Sunday, November 2, 2014

Fruit From A Poisonous Tree

“Fruit from a poisonous tree” is a legal metaphor for evidence, the discovery of which is illegal or without proper authority, or in light of James Risen’s book, there’s no constitutional authority either.

Part Three, “Endless War”, reads like a eulogy, and in many ways I suppose it is: Risen quotes one NSA subcontractor, “Americans are living in the post-privacy age.” That sounds like a eulogy to me. The last chapter in part three, “War on Truth”, is the best part of the book, unfortunately it’s at the end and it’s too short. Most of the information in parts One and Two is about the Iraq war. Risen details the minutia of bureaucracy and corruption, crimes of greed and abuses of unrestrained power by the government, the CIA and various subcontractors. It’s easier to list the alleged crimes committed in the name of “the war on terror” after 9/11 (and for the next twelve years plus some), than it is to follow Risen’s slow and often tedious prose: secret bunkers of US cash hidden and buried in Iraq, contempt-of-congress, money laundering, grand theft, armed robbery, blackmail, war-profiteering, illegal kickbacks, tax-evasion, fraud, conspiracy, lying to federal authorities, illegal weapons sale, murder, torture, suspension of due process, targeting American citizens for execution, bribery, perjury, narcotic trafficking --  and this is just a partial list!

As interesting as all that is, and believe me it’s riveting, it’s still largely old news. We’ve become jaded to it and cynical, at least I have; if it’s the government, I almost expect it. But the last chapter, however -- “The War on Truth” -- focuses on the NSA, warrantless wiretaps, domestic surveillance and whistleblowers -- the risks they’ve taken and real threats to their lives and careers in their heroic and often futile attempts to inform the public about the escalation of the cybersecurity-intelligence-industrial complex. The impact on privacy and freedom of information is chilling, to say the least. Risen’s defense of investigative journalism and freedom of the press is brilliant! Personally, I wish his book would’ve spent more time on that, and less on facts over ten years old. Oh, well…..

Nietzsche wrote in the Will to Power, “Formerly one said of every morality: ‘By the fruits ye shall know them’. I say of every morality: ‘It is a fruit by which I recognize the soil from which it sprang.’” Risen’s book is a conversation about the soil out of which this poisonous tree grew and produced fruit. We should read his book and study our options before we have none left to consider; but it might be too late anyway.

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