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When do Americans say, 'Enough'?

| Friday, July 5, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

From back in our history, Ronald Reagan gave a very apposite warning to those of us insistent on protecting our self-governing republic:

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States, where men (and women) were free.”

Consider the penetrating national — indeed, global — impact of Edward Snowden's disclosures of the U.S. government's ceaseless, massive spying on us. A former contractor for the National Security Agency, Snowden has “opened an unprecedented window on the details of surveillance by the NSA, including its compilation of logs of virtually all telephone calls in the United States and its collection of emails of foreigners from the major American Internet companies, including Google, Yahoo, Apple and Skype”

Why did he do it? Snowden — now supported by Glenn Greenwald (who broke the story in The Guardian), John Whitehead, Judge Andrew Napolitano, Daniel Ellsberg and myself -- came to realize that “We The People” are constitutionally entitled to know who is stealing our identities.

Snowden, who was charged with criminality and violating the Espionage Act by Barack Obama, exclaimed in an online chat on The Guardian's website: “All I can say right now is the U.S. government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped.”

Moreover, Snowden has defined himself against Obama and his other critics: “I did not reveal any U.S. operations against legitimate military targets. I pointed out where the NSA has hacked civilian infrastructure, such as universities, hospitals and private businesses because it is dangerous. These nakedly, aggressively criminal acts are wrong, no matter the target” (“Edward Snowden: NSA whistleblower answers reader questions,” guadian.co.uk, June 17).

This raises the question among more and more Americans: When will Obama be held accountable — under oath, with full due process — for his criminal acts against us?

There is an extraordinary rumbling to expose and make accountable Obama's gluttonous contempt for the Constitution's separation of powers. The United States is not yet a kingdom. But as Ellsberg recently emphasized: “I wouldn't count on the current (Supreme) court with its current makeup making the same ruling with the Pentagon Papers.” (In 1971, Ellsberg startlingly released the Pentagon Papers and was put on trial for it because they revealed deep, dark secrets about the U.S. government's conduct of the Vietnam War. The Supreme Court later cleared Ellsberg in a historic free-speech decision.)

If we don't take back our country, Ellsberg warned, “not only Obama but the people who come after him will have powers that no previous president had. Abilities on surveillance that no country in the history of the world has ever had”

Nat Hentoff is a nationally renowned authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights. He is a member of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the Cato Institute, where he is a senior fellow.

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