Ethics Dunces: The Wall Street Journal Editors

nsa-wiretap-eagle_0There may be good arguments to support that massive trolling of Verizon Business phone records by the NSA revealed yesterday, but so far, the justifications are either disingenuous, rationalizations, or leaps down the slippery slope. None exemplified this better than the Wall Street Journal, in its editorial defending the recently revealed surveillance. My favorite paragraph:

“The critics nonetheless say the NSA program is a violation of privacy, or illegal, or unconstitutional, or all of the above. But nobody’s civil liberties are violated by tech companies or banks that constantly run the same kinds of data analysis. We bow to no one in our desire to limit government power, but data-mining is less intrusive on individuals than routine airport security. The data sweep is worth it if it prevents terror attacks that would lead politicians to endorse far greater harm to civil liberties.”


  • “The critics nonetheless say the NSA program is a violation of privacy, or illegal, or unconstitutional, or all of the above.” “The critics?” Can someone honestly say that taking my personal and private phone communications data without my knowledge or consent is not a violation of privacy?  To argue that is the definition of Orwellian. “We’re not violating your privacy, we’re just secretly examining your private communications.” Oh.
  • “But nobody’s civil liberties are violated by tech companies or banks that constantly run the same kinds of data analysis.” That’s an F in Civil Rights 101 right there. The government doing this is materially and constitutionally different from a private company doing it. The Constitution exists to protect us from government abuse of power; the laws are supposed to protect us from abuse by everyone else.
  • “We bow to no one in our desire to limit government power, but…” “…we still think its hunky-dory to trust the same government that used private tax data to stifle the First Amendment rights of conservative groups before an election  to use restraint and proper safeguards as it surreptitiously gathers other personal data on citizens.”   Unbelievable.
  • “…but data-mining is less intrusive on individuals than routine airport security.” The “It’s not the worst thing” rationalization in its purest form. Yes, by all means, WSJ, let’s assess the appropriateness of all government intrusions on the 4th Amendment by whether it is worse than being forced to submit  to uniformed strangers searching your belongings and person without probable cause or warrants, including feeling up your naughty bits, as a condition of exercising the right to travel.
  • “The data sweep is worth it if it prevents terror attacks that would lead politicians to endorse far greater harm to civil liberties.” Yes, they really did write that. Accepting over-reaching intrusions on personal privacy and abridgement of civil rights is reasonable if it prevents worse intrusions on personal privacy and abridgement of civil rights. Let the government go through your stuff, because the next step will be for them to beat information out of you with a rubber hose, and we wouldn’t want that. Of course, if it comes to that, why wouldn’t the Journal then argue, “The data sweep is worth it if it prevents terror attacks that would lead politicians to endorse far greater harm to civil liberties, like routine water-boarding of citizens under suspicion”?

The issue, you fools at the Journal, is and always is trust.

Sure, the data-gathering would be reasonable if we trusted these people, but why should we? After what we have learned in the last couple months, why should we?  The government is not being competently or diligently managed, or it is being corruptly managed. Even by its own dubious excuses, “rogue agents” at The I.R.S. put in place rights-violating policies for naked partisan gain, for years, and there is no oversight, candor or responsibility. The Attorney General, by his own admission, has little knowledge of what is going on in the Justice Department. Not only doesn’t the President know what’s going on (he says), but his staff makes certain that he doesn’t know what’s going on. When high-ranking officials go before the public (Susan Rice, the President), the news media (Jay Carney) or Congress (Holder, Lerner, Shuster, Clinton, ad nauseum) they obfuscate, dissemble, mislead, spin or outright lie. Why would any American in his or her right mind assume that only limited and appropriate uses would be made of private phone communications?

