go to the very heart of this government, and our democracy.

Regulators are being bribed, legislators are being bribed, and we have a Supreme Court selling off the democratic might of the people to those very corporations that support their ideological positions.

For one: (There're many examples.) How do you, in good conscience, justify giving first amendment rights to a corporate entity that was never born, but obtains its very existence by the granting of a charter.

Yours is a good argument for Americans renewing, and maintaining, their vigilance, lest their interests fall permanently by the wayside.

Black Diaspora said...

@Greg L: "This is so due to the "dumbing down" of the American public, but that also requires our cooperation."

So true.

Too often, pundits tell us what we want to hear, not what we should be hearing, so that we might challenge our government to deliver the goods, and to take remedial steps if it doesn't.

Rush Limbaugh comes to mind. This entertainer, as those on the Right would have us believe, is a dangerous man.

He insists on whipping up racial animus to create a political climate where this country will never again consider electing a black man unless he's Republican.

And even a black Republican would now have a hard time passing muster to be electable.

Rush's latest efforts to brand Obama as an American who only loves this country when it's right--which only a non-patriot will do--is not like white patriots who love the country both when it's right and wrong.

Tough days are ahead.

"Many of the problems faced by our nation revolve around the citizens not paying attention, and more importantly, not behaving as if we living in the democracy."

True. We don't seem to want to take responsibility for the actions of government, but leave it up to fringe groups to hold the government accountable.

All that government does in our name, in one form or another, comes back to bite us on our proverbial backside.

We had better step up, or we'll have more wars to pay for that shouldn't have been started, and more oil spills, economic downturns, and other disasters, for which we must suffer and clean up.

Kathy said...

I saw on the news today that one of the spies is already going home to Russia, la la la, on her merry way, and we all know, as MsladyDeborah also points out, that if she was a Muslim, or any person of color, they would be locked up in some cell for a good long time.

Greg L said...

Rush Limbaugh comes to mind. This entertainer, as those on the Right would have us believe, is a dangerous man. He insists on whipping up racial animus to create a political climate where this country will never again consider electing a black man unless he's Republican.

Rush, Beck and Hannity basically seek ratings by doing anything they can to fan the racial flames. To be sure, it's not just ratings alone as those who promote and support them have an agenda that these guys are mouthpieces for. I do believe that fewer and fewer people are listening to them (at least in the case of Beck) as there's only so much appeal one can have railing against something while not having a plan to offer that would improve things.

The unfortunate truth for Limbaugh & Co. is that the electorate they represent has a demographic problem; it's shrinking. That's not to suggest that they're not capable of winning elections in the short term, but in the long term they're simply not going to have the numbers. Perhaps that's why they're engaged in all of the ramble rousing. I just think these guys are the noisiest before dying on the vine. Of course, we'd all be better off the sooner that vine is cut off from water.

Greg L said...

I saw on the news today that one of the spies is already going home to Russia, la la la, on her merry way, and we all know, as MsladyDeborah also points out, that if she was a Muslim, or any person of color, they would be locked up in some cell for a good long time.

That was a very good point Deborah made and illustrates how focused they have the public on the Islamic terrorists while those with very real capabilties for espionage are swept under the rug. Of course, we really don't get much of an explanation either on the US spys the Russians are releasing.

Black Diaspora said...

@Greg L: "The unfortunate truth for Limbaugh & Co. is that the electorate they represent has a demographic problem; it's shrinking."

I hope you're right. Rivers of blood in the street have to be worse than rivers of oil in the Gulf.

If, as you say, the electorate they represent is shrinking (and I pray you're right), their voices (Rush et al), in response, have grown louder, and shriller.

They're practically outdoing one another with who can come up with the most outrageous claim first.

I worry that, rather than their base shrinking, the base is actually growing, as these radical pundits pander to its fears--and, as the fear itself grows, so does the number that listen.

For them, especially Rush Limbaugh, Obama has become a symbol of black America.

When Rush speaks about Obama's patriotism as though it's something to fear, that it's not as pure as that of whites, when he tells white Americans that it's Obama plan to destroy this country as payback for what whites have supposedly done to blacks over the centuries, then he speaks to their greatest fear--not just of Obama specifically, but of blacks generally.

I pray enough Americans have evolved beyond race-baiting and being suckered in by Rush's incendiary rhetoric.

But with the economy being on life-support, these kinds of racially-charged statements can lead to an us against them mentality, when what is desperately need is unity, and cohesion of purpose.

Fire burns. That's it primary purpose. It can heat a cold house, or burn it down.

The fire Rush is igniting is not for the purpose of driving out the cold.

And that has me worried.

Black Diaspora said...

@Kathy: "[I]f she was a Muslim, or any person of color, they would be locked up in some cell for a good long time."

Such is the success with which they have frightened us.

Bush was quite adept at it. It won him a second term, and Republicans have run on the questionable, unproven, notion that theirs is the only party that can protect us from al-Qaeda, and other terrorists.

Fear still motivates to a degree greater than reason. That's why "attack ads" are so successful, and why Obama was unsuccessful in his efforts to prosecute certain terrorists in New York City, or to bring them on American soil.

Greg L said...

But with the economy being on life-support, these kinds of racially-charged statements can lead to an us against them mentality, when what is desperately need is unity, and cohesion of purpose.

Fire burns. That's it primary purpose. It can heat a cold house, or burn it down.

The fire Rush is igniting is not for the purpose of driving out the cold.

And that has me worried.


BD, I went digging around the web to listen to this fool Limbaugh and a few others and yes, this appears to be the new initiative against Obama and I suspect Beck's march on Washington is a part of this entire orchestration. They really don't have anything to latch onto so they're just making stuff up.

I find it interesting that the reasonable republicans are willing to allow their party to be defined by Limbaugh and Beck. Where are folks like Lugar, Scrowcroft, Powell and others speaking out to condemn this sort of talk? Why they willing to let some sap like Limbaugh define their party is totally beyond me as the damage he will do to that party will be irreparable. Why are they cowered into silence is the thousand question.

Much of this is calculated to generate an angry response from black folks as that would serve their purpose. They've been bascially attempting to goad such a response from day one and if gotten will use it to drive a racial wedge in the electorate. They want us pissed off, but I think they miscalculate and this may very well backfire on them. Everyone has pulled the race card out on Obama--even Hilliary, and somehow he got elected anyway.

The current line up of Palin, Limbaugh and Beck are creating droves of people who will never consider voting republican under any circumstances.

Ernesto said...

Jefferson was right. I'm glad you are vigilant and keeping an eye on the wingnuts like Beck and Limbaugh because I just don't have the stomach to watch those fools at all.

I feel for the soldier going up on charges for whistleblowing. I was in the military and I can tell you that even though you swear an oath to protect the Constitution, it does NOT apply to you when you are in the military!

Black Diaspora said...

@Ernesto: "[E]ven though you swear an oath to protect the Constitution, it does NOT apply to you when you are in the military!"

It's the irony of irony: Those who fight to defend the Constitution, can only use it minimally to defend themselves.