You emailed me from an anonymous address after stumbling upon an article of mine on Reddit – "NSA Rejecting Every FOIA Request Made by U.S. Citizens."
You said that you were a progressive – a two-time voter for Obama (like myself) – and that you'd decided to reach out, to find my contact information, after surveying my recent article history.
You told me that, at worst, I was no progressive and, at best, I was a poor sap who had fallen for one of many faux scandal traps set by the GOP. You told me that a real progressive would recognize the NSA story for what it really is: a distraction meant to derail President Obama's efforts to achieve important social and environmental reforms.
Then you broadened this argument, insisting that all the focus on NSA surveillance – essential to keep us safe – was about harming Democrats in the 2014 elections and damaging Hillary Clinton's changes for the presidency in 2016.
It's all electoral politics, you said. And that in writing about the issue, and critiquing the Obama administration in the process, all I was doing was damaging our country. That I was doing the GOP's work. That I was promoting someone who had broken the law, Edward Snowden, while bashing Obama's legal and sanctioned efforts to keep us safe.
You asked me to stop.
And I thought, How many other writers have you similarly emailed? before taking the unusual step to respond.
I responded to you because, while I disagreed with nearly everything you wrote, you were articulate, quite cogent and relatively cordial.
I expressed a hope that – in the interest of consistency – you had never criticized the Bush administration on similar issues. That you had never spoken out against its championing of the Patriot Act, its broadening of the NSA's surveillance infrastructure, its torture program.
I asked if you considered investigative journalism, like that conducted by Glenn Greenwald and McClatchy, to be nothing more than conservative smear campaigns, rather than essential for the public good. And if so, whether you thought the New York Times's publishing of the Pentagon Papers was similarly political in nature, rather than evidence of the Fourth Estate's proper place in American politics.
Then I wrote that I considered it a progressive value to defend our privacy rights and to highlight governmental abuses of power – no matter who is in office.
I wrote that a desire to protect our Fourth Amendment rights has nothing to do with electoral politics, and everything to do with protecting individual Americans from illegal intrusions, something about which the 'founding fathers' were particularly concerned.
I wrote that Edward Snowden is indeed a hero who had broken existing laws in order to alert Americans to what he, and many others, consider to be gross violations of our constitutional rights. I wrote that sometimes, in American history, brave people have had to break the law, to be disobedient, in order to do what is right. That "legal" does not always, in the end, mean "constitutional."
I asked you if you similarly admonished Daniel Ellsberg for breaking the law, or Martin Luther King, Jr., or any number of progressive protesters, from Vietnam-era activists to Occupy Wall Street marchers, who have been accused of any number of law-breaking actions.
You never responded.
And so now I'm writing publicly to you, not so much as a re-opening of our dialogue as an occasion to air my contrasting views to those who are defending Obama his 'national security' ventures in the name of progressivism or liberalism.
Though if you see this, I'd like to continue our dialogue. While I can't accept your perspective, ours is still a discussion worth having.