September 30, 2014
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LETTERS
A democracy long gone

To the Editor:

I no longer understand my country. The changes I see frighten me and the indifference of the public is in indication that freedom and democracy are on the verge of extinction. Democracy is based on openness and transparency; they cannot co-exist, as they are opposites. We have “secret courts,” “secret laws,” “secret trials,” “secret judges,” “secret kill lists,” including American citizens, “secret prisons,” where we do not know who is being held. The views of our Congressional delegation on “secrecy” apparently are a big “secret.”

A “whistleblower” with a conscience revealed to the public that government is intercepting all their communications, including e-mail, phone, computer, and that government is not only spying on all Americans, it is spying on the entire world. Despite my belief that the public has the right to know that its privacy has been invaded, a violation of the constitutional right to privacy, the whistleblower is labeled a traitor and a worldwide hunt seeks him out so that he will be silenced and the cloak of secrecy maintained. Those who violate the law and our privacy are accountable to no one, while the hero with a conscience will be imprisoned for life.

In a similar situation, we have a young soldier with a conscience who witnessed war crimes, including the murder of innocent people in Iraq, and his conscience dictated he make this information public. He is currently on trial in a courtroom where the 23 witnesses against him are hidden behind a “secret” screen. He is not allowed to know who is testifying against him, and his lawyer’s conversations have been intercepted by the government. Truly this is a “kangaroo court,” yet the public is indifferent.

Journalists have been targeted and spied upon, endangering the idea of a free press, and even journalists who have been compromised seemingly accept their fate quietly, as does the public.

The argument the public uses to justify its indifference is; if you don’t have anything to hide, why worry? This is an intellectually lazy argument and it displays a complete lack of historical context. You do not have the right to casually surrender rights that were gained by tens of thousands of brave patriots who shed much blood to gain constitutional rights. We do not have the right to virtually give those rights away, thus betraying the heroes who fought and died to gain them. The same argument of “why worry” was adopted by the German population in pre-World War II.

If you can be secretly imprisoned, tortured, deprived of legal representation, spied upon constantly, and even secretly killed by your own government without reason or explanation, do you really believe you have a democracy?

Joseph Clifford

Jamestown


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