Friday, July 26, 2013

Conor Friedersdorf responds to Chris Christie's criticism of Rand Paul & libertarians

In case you missed it, Chris Christie dismissed the libertarian critiques of the NSA spying program as "esoteric", implied Rand Paul was dangerous and even brought up the widows and orphans of 9/11 to boot.  Conor Friedersdorf of the Atlantic has a great response which takes the form of a letter to said widows and orphans:

I'm truly sorry for your loss. I know the family members of people who died on 9/11 have a wide range of ideas about how America ought to deal with the threat of future terrorism. I won't presume anything about you except that you hate terrorism. So do I. It injures and kills innocents. And it attempts to use successful murders to terrorize even the people who aren't killed. Terrorists frighten societies into compromising their values in ways they never would but for terrorism.

That is a primary terrorist goal.

The core American values of 1776 and 1789 that I've studied and loved since I was a child don't permit us to torture other humans, to use drones to target and kill people whose identities we don't even know, or to spy on the private communications of hundreds of millions of innocents. If it wasn't for Osama Bin Laden and the 9/11 hijackers we wouldn't permit any of those things.

So I can't help but feel that Al Qaeda succeeded in changing us -- that the terrorists won a small victory. But the victory won't last. Even as America has beefed up security at its airports and harbors, even as its airline passengers stand ready to fight off any attempted hijacking, even as our spy agencies infiltrate Al Qaeda and our FBI preempts plots with good, old-fashioned police work, civil libertarians are fighting to reestablish core Constitutional protections and values.

Those fights can both be won.  

We're fighting to make sure that being safer from terrorism doesn't come at the cost of liberty or justice, and sending a message to all those who'd try to change us by making us afraid: you will fail.

Bush and Obama have betrayed fear through the immoral policies they've adopted.

And Gov. Christie has just embraced the counterterrorism strategy of George W. Bush, a man whose fearfulness after 9/11 impaired his capacity for good judgment: due in part to fear of being attacked again, he launched a war against Iraq that killed many more Americans than 9/11. As it turns out, the threat Iraq posed was far less than what he led Americans to believe it was. 

Christie has also embraced the strategy of Barack Obama, who would have us believe that staying safe from terrorism requires a surveillance state the country got along without for all its history -- that to stay safe from terrorism, Americans must let him monitor all of our phone calls and more, and that debate about these policies isn't even permissible, they must be kept secret. 

Sitting before you, I won't exploit the memory of your loved one by pretending I oppose these policies on their behalf, or on yours. I will only say that no free society can totally eliminate the risk of terrorism, that nearly everyone who died on 9/11 loved America and the liberties it afforded, and that fighting for the full array of liberties that they enjoyed and loved before 9/11 does not in any way dishonor their memory -- it honors the freedom that I love as much as they did.

I'm sorry again for your loss, and I regret that Gov. Christie dragged you into this. Without invoking your suffering, his arguments aren't compelling enough to persuade a majority that he's correct.

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