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The Biggest Assault on Our Democracy Is Coming from the Center of Our Own Government

The Executive justifies its actions, like all authoritarian institutions, on the grounds that it is protecting us. We must reverse the tide.

"America no longer has a functioning democracy. This invasion of privacy has been excessive, so bringing it to public notice has probably been beneficial —President Jimmy Carter

Millions of Americans will face a basic question in the coming decade: how much loyalty do we owe a U.S. Executive Branch which extracts huge sums from us to spy upon and lie to us, on the false grounds that doing so is protecting us? Or do we owe our moral allegiance to the ideal of democracy, which requires us to fight the Executive which is its enemy?

Senate Intelligence Committee member Ron Wyden  recently issued an urgent  call to "rein in this omnipresent, ever-expanding surveillance state", warning that "if we don't do it now our generation's going to regret it forever". Wyden and his colleague Mark Udall - who have revealed that even as Senators they have been consistently  denied information, lied to, treated like children unable even to  take notes, and are even now muzzled from  revealing far more massive Executive subversions of democracy than is known - have become the canaries in the coalmine. They warn us that though still largely odorless, colorless and invisible to most of us, poisonous Executive  power is slowly destroying what remains of a "functioning democracy" in this country. 

The meaning of an ex-U.S. President’s astonishing statement is clear. For the Executive’s threat is not only to "privacy" or "civil liberties" but the very structure of democracy itself.  As Wyden and Udall have demonstrated, the Executive Branch has unilaterally seized power since 9/11, behind a curtain of secrecy, in a way that has destroyed our constitutional system of legislative and judicial "checks and balances" on its power.

This threat has been ignored by many because it so counters our childhood beliefs that our government fights for democracy against foreign enemies.  But the evidence clearly indicates that it is the U.S. Executive Branch, not foreigners, which is today U.S. democracy’s main enemy. And it also clear that saving our liberties will require a new pro-democracy mass movement as  unprecedented as the Executive's post-9/11 power grab.

It is our own Executive Branch, after all, not  a foreign enemy which has unilaterally and  illegally stored our phone calls and emails without even informing us let alone obtaining the constitutionally-required  "consent of the governed" to do so; constantly broken the law by violating the Patriot Act,  as its Republican author has  attested, and lying to the  Legislative andJudicial branches; illegally accessed our private data on tens of thousands of known occasions while falsely claiming they have not - with even these abuses only  "the tip of the iceberg"; attacked freedom of the press by spying on organizations like the  Associated Pressintimidating journalists, and trying to  jail them if they do not reveal their sources; seized emails from  private companies and threatened  to  jail their CEOs if they revealed it; pushed through a law giving them the right to  assassinate or jail any of us for life without a trial or other opportunity to prove our innocence; classified  trillions of pages annually, less than 5% of which are of any conceivable  use to a foreign enemy, so as to hide evidence of their massive waste, fraud, abuse and crimes;  prosecuted unprecedented numbers of whistleblowers who reveal their secret crimes and abuses;  lied  continuously to the American people whenever their mistakes and crimes have been  revealed; required millions of their own employees  to inform on each other, and even threatened to fire them for simply declining to spy on their colleagues; funded  SWAT teams already abusing their power, and  provided  paramilitary training and equipment to police forces around the country; begun  using drones domestically; anddemanded that the Judiciary make  decisions based only on Executive assertions, as it withhold any evidence for them on the grounds of "national security."

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