Update: I have edited this post to include new remarks from the Ron Paul Institute.
Thankfully, someone had the intellectual honesty to say “No, you’re not!”
However, the pittance of protest by people who happened to witness Former NSA Director Michael Hayden’s shameless attempt to equate himself with Judge Napolitano can’t downplay the significance him saying the words, “So am I.”
This was said at the Conservative Political Action Conference. He should have been booed off the stage and out of the room.
You Can’t Oppose the State When You’re the Director of A State Surveillance Agency
As the former director of the NSA, the spy wing of the federal government between 1999-2005, effectively the height of the War on Terror, he actively oversaw some of the most egregious violations of civil liberties this country has ever seen, which included eavesdropping on private citizens phone calls without a warrant.
Meanwhile, he is claiming he adheres to a political philosophy that does not allow for the state’s existence. Sure thing, Mike.
What makes the man’s statement so appalling isn’t that he headed an agency that has accomplished in terms of surveillance on its own people what the Gestapo and KGB could have only dreamed of. It’s that he is a charlatan, claiming to be something he is not. Had he accurately and truthfully described his beliefs and presented reasons why, one can respectfully disagree. At the very least, people can interact on honest terms.
I appreciate that many people are not eager to jump on the ant-state wagon quite yet, and for a former NSA director that is probably too strong a drink to swallow. But the fact that he managed to call himself a libertarian without laughing or denouncing the actions of the agency he headed up for six years tells you he is either a sociopathic liar or misinformed about what it means to be a libertarian. Consequently, neither is a good indicator of where libertarianism as a movement is headed.
Adam Hicks at the Ron Paul Institute strikes a similar tone:
It is hard to imagine a more preposterous assertion from Hayden who defends the United States government’s extensive torture program, many of the revolting details of which were recently revealed in a partially released Senate Intelligence Committee report, and oversaw the NSA mass spying program. Libertarians, of course, oppose such violations of individual rights.
If Hayden had changed his mind and become an opponent of the massive rights violations that intelligence agencies committed under his oversight, his “unrelenting libertarian” claim might not be so ridiculous. However, Hayden is instead a steadfast defender of the violations. After NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed information about the US government’s mass spying program, “unrelenting libertarian” Hayden “joked” about putting Snowden on President Barack Obama’s targeted killings list. And, when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who then chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee, started making some critical comments about the torture program, the “unrelenting libertarian” dismissed Feinstein’s concerns as the senator just being “emotional.”
More People Calling Themselves “Libertarian” Is Not a Good Thing
I’m sure some people will say that this is actually a positive thing: It means it’s no longer “taboo” to call yourself a libertarian, thus the movement is gaining traction and on its way to going mainstream. After all, if a former NSA director wants to be regarded as a libertarian, then won’t others be willing?
This sidesteps a more vital issue. Why it is now “permissible” to label yourself a libertarian, especially when you’re not one? Is it because more people are actually libertarians, or because the word has become so diluted of its meaning that anyone can consider themselves a libertarian without risking the loss of reputation or “approval” among people who still worship the state?
When the way people respond or react to a word changes, only one of two things have occurred; either the word’s definition has changed, or people’s attitudes towards the ideas contained in the definition of the word changed. Put differently, either the word no longer means what it once did or people’s beliefs shifted so that it is looked upon differently.
It would be nice if there were more libertarians in the world, but I fear all this demonstrates is the degradation of what it means to be a libertarian. What seems to be happening is that the definition of libertarian has been broadened to allow just about anyone who is willing to call themselves one. People aren’t afraid to call themselves a libertarian because it doesn’t mean what it used to.
Those seeking to exploit the change in the wind for political gain and grab power in the D.C. Swampland are certain to rejoice. Sure, there will still be an all-powerful federal government spending trillions of dollars expropriated from innocent people, military bases overseas, and programs like Social Security that will one day become insolvent and collapse.
But at least we can rest assure that those perpetuating it are “libertarians” so suddenly that makes it OK, because if a libertarian does something that violates the NAP, it must be all right….right?
It reminds me of a quote from an Irish republican in the film Wind That Shakes The Barley: All we’re changing is the accents of the powerful and the color of the flag.
That’s pretty much all that is going to happen trying to reform things within the system by stripping libertarianism of any value as a political philosophy to the point where the former NSA director can claim himself among our ranks without renouncing his actions on behalf of the state.