Ever since Edward Snowden revealed the NSA’s secret massive surveillance scheme to the American people and the rest of the world, President Obama and NSA officials have steadfastly maintained that their surveillance scheme has been entirely legal and focused on finding “terrorists.”
While millions of Americans have had information regarding their telephone calls secretly scooped up by the NSA, the president and NSA officials have repeatedly emphasized that the information was limited to “metadata” or to matters directly relating to “terrorism.”
Yet, Glenn Greenwald, the journalist to whom Snowden released the NSA files, has implied that there is something much more ominous about what the NSA has been doing.
Greenwald has said that this summer he will be revealing the names of U.S. citizens that have been targeted by NSA surveillance.
Is Greenwald referring to American citizens who have allegedly committed acts of “terrorism”?
It’s not clear but from questions Greenwald posed, but it seems like there is a distinct possibility that President Obama and the NSA have been conducting another COINTELPRO operation. Greenwald states:
One of the big questions when it comes to domestic spying is, “Who have been the NSA’s specific targets? Are they political critics and dissidents and activists? Are they genuinely people we’d regard as terrorists?”
Greenwald goes on to suggest that the disclosure of the names of the American citizens who have been spied upon is certain to be the biggest story of all pertaining to the Snowden disclosures. He writes:
As with a fireworks show, you want to save your best for last. There is a story that from the beginning I thought would be our biggest, and I’m saving that. The last one is the one where the sky is all covered in spectacular multicolored hues.
Of course, we won’t know exactly what Greenwald has to disclose, but one thing is for certain: If it turns out that the president and the NSA have been spying on government critics, dissidents, and perhaps even public officials, it means that they have not only been abusing their power in a very grave way but also that they have been lying to the American people about it the entire time.
What should President Obama and NSA officials do at this point?
If they have in fact engaged in wrongdoing, they should come clean now rather than wait for Greenwald to make his disclosures. If they have in fact spied on innocent American citizens, as their predecessors did with COINTELPRO, the time for confession and full disclosure is now, not after Greenwald has disclosed the wrongdoing.
Consider the mindset of a federal judge who is sentencing a person who is guilty of a crime. If the guilty person confesses his guilt before trial, discloses all the details of the crime, and shows genuine remorse, the judge is likely to show more leniency than he would to a guilty person who falsely denies his guilt, is then convicted at trial, and then suddenly finds religion, begs forgiveness, and seeks leniency.
If Obama and the NSA have in fact engaged in COINTELPRO misconduct, they should preempt Greenwald by confessing their guilt now and disclosing the list of innocent people they have spied upon, before Greenwald does so. In that way, people can determine whether the names on the official list match the names on Greenwald’s list.
If, instead, Obama and the NSA wait until Greenwald discloses his list, there is no way to determine whether the president and the NSA have targeted even more innocent people than those disclosed by Greenwald. More important, the official apologies and explanations will hold little water.
The Framers inserted the process of impeachment into the Constitution so that the American people, through their elected representatives in Congress, could remove high government officials who had committed high crimes and misdemeanors while in office without waiting until the next election.
If President Obama and the NSA have abused their surveillance powers by engaging in another secret COINTELPRO program, it would be difficult to find a better example of a high crime or misdemeanor than that.