Privacy, Torah, Constitution, & Us -- vs. NSA

Imagine Edward Snowden’s Evil Twin —
And then Join me at US Capitol tomorrow
Urging Constitutional Control over NSA

At noon tomorrow (Tuesday), I will be joining others at the “House Triangle,” a press-conference venue on the House of Representatives side of the US Capitol,  to call for Congress to place the NSA under tight Constitutional control.  Congressman Rush Holt will be the lead speaker.
 
I invite you to join us there – and whether you can or not, to join in a day-long campaign to renew the Constitutional controls over the NSA, by calling your members of Congress. (Details below.)
 
Why?
 
Imagine a comic-book Super-Villain story:
 
Five Supreme Court justices —  the five more-or-less liberals —  resign simultaneously!
 
Journalists reveal that Edward Snowden’s evil twin, Ned SuperStorm, blackmailed them all with information from the NSA files that would have besmirched not them but close members of their families!
 
Now imagine that this is NOT a comic-book story but the real news, because some lower-level NSA functionary   —  with Snowden’s skills but not his conscience dedicated to democracy and the public good  — simply picked out some disgusting juicy information that had been “hoovered” up by the NSA’s vacuum-cleaner suction pump, full of stuff about you and me and Aunt Rachel and oh yes, every Justice of the Supreme Court.
 
Or some not low-level functionary but a future NSA director, “hoovering” up the data not only like a vacuum cleaner but like J. Edgar Hoover, who blackmailed Senators and Presidents and tried to blackmail Martin Luther King.
 
To prevent this fiction from becoming real, we need to reaffirm the Constitution. And ancient religious wisdom as well.
 
The ancient rabbis, living under the Roman Empire and its secret police, asked why the Biblical shaman Balaam said “Mah tovu!/ how wonderful! “ about the tents of the newly escaped Israelite slaves who were journeying toward freedom in the Wilderness.  The rabbis answered: “Their tents were pitched at angles to each other so that no family could peer into another family’s privacy,” nor — we might add — could the King who tried to get Balaam to place a curse upon them.  (See Num. 24: 5 and Talmud  Bavli Baba Batra 60a.)
 
Perhaps that was exactly why the King wanted this free community to be cursed!  — because kings abhor the privacy of the citizens, while insisting on secrecy for themselves.   The king of Great Britain operated exactly in this way by issuing “writs of assistance” that authorized intrusion into anyone’s house and papers without any warrant making specific charges. And that was precisely why the US Bill of Rights requires real warrants.
 
Tuesday, February 11, will be a day not just for the religious and civil-liberties leaders who gather at the House Triangle but for ALL of us to demand a renewal of the Constitution.
 
On Tuesday, please call 1202.224-3121 and ask for the Senators from your state and if you know her/his name, the Representative from your Congressional District. (If you are from DC and have no Senator or if you have the extra time, call Sen. Harry Reid, majority leader of the Senate.)
When you reach the office, ask for the staffer who is working on issues of US “intelligence” policy and /or civil liberties.
Here is a possible suggested approach for what to say — but speak your own mind in your own words. They will carry much more conviction.

As your constituent, as a person committed to our Constitution, and as a [person/ clergyperson/ rabbi/ minister/ priest ] committed to the ancient teachings of [Judaism/ Christianity, Islam/ other religious tradition],  I am deeply concerned about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) mass surveillance programs. We need real reform to stop the NSA’s mass collection of our information.

 I urge you to support the USA Freedom Act (H.R. 3361/S. 1599), an important first step in stopping mass spying, reforming the FISA court, and increasing transparency.
I’m also urging you to oppose S. 1631, the so-called FISA Improvements Act. This bill aims to entrench some of the worst forms of NSA surveillance and extend the NSA surveillance programs in unprecedented ways.
 

Besides speaking at the press conference tomorrow, The Shalom Center has joined in a lawsuit against the NSA. We are the only Jewish organization to do so, and the only one to challenge this violation of Torah and of the Constitution.  
 
To do this work – and to take the next step, involving other Jewish organizations in this struggle — means spending money. We need your help. Please click to

and make a (tax-deductible) contribution to support this work.
 
How wonderful are the tents of all our citizens, and how wonderful should be the contributions of the Jewish people to the freedom of us all!
 
Shalom, salaam, sohl; paz, paco, peace! —  Arthur
 
 

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