Pedestrian Reasoning About Government Spying
By Joe Giambrone (8/24/13)
“I’m an upstanding citizen and I’m not doing anything wrong. I just don’t want the government invading my privacy.”
I got into a heated argument, a disagreeable shouting match over that idea today – mostly being shouted at for nitpicking someone on my own side. I find the above rationale to be a surface response without any thought behind it or any acknowledgement of how actual surveillance-societies of the past devolved into Orwellian abominations. Worse still, the current drive for a “Total Information Awareness” society, where birth to death communications will be stored forever by the government, looms over us.
NSA / Booz Allen Hamilton whistleblower Edward Snowden has said:
“…they are intent on making every conversation and every form of behavior in the world known to them.”
To that end the NSA’s operating budget has increased steadily, avoiding any cutbacks from the so-called “sequester.” The new NSA storage facility in Utah is a central piece of this total data capture society.
“An article by Forbes estimates the storage capacity as between 3 and 12 exabytes in the near term… advances in technology could be expected to increase the capacity by orders of magnitude in the coming years.” (Wikipedia)
NSA Whistleblower William Binney revealed further problems at the National Security Agency and its runaway capabilities:
“Binney alleged… controls that limited unintentional collection of data pertaining to U.S. citizens were removed, prompting concerns by him and others that the actions were illegal and unconstitutional. Binney alleged that the Bluffdale (Utah) facility was designed to store a broad range of domestic communications for data mining without warrants.” (Wikipedia)
Edward Snowden has also said:
“I also had the capability without any warrant to search for, seize, and read your communications. Anyone’s communications at any time. That is the power to change people’s fates.”
Changing people’s fates is the key phrase here. How and why can this personal data be used? With lifelong surveillance of everyone, we are little better off than goldfish swimming from glass wall to wall, always under the complete scrutiny of the authorities. It doesn’t take any imagination whatsoever to see the implications of total scrutiny by secretive government or quasi-governmental entities (or others!).
The STASI regime in East Germany was legendary for this type of behavior, monitoring their own people allegedly for their own good. A hyper-paranoid society emerged where everyone was suspect. Anyone could be an informant coerced by the authorities into betraying their neighbors or family members. Trust of government was nonexistent, and soon all trust throughout the society crumbled. Any stranger could be a government agent, himself blackmailed by the state into carrying out their wishes.
Guilt by Association
The problem is blackmail. That is what Edward Snowden meant when he talked about changing people’s fates. When all associations are known to authorities, the very act of communicating with someone becomes dangerous. If they are found to be displeasing to the secretive masters of society, then how long before your very real, recorded linkage to them becomes problematic as well? Guilt by association and character assassinations do not require you to be “doing anything wrong,” only to be perceived that way as a result of smears. Sensitive data about personal habits can destroy a political campaign before it ever begins. The manipulation of the public takes many forms, which political activists and the professional political class understand well.
While Obama and Company (on both sides of the aisle) hawk this glaringly unconstitutional assault as alleged protection, being no threat to the public whatsoever – their vanilla lives deemed uninteresting enough to not concern the state – the terrifying nature of power and coercion must be addressed. Before we follow the propaganda line that we are “not doing anything wrong,” and so have nothing to worry about, there is plenty to worry about when privacy is erased.
The legal justifications for securing our personal effects, enshrined in the 4th Amendment, represent the cornerstone of American freedom: that F-word that politicians blather on about at length even as they secretly betray it.
This is not simply a personal preference to be private, but the necessary precondition for a free society. Private communications are the difference between what once was America and what once was the Soviet Union, or Orwell’s dystopia if you prefer. The value of having secure, private lives free of government malfeasance and scrutiny is beyond a price and beyond debate. As long as the Constitution remains the “Supreme Law of the Land,” those who willingly and gleefully violate it have committed treasons against the American People.
Personal preference has got nothing to do with it. This is about the very nature of freedom, to be free of coercion and blackmail. While it’s true that the government apparatus likely has nothing against most people because of their unremarkable ordinariness, this government posture changes immediately as people become politically active. What the masters of society take very seriously are their own positions of power, and they brook no challengers. Once a citizen becomes active in attempting to change official policy, all bets are off.
