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AUDIO: Robert Scheer: On Civil Liberties, the NSA Is a Latter-Day King George

Posted on May 17, 2015

    Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer. (Neon Tommy / CC BY-SA 2.0)

In an appearance on “The Campaign With Ernie Powell,” a radio show that deals with the question of how progressives can win political campaigns, Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer says the NSA is engaged in the same invasive behavior “that sparked the American Revolution.”

Scheer was on Powell’s show to discuss the themes at the center of his new book, “They Know Everything About You: How Data-Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies Are Destroying Democracy.”

“I know there are a lot of folks who don’t like to celebrate the framers,” Scheer tells Powell early in the interview. “They were a bunch of white guys, they had limitations and we had slavery. There’s a lot of Howard Zinn wisdom in critiquing them. But there were two big ideas they had that actually go to the heart of what my book is all about and what our current crisis is all about. One is, you can’t be a representative republic and an empire in the same moment. If you’re gonna be meddling all over the world, if you’re gonna be going after the resources of the whole world, if you’re gonna be exploiting people all around the world in the name of saving them—if you’re gonna go the route of Rome—you’re gonna crush the republic, which is what Rome was at its finest moment. And this was true of every society that they had seen. …

“The other big idea they had was that government had to be viewed with suspicion, no matter the claim of government, whether it was to divine right to rule or the great French civilization or the great Roman values, and the Constitution that they gave us contained a really subversive notion. It said, ‘Beware of power—not as an abstraction—beware of the power that us folks—Jefferson, Madison, Washington—are about to assume.’ This was the whole idea of the separation of powers, of limited government, of checks and balances. And the incorporation of the Bill of Rights.”

Powell interjects: “And the Fourth Amendment.”

“Of course,” Scheer replies, “the Fourth Amendment because that’s necessary to the First Amendment. The Fourth Amendment, that says you have to have privacy and individual sovereignty—and this came from English common law which the king then violated in the colonies—but the basic principle, and you can trace it back to the Magna Carta, was that the king of England, with all his claim to divine power, could not enter the home of the humblest peasant without a specific reason and due process and a court order. And that he could not rummage about in the possessions and ideas of the humblest peasant. And so when the King of England was doing that here in the colonies, to try to get people on their taxes or whatever they were getting them on—whether they were committing a revolution, or what have you—this was the spark that started the American Revolution, and the Fourth Amendment is critical to why you have a the First Amendment, because if you don’t have that freedom to think and assemble in your own home, have your own papers, your own possessions, your own sanctuary, you’re not gonna have the freedom of speech and the right to assemble and the free press that’s guaranteed in the First Amendment. …

“And what has happened is that the first betrayed the second, in certainly our recent history. That our meddling around the world, our involvement in Afghanistan and everywhere else created a situation of great hostility and animosity and instability. In Afghanistan and elsewhere we’ve got al-Qaida and all this blowback, and so forth. And then in response to the attack on 9/11, they then began to destroy all the notions of limited government. And the upshot is, instead of the citizens being in the position to be protected, and observation of government—our ability to challenge government—they turned that suspicion against us. So the government is protected as our great savior and we the people are the potential enemy. We’re the traitors. We’re the potential terrorists.”

Listen to the interview here.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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