A serious risk to democratic rights – are you paying attention?

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The last thirty days or so have been a news month we will not soon forget. On the national level came the IRS scandal, the wiretapping of journalists, and revelations about NSA “data mining” (or massive invasions of citizen privacy, depending upon your point of view). It’s hard for an activist to keep up!

It might make it easier if we saw this stuff as connected. I live in Boston, so we are also being treated to the trial of James (Whitey) Bulger. Bulger is the guy who, allegedly, murdered a bunch of people while, allegedly, being protected by the local office of the FBI as an informant. Local media says he is angry enough about actually being imprisoned for this stuff to get up on the stand and tell all about how he was protected in aid of law enforcement’s focus on eradicating another criminal enterprise.

So how is all of this connected? I do not (and you should not) trust that branches of the government always act in principled ways. The constitution affords us privacy rights because mass invasions of our privacy can become the basis for systematic suppression of dissent based on political sympathies or other characteristics. I want to be able to communicate with friends who are politically active without a whit of well-based concern about an arbitrary and increasingly ordinary government tracking of that. (Can I hear an Amen?)

I see myself as an agent of democracy because I am a citizen. It is not the right of my government to track my actions or your actions unless there is a proven case that I am or you are breaking the law—there should be evidence, in other words, before allowing such a thing.

Why is this sector so silent about this? The right to freedom of assembly, free speech, and privacy is at the core of our purpose as associations of citizens. Is the relative silence due to this administration’s being Democratic? I hope not! I hope that it just signifies a little lag time between revelation and outraged action, because if not, what we all value in this country is at serious risk.

Let’s hear some voices out there for freedom! Come on, sectoral leaders—speak up!