Gregory Paul: "America, the Land of Lying"

J. E. Hoover, with big fish.
The United States is becoming increasingly dysfunctional. It is becoming a land where professional lying is the norm. Lying on a vast scale, lying to the American people. Lying to promote secrecy. Secrecy to promote spying. Spying on Americans.

Once upon a time, in the 1920s, President Hoover’s Secretary of State Henry Stimson was so outraged by spying on other countries that he put a stop to it. Said gentlemen do not read other’s mail. 

J. E. Hoover was no gentleman. He was a serial blackmailer. By reading other’s mail, etc. Secret spying kept him running his national empire, the FBI, for 48 years until he died.

F. Roosevelt liked secrets too. But at least he had better motives. Discerning the increasing threat from Germany and Japan, he reinitiated programs to break their codes. Almost detected the attack on Pearl Harbor. During the super war spying to garner intelligence and conduct covert operations went big time. They were very effective. Helped win major campaigns. A fact that did not come out until decades later. No wonder we ambushed the Japanese at Midway, defeated the U-boats, and fooled the duumkopf Germans on D-Day. After the war Truman decided to rationalize the American intelligence system, and set up an agency for professional lying. The CIA. The Central Lying Agency.

Which set about screwing around with other peoples. Overturning governments, assassinating leaders, backing governments of countries in the free world even when the leaders were thuggish autocrats. Ike, JFK, LBJ, Tricky Dicky, they all got into it. It spun out of control until Watergate blew the cover, and some controls and limitations were put in. Did not stop Ronnie from making an idiot of himself with Iran-Contra, but at least matters were kept in some check.

That’s pretty much gone. A few thousand Americans have been killed by terrorists. Hundreds of thousands have died from ordinary murder in the same period. Hundreds of thousands from road accidents. Millions from diseases that await cures or were not treated due to lack of universal health care. But it is the occasional act of terror that has driven America into an obsession about keeping the secrecy about mass spying.

Thing is about lying, it’s pernicious. It is corrupting. Children of spy families talk about the day their dad sat them down, or parked the car in the mall lot, and told them the truth. That their father is a spy who had lied to the kids for years about what he really did. Which meant the kids had been lying for years to friends without knowing it. Who would now have to lie to friends et al. and now know it. It can be psychologically devastating.

How could it not be? Don’t we tell our kids not to lie? Actually, lying is normal. Casual lying. We all do it all the time. It is a social lubricant. If we all told everyone what we actually think all the time or even most of the time we would be at each other’s throats. But most of us know that there are limits. That when lying goes too far it becomes dangerous.

The problem with government sanctioned lying is that it is hard for many who lie as part of the profession to be the noble liar. The man or woman who lies in the service of their country, yet knows when it is unethical to lie. Lying often becomes a habit that creeps to where it is not at all ethical.

There is a lot of BS about Snowden. About how he is a traitor despite the writers of the Constitution making it clear that treason can only be prosecuted when Congress declares war, which has not happened since the last world war. That was so we would not slander those we do not like for one reason or another as traitors. Or about how he ought to return to the US to stand up for himself rather than fleeing to maybe Ecuador. It’s all fluff enabled by the news media that wants an easy story, encouraged by a government that has become so used to lying that even progressive Democratic congresspersons and the president wave away what Snowden blew the whistle on as of not great import. The focus on Snowden is a diversion from the appalling truth.

It is not Snowden who is of tremendous import. It is what he has told us that we should be focusing on like a laser. 

The US government has spent hundreds of billions to erect a vast intelligence industry that employs hundreds of thousands working in vast complexes spread around the nation and the world to spy and to lie. It is sunk to the level that all digital phone calls and emails of American citizens are being tapped and stored. And they did not tell us how our own tax dollars were being used to keep tabs on us. When asked they lied about it. Specifically, when national intelligence director James Clapper was asked in an open congressional hearing a few months ago whether intelligence was being collected on millions of Americans he said nope – even as he did about every body posture lying tell there is. Since Snowden blow the whistle and only because Snowden blew the whistle Clapper has apologized. 

It is screaming violation of human rights and the Constitution that would horrify the founders and Stimson while delighting Hoover. It means that the investigations of all reporters who use phones and emails are being tracked. How is that supposed to allow freedom of the press? The lying and spying is popular with the American majority and a good chunk of the conservatives while it freaks out many progressives and libertarians and conspiracy nuts who are not so nutty.

The growing exposure of what the NSA has been up to is wrecking American credibility. This nation cannot legitimately denounce other governments for spying on their citizens and hacking our computers when we are doing those very things. All the more so when in some regards we are likely to be the best at it technology wise. What is rich and perverse is how many are denouncing Snowden for putting us in this terrible mess. That’s rich and perverse because anyone who says that is saying that America should be living one huge colossal humongous lie, and how dare anyone spill the beans. Do these people understand the meaning of cynical hypocrisy? Seriously, how does this work? We tell the rest of the world to be democratic and governments to be open and not mucking with the privacy of their people when we are doing that and pretending we are not? Do you not know that is called lying through your teeth? Aside from the lack of ethical decency, did you really think we could get away with it? Don’t you remember those Andy Griffith episodes were Sheriff Taylor tells Opie that lies risk blowback? That’s basically right you know. All Snowden did was tell the world the truth about these United States of America. Instead of beating up on him we should be ashamed of what we have been doing.

The idiot wing of the Supreme Court, the ones who prattle on about how they are defending the Constitution as those who wrote it wrote it, have just decided that you, average American citizen, cannot sue the government over concerns that you are being harmed by covert activities because you cannot prove harm from said activities because you cannot find out what they are. A member of Congress who is informed about what the NSA and company is up to cannot legally do anything about it. Same for someone employed by these agencies. There is a novel about this sort of circular set up. What was it called? Oh yes. CATCH 22. And another one with a name that started with K. Give me a few minutes on that one.

I have no patience for the gun nuts who go on about how we all need our semi-autos ready when the government goes tyrannical. Is it consequently galling that the conspiracy buffs have a point (and that so many progressives are going along with the lying culture that gives the hard right and Randians ammo). But the way to defend the Constitution is not to descend into internal armed conflict. People could get hurt. Lots of people. The way to do it is to use elections and laws and courts and common sense and decency to put a stop to going down the slippery slope we are currently sliding down on. I do not have grand solutions such as shutting down the NSA, CIA, FBI. But we cannot trust liars to be noble about it. And we cannot trust members of Congress to ride herd on the lying industry. At the least we should all know what the intelligence industrial complex is up to. We should know their basic budgets, who works for them in general terms, the actual scale of their facilities, what their basic spying and hacking projects are, and so forth.


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