His words reach us now, more than 250 years later, at a time when Congress is considering clipping the National Security Agency’s wings after citizens became aware that our own government is spying on us.
Franklin would no doubt be leading the charge to stomp out the NSA’s domestic activities and redirect their efforts toward threats from the outside. He would characterize this full-scale espionage on its citizenry as nothing less than anti-American and un-constitutional.
Americans themselves, however, are split on this issue. Some think that they have nothing to hide, so spy away if it keeps us even a little bit safer. Others think this is a sign of a big brother, tyrannical government that has become too intrusive and controlling of its populace.
The truth of the matter is that our Founding Fathers would have been outraged at the most recent National Security Agency’s activities. But, then again, most of us would have been equally as outraged pre-9/11.
9/11 changed everything. The terrorist attacks shattered our collective belief that we were untouchable. And it was with 9/11 that our freedoms, and privacy, started to disintegrate.
Our phone records, texts, e-mails and Internet usage are being tracked, recorded and analyzed. This is happening. To us all.
The federal government holds up the shiny promise of national security and downplays just how much we’ve lost. The problem is that this is all an illusion of security.
Now that the curtain has been pulled aside, and some of the domestic espionage revealed, it’s tough not to look at the man behind the curtain. Perhaps it is because of this public relations nightmare that congressmen and women are scrutinizing the NSA, how it is funded and what exactly it does.
What some members of Congress have said, however, lead us to believe that they’ve known about this domestic spying for quite some time.
One congressman said the American people would be shocked to learn how much the government knows about them. And this was before the leaks about the cellphone tracking.
President Obama himself said Congress has approved and known about the NSA’s activities for years. But yet now Congress members are “shocked” to learn about the NSA’s activities, once the American people started asking questions.
Hmm — that seems a little disingenuous.
We can only hope that the decisions Congress and our president make – and any subsequent follow-through – will uphold our freedoms and rights as American citizens while providing a necessary level of national security.
It is a delicate balance, but one that must be achieved. If not, Franklin just might turn out to be right – that we’ll lose both our security and freedom.
Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.