In the iconic, early-nineteenth century horror novel, Frankenstein, Dr. Victor Frankenstein, obsessed with the science of life, creates a monster out of used body parts. Soon, however, Dr. Frankenstein comes to realize the horror of his creation, and is forced to deal with the tragic consequences of his obsession, as the monster grows beyond his control, and eventually turns on its creator.
Like the story of Frankenstein, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are coming to terms with the privacy monster they created through a patchwork of unconstitutional laws that give the Executive Branch virtually unlimited power to surveill all manner of electronic communications by law-abiding citizens. While Dr. Frankenstein created his monster in the name of “science,” these senatorial enablers created theirs in the name of “national security.” And, like the hapless Dr. Frankenstein, the good Sen. Feinstein is now seeing her creation turn on her.
Last May, I wrote about Obama’s insistence that the scandals plaguing his Administration were the result of rogue officials acting without oversight -- as if Big Government has become a “sentient being” capable of operating without actual executive direction. Yet, this autonomous culture of extra-judicial action is largely a byproduct of years of sanctioning by one Congress after another turning a blind eye to the blatant constitutional abuses by the NSA and other federal agencies.
Only now that the monster is awake, and perhaps even beyond the control of its masters, are government officials “outraged” at what they themselves helped create.
Reports of domestic snooping by the NSA ignited a long-needed debate about the executive branch’s attack on the fundamental privacy rights of American citizens, and about the very balance of power between the executive and legislative branches. However, more recent revelations about CIA spying on the communications of members of Congress and their staffs (including Feinstein’s) has expanded the scope of the debate, and raised fears of an out-of-control government to a new level.