President Obama has welcomed a debate on the surveillance program of the Federal Government. Of course, he could have initiated such a debate himself, but he was busy attempting to assure that the public was unaware of the size and scope of the program. Although leaks to reporters have been part of the day to day reporting scene in Washington particularly since over classification is rife (as it was here), the Administration is taking special efforts to throw the book at Snowden, the man who dared to blow the whistle and turn the private machinations of the Federal Government into a subject ready for public debate. This contribution to public dialogue is regarded by the Obama administration as a form of espionage.
Not to be outdone, Mitch McConnell has complained that efforts to compel disclosure of the names of contributors to campaigns is really an effort to violate their privacy for the purpose of harassing them. To avoid the speculative possibilities of harassment by parties unknown, McConnell would keep voters uninformed of the interests that plan to benefit from the election of particular candidates. One might think this is public business, not a fit subject for privacy, let alone information to be concealed because of a paranoid plea.
Meanwhile, Mr. McConnell has endorsed the privacy invasions of the NSA without much fear that the gathering of the daily associations of millions of citizens could possibly be abused.
So a prominent leader of the Republicans wants the names of the people who influence and sometimes control the government to be kept PRIVATE. The leader of the Democrats wanted the Federal Government to be able to spy on millions of Americans and for the fact of that privacy invasion to be kept PRIVATE. Not a few of us think, however, that what government does and who influences government should be PUBLIC information in a democracy.
But both Obama and McConnell agree that a daily record of who we and millions of other American call on the telephone should not be private from the prying eyes of the NSA. There is something quite wrong in a regime of privacy for the government, but not for the citizenry.