The ‘here we go again’ relevance for Black America
Young journalists stepped forward to warn again how we continue to lose our government to growing “Big Brother.” Thirty-year-old document leaker Edward J. Snowden has fled to a secret place. And 33-year-old journalist Michael Hastings was killed in a fiery auto crash in Los Angeles June 18, 2013. They have shocked the nation by exposing the extent of the secret crypt of America’s intelligence network’s surveillance abuse of American citizens.
Black America is not shocked. It’s been part and parcel of our lives ever since the first Black foot stepped off the boat in Virginia, on through failed Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the 1920’s, on through to today, blocking our access and freedoms.
We especially remember the surveillance of Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders. Dr. King’s father and mother were the subject of government surveillance as early as 1921. Now Whites learn and experience as we have. They don’t like having that surveillance shoe on their White feet. Whether or not you view Snowden and Hastings as patriots and heroes, they exposed governmental abuse of surveillance power.
Michael Hastings’ reporting brought down the careers of director of the CIA General David Petraeus, about to be supreme commander of NATO General John Allen, and top commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal. Prior to his fiery death, Hastings had texted his close associates that the FBI was making deep inquiry of his friends and family.
The stories of these brave young men, Snowden and Hastings, are chilling reminders for all Americans and journalists as we reflect this July 4th weekend on what we are losing of our freedoms under the guise of national security. Mr. Snowden seeks asylum where he won’t be extradited. Few have discussed the sacrifice he discussed in his forthright Hong Kong interview several weeks ago: his fear that his patriotic actions may cause the forfeiture of his life and prevent him from ever seeing his family again.
We in Black America understand the power and abuse of Big Brother. We remember the tragedy of the annihilation of the family of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the continued surveillance of activists in pursuit of civil rights for the American Negro. Dr. King’s brother died mysteriously.
Others victims of surveillance and persecution include Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Medgar Evers, and, in our beloved city, Nellie Stone Johnson, Dr. Thomas Johnson, the founder and publisher of this newspaper, Cecil Newman, and the legendary Frank Alsop, all targets of Big Brother’s surveillance (FBI, military intelligence agency, state and city).
Many of us warned that the passage of the Patriot Act a decade ago meant that rights, values, freedoms and liberties we hold dear and fight for and are passionately committed to would be blocked even more. Will Mr. Snowden survive? Only God and time will tell.
Journalism comes with risks and dangers, not only in regards to the right of free speech, but also of the right to make inquiry, ask questions and investigate the facts.
The Snowden revelations raise serious questions about what those who claim to be defenders and protectors of the constitution of the United States are trying to hide, especially when this is not so much about information released but about the extent of their “Big Brother” secret surveillance.
Why are powerful individuals so uncomfortable and uneasy when asked questions about such massive surveillance? Why, in the name of national security, do they push our constitutional rights into a dark closet? Snowden and Hastings revealed troubling threats to our constitutional rights.
It is our elected public servants in the congress, judiciary branch, and executive branch and their appointees that should bring forward information of questionable conduct by powerful government institutions. Instead it is by journalists and reporters living under a cloud of threat (think Daniel Elsberg during the Vietnam War).
The Edward Snowdens and Michael Hastings of this world are courageously reminding us that as Americans we have constitutional rights that include the right to be told the truth about our democratic and constitutional institutions from those we have entrusted both their guardianship and the responsibility to uphold to the fullest the truth and nothing but the truth, so help us God.
All public servants have that in their oath of office. Sadly, they are not driving the debate tonight in America about the importance of truth, transparency and constitutional rights. The drivers are the actions of elected public servants and their appointees against truth, transparency and constitutional rights. We are learning it from courageous journalists who are then harassed and threatened for doing so. This is the awesome and dangerous burden of real journalism.
Americans should be very concerned about the life expectancy of Mr. Snowden and the circumstances surrounding the death of Michael Hastings.
God bless America.
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