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NSA: Lessons from the ’60s

Dear Reader,

Tuesday a reader wrote with concerns about how NSA spying revelations have affected his feelings about America. I said that I wanted to take two or three days to answer. It's a big subject, how we feel about the country we live in, and how events change those feelings.

When I was 14 it was 1967 and the Vietnam War was in the newspapers and on TV every day. American males were required to register for the draft when they reached 18; many were being drafted to fight in Vietnam. My brother turned 18 and was drafted. He refused induction and fought it in the courts. It then transpired that the FBI was watching our house and following my brother. There was evidence that our phone was being tapped. It appeared that the power of the state had been turned against us.

The power of the state was turned against many of us in those days. So we grew up with a reasonable respect for the power of the state and a reasonable and mature sense of the state as a dangerous entity that, if it turned against one, could be deadly.

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