As Hyperbole Becomes Reality
Is it absurd to reference the STASI when absorbing and responding to Snowden’s NSA disclosures? According to this freelance Hollywood reporter, yes:
Is the National Security Agency the modern US equivalent of East Germany’s notorious secret police, the Stasi? asked Charles Lane in the Washington Post. The Stasi analogy is frequently used by activists in Germany and the United States who defend NSA leaker Edward Snowden, but as German Chancellor Angela Merkel pointed out last week, it’s an absurd exaggeration.
The Stasi aggressively spied on citizens to detect and punish even “the pettiest deviations” from official Communist dogma. In that true “surveillance state,” the Stasi’s sole goal was to suppress dissent and keep an unelected government in power.
Snowden’s revelations have sparked a useful debate about the trade-off of privacy and security, but even if we adjust NSA practices, the reality is that our country–and all democracies–will continue to engage in spying and surveillance.
If Snowden and his camp don’t understand the absurdity of their Stasi hyperbole, perhaps the truth will become clearer “with each day that he spends in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.”
I think there are good arguments against using the STASI analogy, one of them being this: it makes people defensive and/or condescending in their dismissals and attacks, and provides a convenient target for deflection.
In the above quote, Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a good example of a convenient target for deflection.
From what you ask? From two key events in this (still emerging) scandal:
Those two events were the main factors that forced Russia to do something, and temporary asylum was that something.
The status of Snowden has been the mainstream thrust because it’s a tantalizing drama, and that sells, not further nuances of the surveillance state.
I wouldn’t call yesterday’s new disclosure about collusion between the DEA and the NSA to be a nuance, though:
A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.
Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin – not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.
The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don’t know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence – information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.
“I have never heard of anything like this at all,” said Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011. Gertner and other legal experts said the program sounds more troubling than recent disclosures that the National Security Agency has been collecting domestic phone records. The NSA effort is geared toward stopping terrorists; the DEA program targets common criminals, primarily drug dealers.
If we wait for a future time when the hyperbolic terms some of use to rattle complacency are strictly applicable, it will be too late.