John Brennan will go to Capitol Hill today for his confirmation hearing as the next director of the CIA. Thanks to the news about the memo on drones, it should be an interesting hearing.
Whether or not you think killing people — Americans or not — by remote control is a good or a bad idea, or whether you think the level of secrecy around it insulates us as a people from the harsh things our government does in our name, the part that gets to a lot of people — myself included — is that the attitude of the people who knew about it turns out to be “Trust us.” As anyone who has grown up beyond the age of ten knows, when you have to tell someone to trust you, you shouldn’t.
I don’t buy into all the conspiracy nutsery (see below), but I also believe trust is binary: you either have it or you don’t, and winning it back is not just a matter of “Well, we mislead you on this, but the next time, trust us.” It becomes a loop.
Charlie Pierce gets to it.
It is now beyond cliche to observe that government secrecy “breeds distrust” in our institutions. What is never mentioned is that, if you breed enough distrust in the institutions — or, more to the point, if the activities of the institutions breed distrust in themselves — the trust people once placed in them has to go somewhere. And, generally, it goes into dreams and schemes and circus clowns that the people dream up themselves. The very real use of drones, and the very real possibility that they will be in general use in domestic law-enforcement before very long, because we’re more than already halfway there now, already have combined to set the paranoid imagination fully a’bloom. Government secrecy and deception blurs the line between genuine fears over the decline of civil liberties, and the wild-assed fantasies of the black-helicopter crowd. If you want to see the true destructive power of Droneworld in this country, look deeply into the Id of the democratic political imagination. There are angry, feral creatures in there, stalking the ruins, howling for blood.
There are those who will never trust the government or any elected official. They fully believe that once someone becomes a public servant they are secretly led into the cabal and become “one of them.” They’re the ones who start looking for pods in the basement. It’s when the rest of us start thinking that there might be something to it that we get into real trouble.