Leftist polymath Noam Chomsky, who was a famed opponent of the Vietnam War and a proponent of progressive causes, expressed fear in a recent column that President Barack Obama is endangering the very liberties enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Writing at the progressive website AlterNet, Chomsky expressed fears that the documents exposed by former National Security Agency consultant Edward Snowden shows that the Obama administration habitually and flagrantly violates the Constitution.
“It is of no slight import that the project is being executed in one of the freest countries in the world, and in radical violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights, which protects citizens from ‘unreasonable searches and seizures,’ and guarantees the privacy of their persons, houses, papers and effects,” Chomsky wrote.
Chomsky is renowned for his seminar work in linguistics as he is famed for his political activism and acute criticism of American foreign policy. Speaking to the concerns voiced by civil libertarians of both the left and right, Chomsky wrote “Much as government lawyers may try, there is no way to reconcile these principles with the assault on the population revealed in the Snowden documents.” Chomsky is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is thought be some to be one of the most thoughtful public intellectuals of the U.S.
Snowden famously fled arrest by first skipping out to Hong Kong and eventually landed in Russia, which granted him asylum. After he revealed thousands of pages of classified documents to journalists in 2013, he was charged by the U.S. with theft of government property, as well as two counts of violating the U.S.' 1917 Espionage Act through unauthorized communication of national defense information and "willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person." He remains in Russia in an undisclosed location.
It is the depth and range of NSA’s surveillance program that troubles Chomsky, who concluded in the June 2 column that Obama is determined to undermine the foundations of American civil society.
“The documents unveil a remarkable project to expose to state scrutiny vital information about every person who falls within the grasp of the colossus — in principle, every person linked to the modern electronic society,” Chomsky wrote. “As the colossus fulfills its visions, in principle every keystroke might be sent to President Obama’s huge and expanding databases in Utah.”
“In other ways too, the constitutional lawyer in the White House seems determined to demolish the foundations of our civil liberties. The principle of the presumption of innocence, which dates back to Magna Carta 800 years ago, has long been dismissed to oblivion.”
Chomsky ended his article by musing on the logic of state power, writing “….in order to carry out violence and subversion abroad, or repression and violation of fundamental rights at home, state power has regularly sought to create the misimpression that it is terrorists that we are fighting, though there are other options: drug lords, mad mullahs seeking nuclear weapons, and other ogres said to be seeking to attack and destroy us.”
With a nod to George Orwell’s prescient novel 1984, Chomsky wrote “Nothing so ambitious was imagined by the dystopian prophets of grim totalitarian worlds ahead.”
(Ed. note: Chomsky's article appears at AlterNet)