What’s Left: American Spies

Sid Wadhera

[SPOILER ALERT!]In Season Two of Shonda Rhimes’ hit drama “Scandal,” the characters are once again faced with the elusive adversary known as B613 – the secret government agency whose main directive is “to protect the republic.” [END SPOILERS] For those of us eagerly eating up Season Three, this revelation should come as no surprise. Rhimes has done an excellent job playing on America’s fear of covert government organizations spying on them, and as the National Security Agency (NSA) has done nothing to mitigate these fears, Americans feel at home watching this show every Thursday night. What most Americans were surprised to hear in yet another possible

scandal is that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which is directed to only spy on foreigners, may be spying on Congress. When Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) announced on the Senate Floor that the CIA was spying on staffers of the Senate Intelligence Committee (of which she is the chairwoman) last week, it seemed like the American public was thrown into a real life episode of “Scandal.”

Aside from the fact that this makes excellent television series fodder, this new revelation shows just how far the security apparatus has extended. Left-leaning Americans can join together with our libertarian-leaning friends on the right in utter outrage at these actions. As if domestic spying on American citizens was not enough of a violation of civil liberties, it seems like these power-hungry organizations do not trust their own masters.

There is an understandable trade-off between national security and personal liberty, but at what point is it permissible that one may trump the other? American fear mongering about terrorism and terrorist attacks over the past 13 years has created a vast, almost undetectable, security apparatus that permeates every part of life. This is absolutely unacceptable. Constitutional order, rule of law and even national security itself exists for a sole purpose: “to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” As important as goals like securing the republic are – and it can be justifiably argued that the republic is secure – they cannot and should not inhibit the purpose of the republic.

In that sense there is common understanding with a vast majority of Americans across the political spectrum. There is nothing more important to us than the protection of our civil rights and liberties; anything that greatly infringes upon those is anathema to us. For too long in recent news cycles this point has been given only to the libertarian-leaning Republicans, like Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). This is a bipartisan issue, and it is disappointing to see that Senator Feinstein only shows concern once she has been subjected to the same thing that the American people have. Nonetheless, her condemnation and outrage are steps in the right direction to properly curbing the excesses of these organizations whose actions are more reminiscent of the Stasi and the KGB than of the United States government.

Americans do not watch “Scandal” because it resonates so precisely with the facts of their lives; Americans watch “Scandal” because it is a dramatized, fictionalized version of the extreme possibilities of American government. Yet, as more and more revelations about organizations like the CIA and the NSA come out, we find our lives more like “Scandal” than we would like to think. These organizations exist to protect and serve the American people. With proper congressional oversight, they too can put the white hat back on.

Contact Sid Wadhera at [email protected].