Government has the ability to record your phone calls, track all your emails and snail mail and use the collected “metadata” (data about communications or data about data) to extensively learn about you under the pretext of national security (Google “PRISM”).
This is still an open democracy in principle, which is at odds with closed institutional secrecy. Edward Snowden exposing NSA activities doesn’t exactly restore people’s faith in government.
The implications of covert behavior on the civil rights of ordinary Americans should already be obvious: Spying on Americans feeds an intrusive, powerful apparatus that corrodes democratic freedoms, besides undermining trust.
Because of limited oversight, America’s secret agencies possess an inordinate amount of power. They’re virtually immune from getting caught committing “dirty tricks.” In today‘s government intelligence-gathering agencies, secrecy corrupts and absolute secrecy corrupts absolutely.
The abuses of the Soviet KGB, Hitler’s Gestapo and China’s Shuanggui secret police all too well attest to the dangers to individual freedom inherent in the unchecked activities of all-powerful, secret police organizations.
Jim Garrison, who investigated JFK’s assassination, once said, “I’m afraid, based on my own experience, that fascism will come to America in the name of national security.” Let’s certainly hope he’s dead wrong.