Op-Ed: NSA chief seeks to end free press

Posted Mar 9, 2014 by Justin King
Outgoing National Security Agency boss, Keith Alexander, advocated making it a crime to report on government leaks this week, and said that legislation to accomplish this was coming in weeks.
NSA data center
NSA data center
National Security Agency
While addressing a cyber-security panel, Alexander lashed out at the media and said that legislation making it a crime to report on government leaks would reach congress within weeks. Perhaps the most telling quote came from Alexander, when he discussed what could be accomplished once the free press was gagged.
I think we are going to make headway over the next few weeks on media leaks. I am an optimist. I think if we make the right steps on the media leaks legislation, then cyber legislation will be a lot easier.
Cyber legislation has been defeated every time it has been introduced. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) were crippled after activists came from all corners of the internet to call, email, and generally harass members of congress. This statement goes well beyond ramming a bill through congress that lawmakers know the people do not want.
Publicly, the statements about legislation pertaining to media leaks have always been qualified by the statement that they would only pertain to journalists reporting on national security issues. It’s clear to see that Alexander’s proposed legislation will do much more than that. He believes that by passing legislation barring reporters from covering national security issues that cyber legislation will be easier to pass. Perhaps the bill would make national security related legislation illegal to report on. Make no mistake; this bill will be a full frontal assault on what’s left of the free press in the United States.
More importantly, everyone involved knows that such a bill would be completely worthless at stopping leaks from being made public. In fact, a U.S. law barring reporters from disclosing leaks would not have even stopped the Snowden leaks. The Guardian isn’t in the United States. Contrary to the beliefs of many in Washington, the United States does not have jurisdiction over the whole world. Bills like this would only lead to more refugees like Snowden fleeing the country and turning those documents over to foreign news agencies. So even if the U.S. passed such a law and stopped domestic news services from reporting on the leaks, the information would still widely be available on the internet, unless of course, the cyber legislation that Alexander seeks would allow the NSA to censor what it deems unfit for the American people.
Those at the NSA have repeatedly said that Snowden’s leaks have made their jobs harder. Perhaps they should note that it was never their job to spy on the American people. The job of the agency is spying on foreign nationals that are a threat to the United States and its allies. The NSA shouldn’t have been accessing phone records, personal photos, emails, and video chats of Americans to begin with.
Another unintentional effect of the stifling of the free press would be a limit on discourse in the United States. Public discourse is the mechanism by which peaceful change occurs. When public discourse is stifled, those seeking to make a change are left with only one option. President John F. Kennedy said
Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.
When the public can no longer trust that the truth is being told, and when the blatant abuses of power from government become too much for the society to bear, that society lashes out in violence. Peaceful protests in Ukraine turned to violent action when the government outlawed public dissent. Government control of the media leads the nation down a road that only ends in war, death, and eventually revolution. There is no example in all of recorded history where a free nation existed without a free press.
The agency that uses the rationale of “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” is so afraid of the American people learning of its activities that it seeks to end free access to information. This is the same agency that promises to only seek to limit the press in matters of national security.
Consider what the government has deemed matters of national security in the past. Martin Luther King, Jr. was spied upon by the NSA. The documents proving it were released just last year. They were kept in secret for decades but can now be viewed in the National Security Archive. Folders full of documents about King are still held in secret for national security reasons. Perhaps they have something to do with the 1999 verdict in federal court that found that King was killed by a conspiracy including government agencies. A juror said after the trial
We all thought it was a cut and dried case with the evidence that Mr. Pepper brought to us, that there were a lot of people involved, everyone from the C.I.A., military involvement, and Jowers was involved.
Dr. Martin Luther King with President Johnson
Dr. Martin Luther King with President Johnson
Yoichi R. Okamoto
Due to the lengthy history of nefarious deeds conducted against American citizens in the name of “national security,” it would be a nationwide suicide for the people of the United States to grant such a power to the government. On the collective suicide of free states, John Adams said
Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing. Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the People, who have... a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean the characters and conduct of their rulers. There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free 'government' ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty. Liberty cannot be preserved without general knowledge among people.
The United States has fallen so far from the free nation its founders envisioned that the people who are entrusted with the power to endanger public liberty openly advocate to remove our right to know of their conduct.
For those that have watched with an eye toward history all of the events that have unfolded in the United States since 2001, the only silver lining to the cloud of tyranny beginning to form over the United States is the fact that this action by the government may awaken people to the shaded darkness approaching and forge a new leader that can peacefully restore the liberties this nation once had. If not, though the revolution may not be televised, it will certainly be online.