cooch.pixBy Peter Galuszka

Tomorrow, Kenneth Cuccinelli leaves office after an intriguing run as attorney general and as a failed Republican gubernatorial candidate. Say what you want about him (I certainly have) but Cuccinelli can never be accused of being boring.

So, it seems especially remarkable that his first task after leaving office will be to help U.S. Sen. Rand Paul in his lawsuit against the Obama Administration for the massive government eavesdropping and collection of cell phone calls, emails and text messages that were brought to light by fugitive Edward Snowden, now in Moscow.

On one level, the involvement of a staunch conservative like Cuccinelli in an issue that has eerie resemblances to the Pentagon Papers case back in the early 1970s seems strange if not downright bizarre.

Maybe not. Cuccinelli has always had a ying to his yang. While pushing ahead with abortion rules that brought great protest from feminists and pro-choice advocates, he has also supported women’s issues when they involve such crimes as date rape and violence. He may want to put what he considers to be hordes of Medicaid cheats in jail but he went far to help an innocent man get out of prison.

Suing the government is nothing new for Cuccinelli, as his measures against Obamacare have shown.

Still, it is weird that by opposing an overly-powerful National Security Agency fed by hysteria after the 9-11 attacks, he is kin to the very liberals who risked prison to make public the secret history of the despised Vietnam War.

In remember that well. I was rising college sophomore in June 1971 and like many, I opposed the war. Lucky for me I was just a smidge too young and the war was winding down for me to be a serious candidate for the draft, although I did have a draft card and knew plenty of people who had fought in Southeast Asia. I had been teargassed five or six times at anti-war demonstrations as a high school student int he DC area and later as a college student in Boston.

The Pentagon Papers were the secret study ordered by former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and purloined by defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg, the Snowden of his day.

The New York Times took a big risk and published them. Later, The Washington Post, also under significant legal, political and corporate pressure, did the same.

Among other things, the papers revealed that, contrary to what the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations had claimed, the U.S. had secret operations to provoke the North Vietnamese into combat. Of course, they were aiding the Viet Cong in the South, but the extent of American duplicity had never been documented.

Liberals and anti-war activists hailed the papers’ release as a major victory for liberty. Conservatives were aghast that classified documents would be released in such a way. You had to live through those times to realize just how polarized the country was. It was nothing like today. Then President Richard Nixon seemed  inclined to let the publication slide since it made Democrats look bad until adviser Henry Kissinger said that the precedent could screw up future U.S. attempts at secret deals.

The scary thing about the current problem is that advanced technology allows the government to cache just about anything electronic. This raises fears about how much data can be gathered about us and how it will jeopardize our personal freedoms. This is no “Internet of Things” buzzword popular among the chattering classes. The fears date back years and now they are coming true.

Of course, the NSA has been gathering information for decades. That’s what it does when it isn’t breaking codes. It is essential for U.S. security but there must be limits. Obama has pitched some but the horse is well out of the barn.

Paul and Cuccinelli are wrong to claim that this is all Obama’s fault without noting the huge role George W. Bush played. Bush’s post 9-11 actions were needed to prevent future terror bloodlettings but he went too far. The entire Iraq War was not necessary and based on bad intelligence.

In any event, it is indeed curious that Cuccinelli has chosen the Rand lawsuit as the focus of his next endeavor. One wonders what’s next after that.

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5 responses to “Cuccinelli, the NSA and the Pentagon Papers”

  1. After this he will probably try and prosecute Edward Snowden.

    Seriously though, there really are no secrets anymore. Now that the government knows EVERYTHING about us as individuals (and I mean everything), I am not sure how all of this will play out.

    The FISA court/NSA relationship is scary stuff, for sure.

    So, here’s my question. Is Snowden a hero or a criminal?

  2. he broke the law… but he broke it like a criminal ratting on a Mafia Boss.

    how’s that?

  3. there is a war going on within the Republican Party over the role of government in National Security … a chaotic internal disagreement….

    and to me an interesting aspect is the deal about not compromising one’s principles which initially gave the GOP the excuse to not compromise with the Dems on anything and now that same mindset looks to be splitting the GOP into camps that refuse to compromise even each other.

    of course Rand and Cucinelli are a bit of odd bedfellows also as Rand is a staunch and well known Libertarian and Cucinelli has no discernible Libertarian roots other than a “me too” lapel pin and even then he has a much larger rent-seeking, crony-capitalist Star Scientific lapel bin.

    Rand has some (but not truly consistent) principles, Cucinelli appears to me to be little more than a opportunist partisan whose prior views on the NSA seem to be non-existent but provide an opportunity to get to use it as a partisan weapon.

    Where were these two defenders of Liberty when Bush was telling the SCOTUS that they had no jurisdiction in Gitmo where innocent folks (Uighur) were kidnapped and held for 12 years?

    not a word from either of them on the illegality of that as far as I can tell.

    “Principals” ought not change depending on whether someone has a D or R next to their name – at least in theory so the Paul/Cucinelli “outrage” over the NSA has a very tainted aspect to it.

    Give the lefty liberals credit.. they CONSISTENTLY oppose GITMO, torture, kidnapping AND the NSA and sending our young off to get sliced and diced on dumb NeoCon Nation-building lunacy.

    talk to the GOP – and they are all over the map on these things…

  4. Maybe criminal was the wrong comparison……is he a hero or a villain?

  5. same answer.. is a alienated killer for the MOB who turns on them and out’s them .. a hero or a villain?

    or let’s sharpen this more… someone was forced to do bad things to keep their job and then they turned on their employer?

    I characterize “bad things” as doing things your bosses were telling Congress they were not doing?

    There is no question the NSA was lying to Congress and the American Public.

    It’s also clear (at least to me) that collecting bulk phone data in real time is what you need to do to stop bad guys that are in the process. bulk phone data after the fact is just post-mortem like 911 was.

    What’s amusing to me is the ignorance of management as to what a system administrator does.

    that kind has access to everything that is on the system – AND he is SKILLED at capturing and moving data.

    all system administrators still have this level of access – and the reason why is truly ironic – computers were never designed to be secure to start with and the ones that are explicitly designed to be secure require many more data administrators …

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