06/18/2013 02:24 pm ET Updated Aug 18, 2013

Spying and Lying: It's a Guy Thing

As half of Washington scrambles around trying to justify the government's huge electronic dragnet, these frenzied apologists are sounding as dumb and naive as the characters in old American westerns.

They are talking about catching "the bad guys." Honestly! You will read these very words in report after report. Whether testifying in closed hearings or talking to journalists, they constantly raise the specter of "bad guys" without ever specifying who these guys are, or why they are bad.

Can't they at least have the intelligence to say "enemy suspects" or "potential terrorists"?

"Bad guys" could be their neighbor next door who doesn't empty his garbage or the family upstairs who blasts music after midnight.

"Bad guys" sounds like kids playing cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians. And that's what our elected and non-elected officials seem to be doing: using the most sophisticated instruments of espionage to steal into everyone's private lives and find reasons to arrest them and put them behind bars. It would be a childish game if it weren't so deadly.

Of course, the people doing this espionage are the "good guys" -- John Wayne incarnate, the Lone Ranger and Tonto. We are supposed to trust in their virtue and rectitude without question or criticism. We are just the "little guys" and the big guys are protecting us.

It is ironic that many Americans, for many years, have been criticizing the
so-called "nanny states" -- those countries where social programs appear to keep the populace quiescent and subordinate. (The Scandinavian countries, for example, whose citizens are, overall, well governed and content.) Yet today, silent quiescence is the scourge of America, as people awaken to more and more news about spying and surveillance... and go back to sleep.

We should be listening to the good guys who are trying to wake us up. That includes Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden. The guys we've trusted in Washington (and let's face it, they're mostly guys) have operated with absolutely no oversight, have knowingly trashed the Constitution, or have simply closed their eyes to what has been going on.

They, along with the president, are the bad guys -- the outlaws -- in this star-spangled drama.