Tonawanda News

Columns

July 31, 2013

DUVALL: A second look at national security debate

Tonawanda News — Among the big news in what’s been an uncharacteristically newsie week for the dog days of summer was the conviction of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the source of the WikiLeaks ordeal.

It’s one of two stories in the news that should have Americans questioning just how much they trust their government — the other being the increasingly bizarre saga of Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency contractor who went public with the agency’s massive wire tapping and eavesdropping program.

To be sure privacy has always been a point of friction in the federal government’s attempts to keep Americans safe. How much intelligence-gathering is enough to do the job and how much is too invasive to justify the point of keeping us free and safe?

I generally find myself outside the mainstream on the issue, though probably not in the way most people might guess. 

If there’s one thing I have in common with Tea Party conservatives it’s a general distrust of what the government does in the name of preserving my freedom. 

Does the NSA need to peek in on my personal email? I promise my Gmail account doesn’t have much more than some Groupon offers and a few Facebook and Twitter notifications. My work email? Well I’m not reporting on anything reaching the level of state secrets but it’s a disturbing thought nonetheless that a government agency is hacking into reporters’ email accounts.

There’s a reason they made freedom of speech, expression, religion and the press the First Amendment — because it’s the most important in establishing a truly free and democratic society.

Our government prosecuted Manning, a troubled soldier who was disillusioned with American military affairs on several levels. He had a front row seat and access to classified information that belied the public’s understanding of our conduct in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world. He was also an outcast who struggled for acceptance as a closeted gay soldier back in the days of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which bears some consideration on a personal psychological level if not a larger policy one.

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