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Friday, February 28

File under Famous Last Words: For Washington "the age of easy hypocrisy is over"

October  30; DW (Deutsche Welle, Germany's international broadcaster): For US, 'the age of easy hypocrisy is over' 
In the age of WikiLeaks and revelations by the likes of Edward Snowden, the US can no longer get away with hypocrisy as a strategic tool on the world stage, [American] political scientist Henry Farrell tells DW [...]
January 17; Reuters: Obama bans spying on leaders of U.S. allies

February 23; DWReport: NSA spying on Merkel aides after Obama said U.S. wouldn't spy on Merkel anymore
US intelligence switched to spying on senior German officials after last year's order from President Barack Obama to stop eavesdropping on Merkel, the Bild am Sonntag (BamS) newspaper said on Sunday.
"We have had the order not to miss out on any information now that we are no longer able to monitor the chancellor's communication directly," said a source described by BamS as a high-ranking employee of the National Security Agency (NSA). [...]
I guess it didn't occur to the White House that even though Ed Snowden is safely boxed in, in Russia, where he's under orders from President Vladimir Putin not to leak new damaging information about the U.S. government, that new leaks can come from anywhere now, even the upper echelon at NSA.  This was one of Henry Farrell's points to DW, and also in a paper he co-authored for Foreign Affairs magazine on the same theme.  From the DW interview (see the DW site for link to the paper) :
DW: What's your advice to the US, given their self-imposed objective of being a global liberal role model?

Farrell: The age of easy hypocrisy is over. The US could go in one of two directions. It could bring its rhetoric in line with its behavior. So, rather than pretending to adhere to various broad liberal norms, the US could, when it's in its interest, abrogate these norms. But that would be problematic, as the US has created a liberal order, in which it's going to have a much tougher time of it, if other states start behaving in the same way, then many of the principles the US has come up with, which make life easier for the US, are going to be far more difficult to deliver on.

DW: What's the alternative?

Farrell: The alternative is for the US to change its behavior to bring it more in line with the commitments and the norms that it formally declares. It's going to be more difficult, but it's the better option long-term. It allows the US to maintain the kind of broad consensus the US has been able to work with quite successfully in the past.
That NSA continued to spy on Merkel by monitoring the phones of officials she speaks with, even after the U.S. President declared spying on her wouldn't continue, suggests the U.S. government still has a way to go before it understands it needs to change its behavior.

I'll concede that Farrell might have called it right in that hypocrisy on an official level is no longer quite as easy as it was in the pre-Snowden era.  The question is the price that Americans are having to pay in the attempt to keep their government halfway honest. Farrell observes that "the whistleblowers are acting like the small boy [from the story The Emperor's new clothes] who points out the emperor's nakedness when no one else dared speak up."  I'm sorry but I don't recall that small boy facing charges of treason and espionage for daring to speak out.  Edward Snowden has had to risk his freedom and even his life to do the job that the U.S. Congress should have done.  How many Americans can reasonably be expected to do that?

This isn't a criticism of Henry Farrell's entire analysis; I think he makes some good points in other parts of the interview.  But he's dreaming if he thinks that whistleblowers and watchdog organizations such as the ACLU are enough manpower to keep a government that shows no inclination toward honesty on the right side of the law not to mention the Constitution.

The watchdogs are so stretched that I'm now in the position where I have to thank Al-Jazeera America for filing a FOIA to get hold of an NSA propaganda talking points memorandum. "Sound Bites That Resonate," which NSA cooked up in the attempt to persuade the American public that a surveillance police state is in its best interests.
What next?  Do we have to press every American adult into volunteering five hours a day to file FOIAs?  Or should we just reverse the surveillance state?  Instead of surveilling the public, install CCTVs in every U.S. government office and home of every official, and every golf course and restaurant where officials congregate? 

However, that would leave the problem of who's going to monitor the CCTV tapes on a daily basis.  There are only so many people in the United States.  And they have things to do other than watch their government. The whole point of a representative government is that the people don't have to do everything themselves.  But if it turns out that this is the case it's time to rethink our type of government.
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