If ever there was a public official with a sense of the bizarre, it must be Robert Litt, general counsel for the Director of National Intelligence. In answering questions to the House Intelligence Committee at a hearing into the NSA’s lies about spying, Litt launched himself and the American surveillance state into the weird realm of the existential.
“We are trying to find out what happens before it happens.”
Read that a few times and see if it makes your head spin. Litt said this to the committee in defense of the dragnet collection program of all U.S. telephone communications revealed by Edward Snowden.
In his story Minority Report the brilliant sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick dealt with what the world would be like if citizens could be subjected to punishment for what they might be thinking about doing before they do it.
We may not yet have arrived at that world, but the NSA is pushing us toward the brink. Since our government has tossed out Habeas Corpus, dating back to the 12th Century and requiring that an accused person be brought before a judge to determine if there is sufficient evidence of a crime to justify detention—the way is already paved for punishing an accused for their thoughts.
Try not to think about it before it happens, just in case it happens. Before it happens.
Brother, you can’t go to jail
For what you’re thinking
Or for the woo look in your eye
—Standing on the Corner (Watching all the girls go by), The Four Lads