One of the most fascinating parts of the Snowden controversy involves the possibility that the CIA or the military or perhaps even some super-secret NSA death squad will assassinate Snowden and thereby avoid the hassle of apprehending him and returning him for what would obviously be a highly publicized and not overly popular public trial.
Snowden himself raised the possibility of being assassinated by national-security state officials in his video interviews with Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald. Since then, there have been countless references in the mainstream press to the possibility that the U.S. national-security state apparatus will simply take him out.
What’s fascinating about all this is that no one, as far as I know, disputes that a state assassination of Snowden is a very real, distinct possibility. I have yet to encounter one single person in the mainstream press saying, “Conspiracy theory! Paranoia! Inconceivable!”
It finally seems to have seeped into the consciousness of the American people that their Cold War national-security state is fully capable of assassinating anyone, including a former employee of the national-security state, so long as “national security” is at stake.
Never mind, of course, that the term “national security,” the most important term in the lives of modern-day Americans, has no objective meaning and that it’s not even found in the Constitution. After all, what does the “security” of a nation mean? It means nothing. It is an empty, nebulous term that accomplishes nothing more than giving the military, the CIA, and the NSA a justification for existing amd the omnipotent power to do whatever they want, mostly in secret, including assassinating people whom they consider to be a threat to “national security.”
Let’s assume that Snowden is assassinated or that he suddenly commits “suicide.” My hunch is that 99 percent of the American people would suspect that it was the CIA, the Pentagon, or the NSA who murdered him. Certainly no one would be surprised if that did turn out to be the case.
If the evidence did point in the direction of the military, the CIA, or the NSA, would anything come of it? Of course not. The assassination would be considered a national-security state operation, one intended to protect “national security.” That would immunize the military, the CIA, and the NSA from official investigation or criminal prosecution.
There would be no possibility that the Justice Department would secure criminal indictments against what has effectively become the fourth branch of government—the national-security branch—the most powerful branch of all. The Justice Department would play its customary deferential role to the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA.
The same, of course, holds true for the Congress and the federal courts. There is no possibility that either of those two branches is going to take on the national-security branch, the branch that has overwhelming force on its side. Deference to “national security” would continue to be the order of the day, just as it is with other crimes committed in the name of “national security.”
What if Snowden’s parents were to sue the government for the wrongful death of their son? All that national-security state attorneys would have to do is enter the federal courtroom and cite “national security” and “state secrets” to the federal judge, who would immediately dismiss the suit.
That’s the type of system under which the American people now live, a system in which the old Cold War national-security state apparatus wields the power to assassinate anyone it wants with impunity. The power, of course, has existed for several decades but all too many Americans have not wanted to accept that reality. Their attitude has always been that that sort of thing happens in other countries and that it’s just inconceivable that such a thing could happen in the United States. It seems that the baring of the national-security state’s iron fangs in the Snowden controversy is causing Americans to finally accept the harsh reality of what the national-security state apparatus has done to the American system of government.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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