The US government surveils the lives of citizens who stand up and say “No.” This has been in evidence since forever; name your time period. But more recently from Seattle WTO protests 1999, to the anti-war movement 2003, to Miami FTAA opponents 2003, to the protestors at national political conventions, and of course to Occupy Wall Street activists the federal government has used all means at its disposal to invade the privacy of its citizen-opponents. Ongoing surveillance of domestic political movements is the norm, as is infiltration by FBI “informants” (criminals who have made deals with FBI to go undercover and spy for them).
What’s more, the government contracts with private, for-profit spy corporations such as Booz, Allen Hamilton and Stratfor. It hands this power to blanket spy on the entire citizenry over to private interests for them to exploit. All this is done in secret, and the Congress cannot even oversee the activities of private contractors, who are naturally shielded from the kind of scrutiny which we are all now subject to by them. If someone has no problem with the government owning all their personal data (I can’t imagine why), they surely must stop and think about turning over that power to private money-making corporations who are legally shielded from public accountability.
One of the most crucial and ignored whistleblowers to come out of the National Security Agency is a satellite analyst by the name of Russell Tice. What Mr. Tice has revealed is shocking and largely un-reportable in the corporate perception-management media. It would shake the very system to its core, and so recently Mr. Tice has been persona non grata on corporate airwaves. Previously he was welcomed as an expert on the spying programs as an actual former NSA analyst. After Tice revealed more damaging information, disclosures which threaten the very legitimacy of those who fail to perform Congressional oversight on the runaway surveillance agency, his spotlight was shut down. Russell Tice finally revealed that for at least a decade now those at the top of the intelligence chain secretly abuse the capabilities of their federal surveillance state.
“[NSA] went after lawyers and law firms… They went after judges. One of the judges is now sitting on the Supreme Court that I had his wiretap information in my hand… They went after State Department officials. They went after people in the executive service that were part of the White House — their own people!”
–NSA Satellite Analyst Russell Tice
Now a picture emerges of something quite a bit more damaging to society than simple privacy preferences. According to Tice, those sitting in Congress and tasked with doing oversight on the spy agencies are themselves under surveillance and compromised.
These Senators and Intelligence Committee Congresspersons must toe the line or face expulsion at the next election cycle (or worse). That is how the NSA and its secretive doings can “change people’s fates.”
Is it too obvious to state that such blackmail is criminal and an assault on democracy? This attack is on the American People, who are now at the mercy of a Vichy Congress, occupied by the STASI intelligence/surveillance state.
James Clapper, America’s current “Director of National Intelligence,” blatantly lied to Congress on live TV, March 12th. Clapper claimed that NSA doesn’t collect Americans’ communications knowing full well that they do and are expanding this capability daily. Clapper received no penalty whatsoever for Contempt of Congress, a criminal offense! In the Alice in Wonderland world of Washington politics, instead of being jailed for a year for lying to the Congress, Mr. Clapper was voted in UNANIMOUSLY to take over all 16 of America’s spy agencies this August.
Clapper’s current version of the NSA Big Lie is that: “I realized later Sen. Wyden was asking about… metadata collection, rather than content collection… Thus, my response was clearly erroneous, for which I apologize.”
But it’s not just “metadata,” and the metadata is only one component of the data collection, used to more easily search through the actual content that is also stored by the National Security Agency for varying lengths of time. When the UK Guardian released this information, provided by Edward Snowden, their offices were later raided by British security forces and computer hard drives were destroyed, as in a typical Banana Republic assault on the press.
James Clapper continues to lie, and the liars have no disincentive to stop their officially-blessed fabricating. Congressional oversight is negated absolutely, and the Congress remains powerless in the face of the Total Surveillance State – where they are prime targets for blackmail and coercion.
The official pattern has been to lie, backtrack to the next position and to maintain it until further revelations make the current story untenable. Then, a new story is told with the theme being that regular, inactive, unengaged Americans have nothing to worry about; they are already neutralized. The truth is that all Americans have plenty to worry about, the complete destruction of privacy and “freedom,” that buzzword that passes by without the slightest contemplation of what it means. Rule by a secretive military / corporate dictatorship is simply not the “America” that people think of. Surely it bears no resemblance to the “Land of the free.” It is an entirely different and alien place.
So what’s your personal preference on that one?