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A Republic of Spies

Judge Andrew P. Napolitano on

Late last Friday, the National Counterintelligence and Security Center warned the American public against the dangers of spyware manufactured by one Israeli corporation. Spyware is unwanted software that can expose the entire contents of one's mobile or laptop device to prying eyes.

This warning from the feds, issued with a straight face, is about as credible as American television executives warning about the dangers of watching too many British period dramas.

Here is the backstory.

Though America has used the services of spies since the Revolutionary War, until the modern era, spying was largely limited to wartime. That changed when America became a surveillance state in 1947 with the public establishment of the Central Intelligence Agency and the secret creation of its counterparts.

The CIA's stated public task at its inception was to spy on the Soviet Union and its satellite countries so that American officials could prepare for any adverse actions by them. This was the time of the Red Scare, in which both Republicans and Democrats fostered the Orwellian belief that America needed a foreign adversary.

We had just defeated Germany in World War II, and an ally of ours in that war -- an ally that suffered horrendous losses -- suddenly became so strong it needed to be kept in check. The opening salvo in this absurd argument was fired by President Harry Truman in August 1945 when he used nuclear bombs intentionally to target civilians of an already defeated Japan. One of his targets was a Roman Catholic cathedral.

 

But his real target -- so to speak -- was his new friend, Joe Stalin.

When Truman signed the National Security Act into law in 1947, he also had Stalin in mind. That statute, which established the CIA, expressly stated that it shall have no internal intelligence or law enforcement functions and its collections of intelligence shall come from outside the United States.

These limiting clauses were integral to the statute creating the CIA, as members of Congress who crafted it feared the U.S. was creating the type of internal surveillance monster that we had just defeated in Germany.

Of course, no senior official in presidential administrations from Truman to Joseph R. Biden has taken these limitations seriously. Last week, this column reminded readers that as recently as the Obama administration, the CIA boasted that it had the capability of receiving data from all computer chips in the homes of Americans.

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