Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Can We Ever Trust Anyone Again?

Lame old joke: When fire breaks out in a mental hospital, paranoids are the first responders—-always alert that someone is out to get them.

The surveillance debate is turning political America today into a booby hatch, spreading paranoia across the ideological spectrum. Tea Party mistrust of anything Obama paired with Snowden-is-a-hero fervor on the Left does not leave a shrunken middle much ground to stand on.

Even the watchers seem helpless. The chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which is supposed to protect privacy, says it lacks tools to verify how often the government breaks its rules or be sure that reported violations are unintentional mistakes.

All this shakes down to an overriding question: Can we trust anyone about anything or are we doomed to live in a mental ward of our own making, furtively on the watch for what “they” (terrorists, our own government, whistle blowers, whoever) may do to us at any moment?

As disheartening as Washington is these days, a closer look at the other side of the debate is just as depressing. Now Eric Snowden is disavowing his father for suggesting that Glenn Greenwald does not have his best interests at heart and is using him for his own ends.

A close look at Greenwald’s outpost in Rio de Janeiro by a sympathetic journalist is not reassuring. Waging cyberwar on his own country in the name of his vision of oppression, he partners with Laura Poitras, a documentary film-maker from a well-to-do American family, who he calls the “Keyser Soze of the story, because she’s at once completely invisible and yet ubiquitous,” referencing “The Usual Suspects” in which Kevin Spacey played a mastermind masquerading as a nobody.

The household, which includes Greenwald’s gay partner and occasional visiting allies from the Guardian, is the epicenter of a war on his country enabled by American mass media and politicians into a lopsided debate over privacy vs. security which keeps shedding much heat but little light.

The mistrust that bin Laden seeded in America on 8/11/01 is still bearing fruit. Can we ever get back to where we can trust anyone again?   


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