By Thomas Ravenel || Shortly after the federal government’s domestic spy network was exposed last spring, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham – my Senator – went on national television to say he was “glad” the National Security Agency was monitoring, collecting and storing our personal information.

“I’m a Verizon customer,” Graham said. “I don’t mind Verizon turning over records to the government if the government is going to make sure that they try to match up a known terrorist phone with somebody in the United States. I don’t think you’re talking to the terrorists. I know you’re not. I know I’m not.”

I’m curious: Other than the Fourth Amendment (which Graham is explicitly rejecting), what other indispensable American liberties would he sacrifice?

The government’s Orwellian domestic spy web — courageously exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden — represents a clear and present danger to fundamental American freedom. Its very existence recalls a prescient warning from founding father Benjamin Franklin, who wrote “they who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Why is Lindsey Graham urging us to ignore this wisdom? Is it the perpetuation of our government’s “War on Terror” — which continues to needlessly shed American blood and tax dollars on engagements of dubious benefit? If so, Graham clearly needs to reacquaint himself with the concept of a cost-benefit analysis.

I am not arguing against national security — which even the most zealous pro-liberty advocate should recognize as a core function of government. I am simply saying Graham’s definition of this function — like many of the Washington definitions he has embraced over the last two decades — is distorted. Our nation would be much more secure — and much freer — if it refrained from pursuing the costly and ineffective interventionist foreign policy advocated by Graham and his neoconservative allies.

Responding to criticism of the domestic spy scandal, President Barack Obama recently announced “reforms” to the program — although they did nothing to restore our lost liberties.

Obama’s solution involves forcing private-sector providers to retain this data — an arrangement that preserves government’s ability to access our private information while at the same time freeing up NSA hackers to engage in even more sophisticated data collection efforts.

None of this should make my senator “glad.” It should make him outraged. And if he doesn’t understand that, maybe he shouldn’t be my senator — or your senator — anymore.


Thomas Ravenel
Charleston, S.C.