Sunday, March 18, 2012

Turning Away

At the New York Times, a story that suggests the increasing hollowness of our highly notional self-governance: "Democratic Senators Issue Strong Warning About Use of the Patriot Act."

The story describes "a top-secret intelligence operation" -- apparently a domestic intelligence operation -- that is based on a "secret legal theory." How on earth do we self-govern in the face of secret legal theories? What can there be a social contract, or a government built on the consent of the governed, if the structure and boundaries of the law are discovered by government through hidden processes?

Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall "also said that Americans would be 'stunned” to know what the government thought the Patriot Act allowed it to do." But we'll have to go on being pre-stunned, because we're not going to be allowed to know the thing that would stun us.

But here's my bet: If the government made its "secret legal theory" public, Americans would mostly not be stunned. Certainly not many people at the New York Times would notice.

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