The Journal’s weak arguments for shrugging off yet another escalation in the chopping away of core rights by the government would be ridiculously inadequate even if the Obama Administration had proven itself trustworthy, honest, consistent, and, of course, “the most transparent administration” the President promised that it would be. It has proven to be none of these, however. How could we believe otherwise, when the man at the head of it all said this while persuading the nation to elect him to a job for which he had no relevant experience or job skills whatsoever except a silver tongue:

“[The Bush] Administration also puts forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand. I will provide our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track and take out the terrorists without undermining our Constitution and our freedom. That means no more illegal wire-tapping of American citizens. No more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime. No more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war. No more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient. That is not who we are. And it is not what is necessary to defeat the terrorists. The FISA court works. The separation of powers works. Our Constitution works. We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers, and that justice is not arbitrary.”

How could anyone, especially the Wall Street Journal, trust or urge us to trust the good faith, restraint and respect for civil rights of a government led by so feckless an individual? Better that we heed the condemnation of a reliable ally of the President, the New York Times, which wrote (before it was “persuaded” to soften its official verdict),

“The administration has now lost all credibility.”

Got that? That means that we can’t believe what they, including the President, say. It means they cannot be trusted. And that means that we must not just smile and cheer when we discover that they have been spying on us to a greater extent than we ever understood, were informed of or agreed to.


Source: Wall Street Journal, Ed Driscoll


Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Science & Technology, War and the Military

21 responses to “Ethics Dunces: The Wall Street Journal Editors

  1. …That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security…

    …He has obstructed the Administration of Justice,…

    …He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance…

    …He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us…

  2. I was wondering if any of you folks knew how one goes about raising a rebel army…

    I’m asking for a friend, you see…

  3. fattymoon

    Goody. Now I can stop slobbering on myself. 😉

    • fattymoon

      BTW, this morning I came up with this idea on Facebook. (I’m waiting for the knock on the door.)

      (Copied from Facebook) –
      Suggestion – Now that you know the U.S. government is scrutinizing your Google searches. start fucking with them. Have fun! Be creative!

      (The following is one of many I posted.)…0.0.0..1c.1.16.psy-ab.UEAvCmFdQFs&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_cp.r_qf.&fp=227ad58bc9f5baa7&biw=1766&bih=1032


      You can do this on your own. Simply type the message you wish to share into Google’s search box, say, for example, Burn down the US Congress, hit search, copy the link and post it somewhere. Have fun!

      • Deborah

        I’m making up my own crazy Fb statuses being sure to include buzz words. “Today I sold my top secret recipe for America’s Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich to the North Koreans.” I’m having a lot of fun.

  4. I had an argument (well, more of a discussion the took a bad turn) during the Boston Bomber Manhunt…

    I saw the videos of the heavily armed (MP5’s and M4’s and shotguns) cops going to front doors, and with barely any hesitation removing people from their homes and searching them – hardly time for a “we’d like to search your home”, and certainly not enough time for any kind of response.

    My argument was that this was a gross violation of civil liberties, and that the cops would find me LOUDLY refusing their entry into my home, consequences be damned. My friend argued that sure, it was wrong, but they had to find the guy and how else would I suggest they do it?

    My response to that question is the response I give to this – my liberties are my liberties, and they do not lessen in importance, or disappear altogether, simply because it makes the job of the government (in whatever form it might take at the time, from law enforcement or intelligence analysts) easier. It is not my job to find ways to make the lives of Government easier, it is their job to find ways to do their duties in ways that do not infringe upon my rights.

    That people are more than willing to allow government to abuse their civil rights in the name of “security” or “safety” disgusts me to my very core.

    • Yes, similar discussions were had here.

      Most were alarmed at how willing, content and sheepish the people were to submit to practical martial law as well as warrantless searches and seizures. A little concerning…

      • Other Bill

        But isn’t there some sort of emergency exception to the warrant requirement? Eg. firemen entering a burning house? I’m not sure of the extent of the exception and whether it was correctly applied, but I’m pretty sure that’s what they were acting on that afternoon. Validly? I have no idea.

        • There’s an emergency exception to anything, I’m sure, just as there are any exceptions to anything.

          But let’s look at proportion here.

