Whistleblowing While You Work

Seattle

Tim Shorrock’s article on the NSA Four, “Obama’s Crackdown on Whistleblowers” [April 15], points to the problem of hiring private contractors to do the NSA’s work. Shorrock also reveals the revolving door between NSA personnel and the private companies they later work for. Profits motivate these contractors and pose a huge conflict of interest, and taxpayers are picking up the tab. These corporations have no loyalty to the American people, and they do not have to answer to us. That they could manufacture a need for the surveillance of private citizens is of enormous concern.

Shorrock reports that the whistleblowers have been harassed and blacklisted for speaking out. Average citizens are also under surveillance and harassed by groups like InfraGard and other for-profit agencies. (The military has also been a part of the organized bullying and smearing of whistleblowers and peace activists, according to the ACLU.)

I discovered I was on a watch list when I was detained at the US-Canadian border. Why? I don’t know; every FOIA request I submit is denied. If my name can appear on a watch list when I have done nothing to warrant it, then anyone can be vilified and harassed. We need more whistleblowers and more protection for them. 

SEANA SPERLING 


‘Jock’ Rape Culture

Reno, Nev.

I was drawn to Jessica Valenti’s “Rape—Still No Joke” [April 15], about the rape of an unconscious 16-year-old girl by two young men at a party, where the attackers and the onlookers “didn’t think anything was wrong,” proving this by broadcasting their crime on social networks. I have just learned that my 18-year-old grandniece was raped by a college football player at a party recently. No one is supposed to know about this assault—it’s a secret, a big secret kept by her family because of shame.

The attacker has been charged. My niece had to leave college because she couldn’t hold up under the harassment of the perpetrator’s teammates and others because she pressed charges. She is recovering at home without support from other family and friends because of the “no talk” rule. The rape was devastating, but barring friends and family from giving support is devastating as well. The adage “Your secrets keep you sick” applies here and could have the most severe consequence: suicide. Receiving love and care from people outside the immediate family would promote her processing this violation and is imperative for her healing. 

I believe our “jock” culture is to blame, along with the media’s portrayal of women as toys to be used for the glory of men and their supremacy. 

ANNA LEET (pseudonym)


Gay Marriage: Outdated From the Start?

Salt Lake City

Melissa Harris-Perry [“Sister Citizen,” April 15] makes a cogent point that gay marriage equality is important but perhaps superfluous. As a marital and family therapist for forty years, I believe that apart from marriage equality, marriage as an institution is becoming outdated. One survey reveals that around 60 percent of Americans believe marriage is an anachronism.

I expect they are mostly younger folks. Marriage has become burdened with accretions like parenting, economic stability, duty, roles and social status. Some of these characteristics are still relevant, but without the dynamism of a vital relationship between two autonomous people, marriage becomes an empty shell. I have seen the shells for years. So I don’t try to sustain the institution; I lead couples toward understanding the human need for vital, evolving connection within the “containment” of a commitment to each other, not to a social institution. That, I believe, is part of marriage equality.

RICHARD PASSOTH


Anthony Lewis & Noam Chomsky

Cambridge, Mass.

Eric Alterman writes that Anthony Lewis “found himself under fire…from Noam Chomsky, because Lewis…refused to recognize what Chomsky believed were the evil intentions that lay behind America’s nefarious activities.”

In Towards a New Cold War, Chomsky referred to Lewis (not the only occasion on which he praised Lewis in print) as “a serious and effective critic of the war” and “the most outspoken dove on the New York Times.” He then cited this passage by Lewis, from a retrospective column on the Vietnam War: “The early American decisions on Indochina can be recognized as blundering efforts to do good. But by 1969 it was clear to most of the world—and to most Americans—that the intervention had been a disastrous mistake.” 

Chomsky observed: “Our own respectable doves share some fundamental assumptions with the hawks. The US government is honorable. It may make mistakes, but it does not commit crimes. It is continually deceived and often foolish…but it is never wicked. Crucially, it does not act on the basis of the perceived self-interest of dominant social groups, as other states do.”

This, Chomsky concluded, amounted to a failure to “apply to the United States the intellectual and moral standards that are taken for granted when we analyze and evaluate the behavior of officially designated enemies or, for that matter, any other power.”

Anthony Lewis was an admirable man. But his faith that good intentions lay behind US policy in Indochina deserved to be challenged. And still does.

GEORGE SCIALABBA


Alterman Replies

New York City

These are my notes from my 1989 discussion with Lewis, upon which I based my column: “I’ve only seen professor Chomsky once in my life: It was this time he published this vast book on the press, and he was addressing a meeting at UMass, Boston, where he had denounced me, and as I announced my name, there was a hush across the room. But that is all I remember about it. Professor Chomsky has a generally conspiratorial view of life; there is a conspiracy between the press and the right-wing forces that rule society. My experience tells me differently. I don’t think Vietnam was a conscious evil of the kind that Professor Chomsky always seems to see. I think there was a less conscious evil than just a miscalculation and ignorance.”

ERIC ALTERMAN


Horror of War Comes Home

Taos, N.M.

Reading Jonathan Schell’s review of Nick Turse’s Kill Anything That Moves [Feb. 4] and the letters that followed [“Letters,” March 4, April 29], I wonder whether there might be a connection between the many My Lais I’ve heard about for years and the 58,000-plus suicides and the high number of PTSD cases afflicting Vietnam veterans. I also wonder whether the suicides of Afganistan and Iraq veterans  might have a connection to atrocities they committed. The wanton killing of men, women and children cannot occur without adverse impact on the minds of the perpetrators, unless they are psychopaths.

ANDRES VARGAS