With Barack Obama's appointment of the infamous Cass Sunstein to a newly created panel to oversee the National Security Agency (NSA), conservatives and liberals alike have demonstrated that they can work together on certain issues regarding the alarming power and reach of big government.
Sunstein is the former Harvard law professor who served during Obama's first term as administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. His appointment to the post drew howls of protests from conservatives and libertarians who were aware of Sunstein's undeniably extremist views on a variety of issues, such as using government informants to infiltrate citizen groups that oppose the growth and expansion of the size and scope of government.
Obama created the four-man oversight panel in response to the outrage over the illegal activity of the NSA in spying on ordinary American citizens, to the tune of over 100 million adults. The agency admitted to the wrongdoing. The panel will conduct a full review of all surveillance operations and top secret government programs.
In addition to Sunstein, Obama appointed former Bush security expert Richard Clarke, former acting CIA director Michael Morell, and former White House official Richard Swire.
But those who oppose the Sunstein appointment say that placing him in charge of investigating the secret spying programs of the NSA is akin to appointing al Qaeda to investigate atrocities committed by Muslim extremists. Sunstein is well known for advocating a near totalitarian government surveillance state that has even raised red flags at Salon -- a publication that is certainly not known for its conservative views.
Early in 2010, Glenn Greenwald at Salon did a thorough expose of Sunstein's extremist views and sounded the alarm. In a key paragraph, Greenwald stated,
In 2008, while at Harvard Law School, Sunstein co-wrote a truly pernicious paper proposing that the U.S. Government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-”independent” advocates to “cognitively infiltrate” online groups and websites — as well as other activist groups — which advocate views that Sunstein deems “false conspiracy theories” about the Government. This would be designed to increase citizens’ faith in government officials and undermine the credibility of conspiracists.
Sunstein even went as far as to advocate for the government's paying pro-government individuals who would then, in exchange for the money, regularly propagate the pro-government party line in an attempt to turn citizens against patriots and increase support for the Obama administration.
The reason for the use of ordinary citizens as paid propagandists, according to Sunstein, was so that they could appear "independent" to the citizenry while secretly receiving payment from the government to sway public opinion toward Obama administration programs. Citizens would thus assume that these were simply civic minded independent voters who wished to get involved in the political process, which, of course, would mean that the entire scheme was nothing but a lie.
Sunstein provides the motivation for paid propagandists. Greenwald stated,
Sunstein himself — as part of his 2008 paper — explicitly advocates that the Government should pay what he calls “credible independent experts” to advocate on the Government’s behalf, a policy he says would be more effective because people don’t trust the Government itself and would only listen to people they believe are “independent.”
Salon notes that George W. Bush employed the very same scheme when he sent out former Generals to pose as "independent analysts" while secretly coordinating their talking points with the Pentagon.
Sunstein's aim in all of this is to combat "conspiracy theories." But his voluminous works fail to distinguish legitimate conspiracy theories from false ones. Sunstein's starting point, his underlying assumption, is that any and all conspiracy theories are false and should thus be shut down by government forces.
But what about legitimate conspiracy theories? If the facts prove the theory, it ceases to be a mere theory. And so often in the Obama administration the facts have proved beyond any doubt that allegations of illegal government spying on citizens and targeting conservatives through the IRS are not theories at all but fact.
Sunstein makes no attempt to differentiate between such factual conspiracies and the many wild haired false theories that float around the Internet. And that is one of the reasons he is one of the most dangerous men in America.
On this both conservatives and liberals can fully agree.
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