Unalienable rights

The New York Review of Books published a review of the Snowden documentary Citizen Four by David Bromwich. In it the author notes that Snowden appears to go “further than many who call themselves libertarians. He believes that the American government has no more right to spy on private individuals in other countries than it does to spy on citizens of the United States.”

I understand that the Declaration of Independence is a separate document from the Constitution, and it is the Constitution that is the law of the land (ostensibly). That said, I consider the Declaration’s assertion that all “men” are created equal, and the framing of unalienable rights as speaking of all mankind (clearly the reality was different, many were intentionally left out or greatly marginalized still: women, slaves, and underclasses). That’s why it was so obvious that a break from tyranical rule was justified.

I consider the Constitution as a companion document, meant to implement a form of government, with powers and limitations respecting those unalienable rights, and by necessity, because we can’t, for the benefit of our citizens, or at least those in our country.

It would seem the only ethical continuance of that framework would be to extend those rights to any our government must or chooses to deal with, rather than to use the limitation of the reach of our constitution to excuse use our turning on our principles out of convenience.

Moving the goalposts

Strunk, White and Orwell would cringe at that title. My writing abilities were never great and certainly have degraded some. My apologies.

I have begun paying attention to Steven Aftergood’s Secrecy News again and today’s digest arrived in my inbox prompting two immediate questions about two separate issues. I figured I would ask them out loud (my cliché title is an apt theme):

In a report on No Fly list rules being revised and apparently made more transparent and ostensibly made more challengeable, the government is asking for a lawsuit to be dismissed, because it will be allegedly be made moot.

My question is: if I am currently affected by these less transparent and challengeable rules, I’ve already suffered under them. Even if I can challenge the rules soon and find my status to some satisfactory degree, does not everyone already subjected to these rules justly, or unjustly, deserve accountability or compensation for the lack of and lack of means to check that there’s due process thus far? (I’m not even sure it should matter if my status were to change: don’t even the “convicted” deserve knowledge of the workings of the law as it has been applied to them?)

Aftergood also shared news of a change to the definition of “counterterrorism” as a matter of Department of Defense doctrine. The definition is said to be narrower. I didn’t read all the supporting material linked to and apparently there’s more not available to the public from what I gather of his post. Aftergood said:

It excludes actions to “counter root causes” of terrorism, which have now been removed from the definition.

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone’s response to counterterrorism was in fact credibly focused on root causes? I guess it shouldn’t be the DoD focusing on that, because we wouldn’t take kindly to the Pentagon telling other agencies of the Executive, let alone Congress, how to change the interwoven domestic and non-military foreign policies, if they were tasked and so inclined to take such a hypothetical mission uncynically.

Entirely torn re: air strikes in Iraq.

Too little, too late? Entirely wrong-headed?

A poorly dosed half-measure to cover a president’s ass?

A totally horrible tactic in response to a totally horrible situation we compounded by our other involvement in the Middle East, and general role? One likely to result in more civilian deaths, recruitment fodder for the other sides’ extremists, and more blowback? (Probably.) A potentially effective near term retort to a militarized force doing horrible things to people already in a mess we helped create? Would anything else work? A failure of the imagination? A disingenuous effort, barely aligned with its stated motivations and objectives?

Does anything matter if it isn’t in a grander of context of a genuine realignment of the distribution and expression of power?

Scope creep.

Armchair punditry.

Punditry itself, being a form of armchair leadership and citizenship.