PRISM Scandal: Officials Joke About "Disappearing" the Leaker


As if the idea that the federal government is monitoring your every move isn't scary enough, it seems that this overreach of power has gone to our officials' heads. 

A few days ago, it was reported that some congressional offices were confident that Americans would "grow accustomed" to being monitored and that the fury would die down as people essentially got over it. It's incredibly insulting that our very own representatives think that we're so lazy and stupid that we can only muster a few days' worth of outrage at the trampling of our basic rights.

But it gets worse.

On Saturday, the Atlantic's editor-at-large, Steve Clemons, overheard an interesting conversation between four intelligence officials, apparently just returning from the Intelligence and National Security Alliance Dinner at Washington DC's Dulles airport. According to Clemons, the four men were loudly talking (perhaps as a "disturbing joke") about "disappearing" the reporter who leaked the PRISM scandal. 

In a later conversation with the Huffington Post, Clemons confirmed that these guys were intelligence officials both by the clothes they were wearing and their talk of the conference they had just attended. He also stated that he had taken both pictures and video evidence, and after hopefully identifying the individuals involved, he planned to post them on the Internet.

To me, the fact that these officials were talking about "disappearing" anyone, even as a joke, is pretty terrifying. For those unfamiliar with the term "disappearing," it's usually used in the context of an authoritarian government quietly getting rid of someone who is causing trouble in the regime. For example, the Mexican government is often accused of "disappearing" mothers who protest for the recognition of their innocent children's deaths by government soldiers in the drug war.

To put it bluntly, nobody in the U.S. government should be speaking of disappearing anyone. It's a non-joking matter at any point in time, but particularly so right after a large controversy about our freedoms and when done by security officials themselves. In a country whose foundations are shaken by the blatant disregard of the Fourth Amendment in the Bill of Rights, the government should be doing all it can to prove that it does regard its written boundaries as sacred ... and joking about trampling the First Amendment (freedom of speech, freedom of the press) is literally the opposite.

Furthermore, this isn't just a matter of Republican or Democratic leadership, but a matter of our government in general. Regardless of who is president, the NSA and many of its officials will remain in place. And as long as they think that it's okay to contemplate "disappearing" those of us who speak out, we don't live in as free a country as we thought.