Recent leaks shed further light on inner workings of surveillance state
Here’s what we know: Secret kill lists, covert drone strikes, Authorization of the Use of Military Force and assassination, top secret NSA databases, warrantless wiretapping, trying whistle blowers under the Espionage Act, secret web spying, grand jury subpoenas and shadow courts, data vacuums, cyber warfare, direct call log access, information sharing between corporations and intelligence agencies, and the ballooning classifications that aim to keep these programs secret are all parts of Obama’s sprawling surveillance state. It’s frightening to think about the other tools we don’t know about that the Obama Administration is using. One thing is clear,with a vast arsenal of surveillance tools at its disposal the Administration is actively monitoring every one. We could all be Bradley Manning if we took “if you see something say something” to mean something more than reporting terrorists to intelligence hotlines. But a Washington Post-Pew Poll taken in the wake of the recent NSA leaks reveals 56 percent of those polled found it acceptable for the agency to get secret court orders to track the phone calls of millions of Americans. In times of fear and uncertainty passivity provides a false sense of security. Meanwhile the ruling elites dismantle the last vestiges of freedom as they move towards total social control.
The recent leaks about the NSAs direct access to phone subscribers metadata and web spying PRISM program shed further light on the inner workings of power. While every single phone call may not be eavesdropped on nor every email read, the capacity is there and the record of electronic correspondence made. Edward Snowden explained in an interview with Glenn Greenwald this past Sunday that he could tap the phone call of anyone including the President himself provided the targets email address. “Even if you are not doing anything wrong you are being watched and recorded,” he says.
And the storage capability of these systems increases every year, consistently, by orders of magnitude, to where it’s getting to the point you don’t have to have done anything wrong, you simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong call, and then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with, and attack you on that basis, to sort of derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer.” This is what we’ve come to, the dystopic nightmare of the all powerful surveillance state.
There is no reason to suppose that such powers will be scaled back. In the eyes of the surveillance apparatus functionaries, the elected politicians who overwhelming support these “legal and limited” measures, the lack of public outrage justifies their use. Senators like Dianne Feinstein, Congressional leaders like Dick Durbin and John Boehner who have been outspoken defenders of the governments spying programs tout the age old argument that leaks of classified information embolden our enemies and threaten national security. But classifications are seldom used to protect national security. As if terrorists are unaware that the US government has been tapping their phone calls and tracking them for decades. We have government officials essentially saying people who are regularly pursued by drones, who likely have fought besides others who have wound up in black sites or worse Guantanamo had no idea that the U.S. could effectively monitor their activities. Here’s what director of national intelligence James Clapper had to say about the leaks:
It is literally—not figuratively, literally—gut-wrenching to see this happen, because of the huge, grave damage it does to our intelligence capabilities. And, of course, for me, this is a key tool for preserving and protecting the nation’s safety and security. So, every one of us in the intelligence community, most particularly the great men and women of NSA, are very—are profoundly affected by this.
Officials are insulting our intelligence in defending these invasive spy programs with such specious arguments.
As pressure within the administration mounts to repress leaks the motive behind the Administration’s secrecy couldn’t be clearer. Despite widespread claims that the Administration uses classifications only where necessary to protect national security, it is glaringly obvious that classifications are used to protect power and to keep the actions of officials secret so that the public cannot hold them accountable. The Administration will do anything in its power to make sure that information flows are a unilateral affair. How Snowden is dealt with from here on out will demonstrate just how far the US is willing to go in its war on whistle blowers.
With the overall lack of public outrage to shift Congressional views and the Administration’s pretense about welcoming an open debate on the balance between privacy and security (which amounts to a discussion about nothing because everything needed to be discussed is top secret) we can expect the attitude towards the rapid growth of the surveillance state to remain the same. Government spying on citizens will not be revealed for what it truly is -a radical effort to monitor and know the behavior and thoughts of everyone under its scope – as long as the reigning ideology that the government is our safe-keeper from the bad-scary-other prevails. As long as this remains the dominant discourse, all invasions into our private lives by the surveillance state will be in the words of our trusted ruler, little more than “modest encroachments on privacy”.