But politicians will do what they can get away with, especially those from Texas, and Lyndon Johnson undermined that excellent army by outflanking Congress with the phony Tonkin Gulf incident, seizing war powers and plunging us into arguably the most catastrophic war in our history. Revulsion was widespread and intense, and it spanned all classes.
In the 1980s a change began, slowly at first, then snowballing. Privatization was the word: hire experts and save money. In this century we have a volunteer army that includes few personnel from families of influence. This undercuts citizen resistance to war. Added to it are mercenaries (remember the Hessians?), fighting with no effective governance. These are provided by a large and growing industry of private military companies/firms (PMCs/PMFs), and they have provided some of the most expensive and damaging services of any companies working with the federal government. The United Nations Mercenary Convention was intended to prohibit this, but hasn’t, owing to various word games and redefinitions, and the Geneva Convention rules have never been ratified by the US. Bottom line, PMCs/PMFs are very profitable for the mercenaries (creating morale problems with regular troops who are paid a tiny fraction of what mercenaries earn), and enormously profitable for their employers. Privatization also extends to hugely expensive military projects (remember the electrified showers?), and work formerly done by the Navy Seabees is also contracted out.
There have been many PMC/PMF scandals, none of them effectively prosecuted, because there has been little or no control of their fighting and security activities or the quality of their work. These companies operate in a legal limbo, and offenses that would normally result in court martial or lawsuit can’t be prosecuted. Blackwater (re-branded Academi) is the name people remember from civilian shoot-em-ups in Iraq, but the problem is endemic. Through lobbying, the industry is able to operate freely without repercussions. (Which is why Ike originally referred to the military-industrial-congressional complex.)
The Iraq war saw the full flowering of privatization, with profit streams going to (a) weapons manufacture, (b) mercenaries and (c) construction and other non-combat work. In this way, hundreds of billions in tax revenues was diverted to these corporations.
What does any of this have to do with Ed Snowden and PRISM? Intelligence and security are the new privatization revenue streams. Booz Allen Hamilton was Ed’s employer, and they never bothered to vet him for his privileged position. If they had, it would have been obvious from his activities that he was his own man, and had strong opinions about right and wrong. Snowden made no secret of his ideas and ideals, and a routine background check would have made it clear that he wasn’t your average dropout. People who claim he did it to become famous are saying more about themselves than Ed Snowden.
Whether Snowden is a traitor or a man practicing what Thoreau termed “civil disobedience” for the good of his country depends on your POV. But we do know one thing: Privatizing Intelligence hasn’t been a blessing for this country, but for giant corporations, just as with arms sales, mercenaries, etc. Privatization has become corporate welfare, because the military-industrial complex can buy all the Congress-people and Senators they need for what amounts to chump change – barely a rounding error for mega-corporations with multi-billion-dollar revenues. They can also blackmail them if necessary; they have the means.)
Then they do as they please. Lately it pleases them to put vital security secrets in the hands of bright but unpredictable young guys. We’re very lucky Snowden didn’t make himself rich with what he knew, and railroading him won’t solve the problem.
Strangely, Tea-people and OWS people are largely agreed on this. Go figure.