Last night, I wrote about Glenn Greenwald’s “grand finale” scoop, published on The Intercept: The names of five Muslim Americans apparently monitored by the FBI and NSA at some point between 2002 and 2008.
Those dates are important as, absent further relations, they suggest that any systematic abuse of FISA (and, to be clear, the government insists probable cause) was limited to the Bush administration. That Greenwald was only able to find wrongdoing by George Bush, not Barack Obama, will no doubt come as some relief to Greenwald’s sole patron, Pierre Omidyar, who — as I’ve reported previously — has an extremely close relationship with the Obama White House.
And yet, just because the revelations are historic, it doesn’t mean they should be ignored. If it’s true that George Bush used the horrific events of September 11th 2001 to justify targeting high profile American Muslims then there’s no reason our outrage should be dulled by time.
Of course, there are some commentators who would disagree with me. And also some proud American patriots who would say that, as a Brit, my outrage at America spying on its own people is irrelevant.
Here, for example, is one prominent American commentator, writing in 2005 — bang in the middle of the period described in the Intercept’s reporting — explaining why foreigners like me “under-appreciate” and “under-value” the dangers faced by America, and how we whine about “excessive” and (here’s a fun word) “unwarranted” measures “which Americans believe are appropriate…”
That America faces real dangers in the world is beyond dispute for rational people, but — just as Americans care more about the dangers threatening them than they care about dangers which threaten other countries — the dangers facing America will naturally be under-appreciated and under-valued by people in countries for whom those dangers pose no threat.
The important corollary to this principle is that measures which Americans believe are appropriate and justified in order to confront these threats will be viewed as excessive and unwarranted by people in other countries, who view those threats as less significant and alarming than Americans do.
That same commentator tsk tsks that “[p]eople in other countries no longer like or respect Americans. They think we’re hypocritical war-mongers who preach standards for other countries which we routinely violate. They despise George Bush and disbelieve everything that he says.” But, the commentator adds, their objections “are also completely besides the point, if not downright irrelevant, when it comes to debating what measures the U.S. ought to pursue and is justified in pursuing in order to defend its national security and protect its national interests.”
Fast forward to the present day. Surely — now that Greenwald and his team have exposed the unpleasant details of those “appropriate and justified” measures that George W Bush took in the early 2000s — that commentator must be eating his words.
And presumably the Intercept will be calling on him to explain whether he still believes that foreigners like me should shut up about our objections to Bush’s policies, post 9/11.
Or perhaps not.
As you’ve likely already guessed, the name of the 2005 commentator was… The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald.
H/t Umfuld Johnson
[Illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]