Déjà vu -- all over again

Déjà vu -- all over again

What has history taught us about the government spying on its people?

By Marguerite Renner , Robert M. Nelson 01/29/2014

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Recent developments suggest that it is time to pay homage, once again, to Yogi Berra, the all-star New York Yankee catcher. His well-known quote serves as the title of this article.  

Consider for a moment the following timeline:

June 5, 2013. The Washington Post and The Guardian report the existence of PRISM, a top-secret program under which the National Security Agency accesses the private communications of all Google and Yahoo account users and the phone records of Verizon subscribers. Four days later …

June 9, 2013. The Guardian and the Post report that the revelations were made by NSA computer contractor Edward Snowden, who was then in Hong Kong, seeking asylum. Fourteen days later …

June 23, 2013. Snowden boards Aeroflot flight 213 to Moscow, his ultimate destination, Ecuador. Upon arriving at Sherementyevo airport he is prevented from proceeding. His US passport had been revoked. Four days later …

June 27, 2013. President Obama downplays the situation saying,” I’m not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker.” Four days later …

July 1, 2013. Ecuador’s President Evo Morales, at a conference in Russia, says that Ecuador would consider a Snowden asylum request. The next day …

July 2, 2013. Violating diplomatic protocol, Spain, France, and Italy deny Morales’ plane access to their airspace, forcing an emergency landing in Austria. The plane is boarded, searched and Snowden is not found. Twenty-four days later …

July 26, 2013. Russian Parliament Speaker Sergei Naryshkin proposes asylum for Snowden in Russia to protect him from the death penalty if deported to the USA. The next day …

July 27, 2013. US Attorney General Eric Holder promises the Russian Justice Minister that Snowden will not face the death penalty if Russia extradites him. Five days later …

Aug. 1, 2013. After 39 days in the Sherementyevo airport transit zone, Snowden is granted temporary asylum. Snowden goes to an “undisclosed location.” Forty days later …

Sept. 9, 2013. The Guardian and The New York Times report that the NSA was spying on the electronic communications of Petrobras — the Brazilian National Oil Company, suggesting industrial espionage, not national security, as a motive for the NSA spying. Eight days later …

Sept. 17, 2013. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff cancels her US visit upon learning that the NSA was spying on her email. Thirty-six days later …

Oct. 23, 2013. Germany’s Der Spiegel reports that the NSA was monitoring Angela Merkel’s cell phone.  Merkel protests to Obama. The White House spokesman Jay Carney says, “The United States is not and will not monitor the communications of the Chancellor.” Four days later …

Oct. 27, 2013. In London, the Telegraph reports that President Obama was told about the eavesdropping on Merkel in 2010 and allowed the monitoring to continue. Fifty-one days later …

Dec. 17, 2013. Ex-CIA Director James Woolsey says that “… Snowden should be hanged by the neck until dead.” Seventeen days later…

Jan. 3, 2014. The New York Times editorializes that Snowden should be given leniency and be allowed to return to the US. 

TIME WARP! Forty-three years earlier …

March 8, 1971. Eight people break into the Media, Pa., FBI office stealing over 1,000 confidential FBI files which led to the revelation of the COINTELPRO program where the CIA, FBI and NSA spied on thousands of American progressive activists, including Martin Luther King, Jr. The eight people are never apprehended. Ninety-six days later … 

June 13, 1971. The New York Times publishes the first installment of the Pentagon Papers, released by Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo.
TIME WARP, the present 

Jan. 7, 2014. Bonnie and John Raines, a daycare center manager and a Temple University professor, announce that they were two of the group of eight who carried out the Media, Pa., FBI break 43 years earlier.

TIME WARP, 109 years earlier …

Date unknown, 1905. George Santayana writes, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” 

TIME WARP, Fifty-three years earlier
Date unknown, 1852. Karl Marx writes, “History repeats itself, first as a tragedy and then as a farce.” 

Robert M. Nelson, a NASA research scientist and a member of the board of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, and Marguerite Renner, chair of the Department of History at Glendale Community College, are residents of Pasadena. The views expressed are entirely their own.

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