Statement - Mal Warwick

In 65 years as a citizen of the United States, nearly half of those years as an entrepreneur and businessperson, I have never felt more deeply troubled by the actions of my government. I'm not referring exclusively to the government currently in power in Washington, D.C. I see developments during the present administration as largely an extension of disturbing trends that have been evident under both parties. One of those developments in particular is central to the increasing difficulties our nation and our society are experiencing both at home and abroad.

I am referring to the relentless accumulation of power by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government.

In itself, the arrogation of warrantless surveillance powers by the National Security Agency is frightening. As an extension of the increasing power of the presidency, it is profoundly disturbing. I do not believe our democracy can survive if this latest power grab is left standing.

What is left of American democracy if an agency of the United States Government, acting under the direction of the White House, can monitor our telephone and e-mail communications without notice, without prior clearance by the courts, and without any recourse in law?

For more than a quarter-century, my colleagues and I in Mal Warwick Associates have been in the business of advising nonprofit organizations how to raise more money. Our clients within the United States have numbered in the hundreds. In recent years, I personally have been consulting with dozens of organizations in other countries as well. How can my consulting clients, here in the U.S. or wherever they may be around the globe, trust that the confidential and proprietary information we exchange will remain hidden from prying eyes and ears?

The Attorney General has stated publicly that he is completely comfortable with listening in on calls from one person in the U.S. to another. Our leaders have given up even a pretense of only spying on the "bad guys." Our government has committed several tragic errors already in targeting supposed terrorists. More important still, anyone with even the most rudimentary knowledge of the NSA's operations understands the Agency does not send agents to tap phones or insert insidious software into individual computers. Instead, NSA uses extremely powerful electronic surveillance systems to sweep hundreds of thousands or millions of phone calls and e-mail messages into its databanks, where they are culled for tell-tale "keywords." Anyone at all may be caught in such a net.

When I was decades younger, I read about the growth of the "imperial presidency." But the power of the White House in those days pales by comparison with the dangerously concentrated power held by today's Commander-in-Chief.

At once head of state, generalissimo of the armed forces, and arbiter of domestic policy on every conceivable issue, President George W. Bush is unquestionably the most powerful individual in the history of humankind. He exercises the almost limitless capability to incinerate the planet, dominate affairs in any nation, distort market forces in any industry, enrich his friends and impoverish his enemies, and – now – to reach into any home in the nation and retrieve our most cherished secrets.

Your conversations, and mine, no matter how innocent, cannot escape their systems. Al Qaeda agent or no, you and I are under surveillance by the National Security Agency. I'll bet you don't like that any more than I do.

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