          I understand that the Tsarnaev brother represented a heinous terrorist on his own individual Jihad, but that’s just it, he was alone. Hardly justifies locking down an entire community, notionally ‘for its own good’, with the kind of temporary police state that we saw that day.

          • Of course it is thoroughly coincidental that right as the debate on domestic drone strikes began to simmer down, did two incidences that could have led to potential scenario justifying their usage arise (Dorner and Tsarnaev)

        • Yes, but it has to be obvious to any observer, like screams for help, shots being fired, you saw the guy run through moments ago…

          “Just checking to see if there is someone here you didn’t notice” doesn’t count.

      • Just watched the Dateline special on the New York inmate escape and subsequent manhunt…I must have not been paying much attention to the news at the time and only realized now:

        1) Wow, that was an incredibly excessive display of police presence

        2) Wow, people sure were content with warrantless searches of their property

        3) Wow, the police totally shot a man they *only suspected* of being Sweat when he ran away BUT NO ONE WAS OUTRAGED like they were when a black suspect was shot when running.

        4) At least many average citizens took the right response of *arming themselves* when presented with a threat to their lives.

  5. Michael R.

    But is there anything that can be done about it? The public is too ignorant to understand it, and having been indoctrinated into the idea that we need to government to fix everything, they are unlikely to see this as a problem anyway. The press that could have explained it has neutralized itself by intentionally abandoning journalism and embracing partisanism. We have a 2 party system that owns our elections, so we have no option to merely elect different people. Too many of our judges are merely used to ruling based on their ideology and those that aren’t are too ignorant of post-19th century technology to be any help.

    Welcome to the progressive utopia. Don’t worry your little head about it. It really is too complicated for you. Leave it to the government. They will ‘take care’ of you.

    • Well, all you can do is hope that the wisdom of crowds surprises you. If we keep hitting the dead-end wall of “we’re outnumbered by idiots,’ you just end up being bitter, hopeless and depressed. The energetic, active, informed should be able to make up for their minority status with tactics, truth and efficiency.

      • Michael R.

        It isn’t so much we’re outnumbered by idiots as we have allowed the population to be indoctrinated into thinking this is right AND we have allowed the educational system to dumb the population down to the point that they can’t figure out what is wrong with this on their own (if they can even understand it at all).

        You can make a society accept almost anything if you push it long enough and you introduce it gradually. We have spent 50 years tearing down all intermediate institutions between the people and the government. We have pushed the idea that the government needs to take care of more and more and needs to be more involved in our lives. The very term “individual responsibility” is akin to hate speech among most intellectuals. This government ‘oversight’ is just a logical step in the cradle to grave safety net government we have all been taught is the right, compassionate, progressive, enlightened, and inevitable future.

      • So that’s what happened too me.

        Well, at least I know now…

  6. There’s nothing progressive about this use of the Patriot Act. You can’t get any further left than Glenn Greenwald, who’s article in the Guardian broke this story. And don’t forget Rand Paul was all for the use of armed drones during the Boston lock down. It’s been amazing watching those who criticized Bush trying to defend Obama, and those who thought it was fine when Bush did it being concerned about civil liberties all of a sudden. My understanding is that this has been going on for 7 years, and just keeps getting renewed. So it started in the Bush administration, and was greatly expanded under Obama, so he gets no pass from me.

    I do think the American people have an unreasonable expectation of total security and total privacy. Can’t have both, and I’m willing to be a little more insecure, thanks.

  7. Beth

    I’m glad this is finally getting some attention. I’ve known about this for some time and also am very familiar with the types of software that can automatically sift through vast amounts of electronic and audio data. Did anyone listen to NPR today? They were talking about this issue in depth — the panel was primarily against it as a Constitutional violation. Buy just about every caller said that they don’t care about privacy anymore as long as this helps the government get the job done. This sentiment is mirrored in most of my highly educated friends (Repub and Dem). We are becoming the nation of Gattaca and Minority Report and no one seems to care……

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