Five Best Monday Columns

Daniel Ellsberg on NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Maria Bustillos on the slow rise of the security state, Kai Wright on how proprietary colleges prey on ambition, Bill Keller on the future of affirmative action, and Jessica Valenti on the realities of enforcing abortion policy.

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Daniel Ellsberg at The Guardian on NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden "There has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden's release of NSA material — and that definitely includes the Pentagon Papers 40 years ago," writes Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst who in 1971 leaked the Pentagon Papers. He concludes: "Snowden did what he did because he recognized the NSA's surveillance programs for what they are: dangerous, unconstitutional activity. This wholesale invasion of Americans' and foreign citizens' privacy does not contribute to our security; it puts in danger the very liberties we're trying to protect." In a separate essay published at The Daily Beast, Ellsberg adds, "I definitely have a new hero in Edward Snowden, the first one since Bradley Manning, and I'm glad it didn't take another 40 years."

Maria Bustillos at The New Yorker on the slow rise of the security state Maria Bustillos tracks the rise of America's security state — in particular programs like PRISM — and how it slowly escaped our attention over the past decade. "New agencies and task forces sprang up like mushrooms, budgets doubled and tripled. We all began pouring shampoo into tiny bottles. Thus too commenced that bizarre exercise in group embarrassment that is removing our shoes at the airport and placing them in plastic tubs. ... Anyone who did not suspect that the government would continue to use as much technology as it could to gather as much private information as it could—a rock-solid constant since the time of Hoover's F.B.I., at least—has not been paying attention." At National Review, James Jay Carafano weighs the present task: "We don’t and shouldn’t trust government to follow its own rules on its own, but we need government to do its job right and find means to assure us it’s doing its job in compliance with the law. That is a hard task, and sadly we have an administration with a mediocre track record of getting it right."

Kai Wright at Salon on how proprietary colleges prey on ambition "As with the mortgage market of the pre-crash era," observes Kai Wright, black students have "landed, disproportionately, at for-profit schools ... and that means they've found themselves loaded with unimaginable debt, with little to show for it, while a small group of financial players have made a great deal of easy money. Sound familiar?" He adds: "African-American strivers have been told again and again ... that they hold their economic destiny in their own hands. ... They’re earnestly heeding that message, but the only thing an awful lot of them are earning is another lesson in just how expensive it is to be both poor and ambitious in America." At The Huffington Post, Patricia McGuire offers at least one political goal: "Congress must act now to ensure that low income students from the populations who will be the future majority of Americans continue to have the financial support necessary to obtain college degrees."

Bill Keller at The New York Times on the future of affirmative action Bill Keller argues that the future of preferential admissions and hiring will inevitably shift from race to class: "Sooner or later, racial preferences, which were originally designed to be temporary, will end. Whatever the court decides in the pending case, it is time for college administrators to shift their attention decisively away from racial preferences to an affirmative action based on class." Keller suggests that class could better address America's fractured history: "Minorities would benefit even more from class-based admissions if the formula took into account one indicator that is generally not counted: a family’s net worth. Because wealth is accumulated over generations, it captures the legacy of slavery and segregation much better than income." Julian Zelizer at CNN is less sure about the inevitable retraction of race-based affirmative action. "If the court makes the decision to turn back the clock on these two policies, it would be a huge setback for the civil rights movement that changed the nation 50 years ago."

Jessica Valenti at The Nation on the realities of enforcing abortion policy Legalized abortion means little if the state is unwilling to enforce reproductive choice, says Jessica Valenti: "It takes a special kind of willful ignorance to oppose legal abortion these days. In fact,
being disconnected from reality has become the most definitive characteristic of the anti-choice movement. ... But no kind of anti-choice rhetoric is more dangerous than the fantasy that making abortion illegal will not hurt women." Valenti highlights the trial of a 22-yea- old El Salvadoran woman who struggled to obtain a life-saving abortion before concluding that "abortion is complicated, as are our lives and health—and the fact that these choices are so complex and nuanced is precisely why we can’t legislate them." At National Review, Kathryn Jean Lopez considers where this line of thinking leads: "Do we actually prefer abortion now? Is it out with safe, legal, and rare, and in with quick, legal at any stage of the pregnancy, and maybe preferred? Maybe even expected? That sounds quite miserable."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.