December 25, 2013 - Pretty much everyone who's seen the movie "A Few Good Men," (and probably many of you who haven't even seen the movie) are familiar with the famous "you can't handle the truth!" scene in which Colonel Jessup, played by Jack Nicholson
explodes at Tom Cruise's character, suggesting that military men, like himself, who are on the front lines are the only ones who can truly understand what happens there in "protecting" the country, and that it's somehow despicable that anyone who hasn't done that might question the methods used -- even if they might be completely against the law.
We already wrote about Barton Gellman's fantastic interview with Ed Snowden, but there's another tidbit I wanted to call attention to in there, in which Gellman tells the story of a four-star general having a similar explosion towards an unnamed reporter
"in contact with Snowden" -- which seems likely to be Gellman himself (it's unclear why this isn't indicated, though perhaps it's an excessive attempt to stick to the journalistic convention of keeping the reporter out of the story):
At the Aspen Security Forum in July, a four-star military officer known for his even keel seethed through one meeting alongside a reporter he knew to be in contact with Snowden. Before walking away, he turned and pointed a finger.
"We didn't have another 9/11," he said angrily, because intelligence enabled warfighters to find the enemy first. "Until you've got to pull the trigger, until you've had to bury your people, you don't have a clue."
This is all sorts of ridiculous on so many different levels. First of all, arguing that we haven't had another 9/11 because of the NSA's activities -- despite a near total lack of support for this claim -- is just nonsensical without any clear causal explanation. But, the bigger issue is this insane belief among some that an "any means necessary" approach to defending the country means its okay to violate the law and the constitution, and, furthermore, the suggestion that a little sunlight might put people at risk.
If such programs are really necessary and do save lives, then those who support them should be willing and able to have them discussed in public. But, of course, we know the truth: that the Section 215 program at the center of all of this hasn't done much at all other than violate the privacy of nearly everyone.
It seems quite troubling that this attitude, as seen in Hollywood movies, might actually exist within our military. They're supposed to be protecting not just the American population, but the Constitution and principles we hold dear, like freedom of the press.