Thursday, June 29, 2006

"Treason Is No Vice" -- But It Is Illegal

The following letter appeared in the Letters to Editor section of the San Francisco Chronicle, June 28, 2006. The bold print items are my interjected responses to his remarks. At the bottom is the letter I sent the Chronicle in response to Mr. Cripe’s letter. I am hopeful, as always, but it will probably meet the fate of all but two letters I have sent the Chronicle these past many years.

(UPDATE: My letter ran in the July 1, 2006 San Francisco Chronicle! Oh joy, oh rapture unforeseen! (My joy and unforeseen rapture are tempered by the realization that many years will pass and many more electrons will be wasted before my next letter will be published. Each happiness attained contains its seed of sadness.)

My blog is worthwhile to me, even if for no other reason than my letters will not suffer death eternal in the electronic trash can of an assistant to the assistant Letters editor. At least one other person somewhere out there in the blogosphere will see what I considered so important that I invested time and emotional energy to register. Agree, disagree, couldn’t care less, at least in some small way a line was drawn, a flag was raised, a disunity of opinion was recorded.

Here begins the letter:

'Treason against tyranny is no vice'

Editor -- House homeland security committee Chairman Peter King called the New York Times' reports on two secret surveillance programs "treason." It is revealing that the cause of this treason are the views of his political opponents. Terrorism is a legitimate threat, but it is not the only threat.

No, the cause of this treason is the unlawful compromise of classified information by its disclosure and dissemination. A view is an opinion, a law is a law. Terrorism may not be the only threat, but aiding terrorism in wartime is treason.

When a closed government acts in a secret and unrestrained manner against its citizenry, whatever its professed goals, it creates the appearance of tyranny, and is of great public interest to scrutinize. This scrutiny can only be called treasonous if tyranny has indeed returned to our shores.

Our government is not closed. Congressional leaders of both parties were informed of both programs and apprised of their progress, including their purpose, scope, and safeguards. Its unlawful disclosure is called treasonous because it aids the terrorists, and does nothing to safeguard any rights of our citizenry.

As an acid test of this last point, even the New York Times has not shown even one instance where rights were violated.

The National Security Agency program was only against citizenry who had contacts with known or suspected terrorists, and the SWIFT program did not involve any identifiable American citizens at all.

The administration was doing what the 9/11 Commission said should be done. Today’s critics are the same ones who castigated the administration for not doing more of this sort of thing to prevent 9/11.

I would remind Rep. King and his supporters that long before this war on terrorism, the American and French founders initiated the much bigger war against tyranny. This war was not ended with the defeat of the monarch. Our founders warned constantly of the enduring and seductive power of tyranny, particularly tyranny in the pursuit of a noble goal.

Tyranny is too fine a word to be so grossly abused. A tyrant is one who has no legal power to rule. President Bush is an elected leader of the United States. His administration gained the cooperation of an international banking consortium through legal means. I doubt even the Left thinks he can extend his “tyranny” to the control of SWIFT.

The details of a legal surveillance program were disclosed in violation of our laws. The consequences of the disclosure are a reduction in the effectiveness of finding and tracking terrorist activities, and the consequences of reduced effectiveness are more deaths caused by terrorists.

Tyranny is seductive because it is always the shortest path to that goal. But support of tyranny, even to achieve noble results, is anti-American. According to our founders, treason against tyranny is no vice. We must not cut and run in the war against tyranny.

Is it tyranny for an elected official to use legal means to prevent murder by terrorists?

ERIC CRIPE, Pacifica

My letter to the editor, as yet and probably for all time unpublished:

Eric Cripe, Pacifica, (Chronicle Letters June 28, 2006) paraphrased Barry Goldwater, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue,” to arrive at the statement that: “According to our founders, treason against tyranny is no vice.” Such sophistry should not pass without comment. The treason our founders committed was against the tyranny of England; they would not have justified treasonous acts against democratically elected leaders.

Since Mr. Cripe objects to the tyranny of the majority, he may commit acts of treason but in the understanding that he is breaking the law. For that he should expect punishment as a rightful consequence. If our laws are bad, we have a democratic process for changing them. Any other process is anarchy, or vigilantism. “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”

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