, Newburyport, MA


June 14, 2013

Brave, but how free?

Two men made the news this week by their extraordinary behavior.

One, Christopher Knight, 47, of North Pond, Maine, turned his back on what was bothering him 27 years ago and went off into the woods to live off the land and whatever he could find elsewhere that wasn’t nailed down and no one was looking.

The other, Edward Snowden, one of thousands of security-cleared defense contractors, was only 2 years old when Christopher Knight took to the woods.

That would have been 1986 when the deadly Chernobyl disaster shocked a world that, despite differences, had yet to know how much quieter it was than it would become on and following Sept. 11, 2001, in New York City.

Mr. Knight is in jail awaiting a future that seems likely to put the woods neighbors at ease.

Mr. Snowden — this is written mid-week — is being sought somewhere in the South Pacific for reasons detrimental to this nation’s security.

What the two have in common is “Who knew?’’ at both extremes of this nation’s “Who Dunnit” stories.

Mr. Knight, for whatever reasons leading to his hibernation, will be tried as an uncommon thief, and his victims will share relief at last.

Mr. Snowden is being sought for reasons that reach deeply into this nation’s efforts to counter terrorism by monitoring existing methods of personal communication.

Those being as broadly available and as common as they are, small wonder the shock attending the revelation that assurance of privacy in personal conversation is a price to be paid for national security.

There was a time when “Loose Lips Sink Ships” signs were broadly displayed across America. That was during our Second World War marked by way of an actual declaration by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

We haven’t had another formal declaration of war since by one of our presidents.

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