Two distinctive characteristics of the Obama administration have been its willingness to leak classified information for political advantage and its ability to create – or, at the least, overstate – a crisis in order to influence or distract the general public. The recent hype over possible terrorist attacks is conveniently timed. Are the supposed threats emanating from Yemen real or nothing more than a government hoax, designed to further an unpopular agenda?
Although government surveillance programs are not exactly a recent development, they are an issue that has received much attention, of late. When President George W. Bush signed the patriot act into law, those who opposed him appeared to be greatly disturbed by the idea of a government agency being able to monitor phone conversations without obtaining a warrant. They were, of course, right to be disturbed; it is clearly unconstitutional. Bush’s Republican supporters, and many Conservatives, rallied behind the completely misguided argument that if one was not colluding with terrorists, then one had nothing to worry about; thus, the practice of what was known as ‘warrantless wiretapping’ was dismissed as irrelevant to law-abiding Americans.
Only true Libertarians opposed the practice for the right reasons; that it is an unconstitutional – and, therefore, illegal – invasion of privacy. Those on the Left who opposed it did so for one reason only; a Republican President signed it into law. This assertion is proven true by the fact that when President Obama authorized, not only an extension of the operation, but actually expanded the powers of the National Security Agency (NSA), the silence from the Left was deafening.
After former NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the extent of the US government’s phone and electronic data surveillance programs, the Obama administration has tried to convince the American people that such operations are necessary, in order to keep them safe.
Almost out of the blue, a major security alert materializes. The US State Department has made a point of letting everyone know that this – to use their word – “unspecified” threat was discovered by intercepting communications. Not only is there no reason for the government to publicly disclose how it is obtaining its intelligence, but it is actually a breach of security to do so; and yet, they have ensured that everyone knows they gathered their intelligence through electronic surveillance. To draw even more attention to this suddenly sinister threat, they took the unprecedented step of closing US embassies in 14 countries.
Amid the talk of threats coming out of Yemen, perhaps we should be asking ourselves if this is real, or just a government hoax; a crisis, fabricated to convince everyone how important it is that the government be allowed to spy on whomever they wish, however they wish.
For the reader who doesn’t believe that the government would do such a thing, consider the Justice Department operation known as Fast and Furious.
Having tried, and failed, to convince the American public that tighter gun-control laws were necessary because the violence in Mexico was fueled by all the American weapons pouring into that country – a contention that was, and is, simply not true – the administration decided to make it true by flooding Mexico with American weapons. Had agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) not blown the whistle on this criminal activity, it would be continuing to this day and Mexico would, indeed, be awash with weapons purchased, illegally, in the US.
Although Americans should remain aware that they face an existential threat from these primitive lunatics who we know as ‘Islamists’, it should never be forgotten that no threat is great enough to justify giving up one’s individual rights to privacy and liberty; such rights are not granted by any government and no government has the legal or moral right to curtail them.
It is, of course, quite possible that the current hysteria is well-founded and based upon actual intelligence. Coming on the heals of Edward Snowden’s revelations, however, and the subsequent national and international debate about privacy and surveillance, it is worth pondering the idea that these latest Yemen threats may, in fact, be a government inspired hoax, designed to emphasize to the public the necessity of spying on them.
An op/ed by Graham J Noble