The Opposite of a Snow Job, Colltalers
At this point, the world definitely doesn’t need yet another unsolicited take on the National Security Agency, and its ability to electronically collect and store massive amounts of personal data, its scary, exponentially growing capacity to do so notwithstanding. Or so we thought.
After all, and we’re glad to report, the debate over the individual’s right to privacy seems to be at the core of our national conversation at the moment, and the apparent disregard for the rule of law displayed by the U.S. government’s agency has been getting the proper attention it deserves.
For our own sake, it’d better last. This kind of issue does have a way of falling through the cracks, no little help from President Obama’s dismal attempt to dismiss its merit. And that’s not even mentioning the considerable power that the NSA has to scare the bejesus of even the most earnest law-abiding citizen.
But if two expected denials, from Congress and tech corporations, hadn’t disgusted us enough to step into the fray that, let’s face it, it’s sizzling with much meaning and implications, then a single act of standing up and delivering restored our faith, if not in mankind, at least in the genuine good will of some people.
Make room for Edward Snowden, who’s just jumped into that fray with the clear-eyed resolve we were beginning to doubt it’s still possible, and told the world that he leaked the details of the NSA’s secret Prism project, (or how to drag everyone on its net, and see what they may have done now or in the past, later).
It was a pre-emptive strike, even though by the end of the week, security hawks were already busy trying to divert the attention from the illegality of NSA’s actions to the familiar ‘enemy of state’ grounds, where they potentially can go after, wrestle with, and crush whistleblowers like Snowden.
We say illegality because, the last we’ve checked, wiretapping still requires a court order. But, unlike the Nixon era, which seems oh so quaint now, the continental-size data-interception capability that security agencies have gathered lately would demand a whole new set of rules to be even remotely contained.
Which brings us to the source of that initial disgust we had as soon as members of Congress were dispatched to go for bat for the administration, and the tech companies issued their clever mischievously-worded denials. What about the hawks saying that it was all necessary for our security? We’ll get to that soon.
The fact is that our elected representatives have known all about the Prism and other still in the shadows programs for over seven years, and we say that because it’s relatively safe to assume that it’s more likely 12 years, when the intel community was thrown under the bus by the Bush administration.
The fact that they did provide the crucial info in time to prevent the Sept. 11 attacks, and Bush & co. chose to sit on it, is now sadly beside the point. It’s only logical though to expect that security agencies turned scapegoats for the tragedy may have gotten an engorged budget in exchange for their public expiation.
So, just to be clear, there shouldn’t be any doubt that the current group of politicians residing in Washington D.C. just added another incredibly shameful omission of their constitutional roles to an already long list, now routinely associated with their teflon-like reputations.
And then there are the ‘categoric’ denials by Facebook, and Google, and Microsoft, and Apple, and the whole lot of them, the Zuckerbergs, the Pages, the Mayers, whose business model is essentially to trade privacy info for a profit, and now, as it’s been proven, also to allow it to be shared by law enforcement.
But let’s stop here for a moment. We could easily say, shame on you all, and be done with it. But we’re not about to let us, exemplary citizens, off the hook that easily, are we? For we elect the politicians we deserve, and we’re are the ones turning the Internet into our personal confessional pulpit.
As for the tried and almost never true argument, that security agencies need the information they’ve gathered, Glenn Greenwald put it succinctly, if not in the same words: that every terrorist worth his or her ignominious vest already knows that everything is being heard and can and will be used against them.
So, shouldn’t we? One important redeeming circumstance, that render most of us impotent to even operate away from the Internet, the telephone, social networks, our jobs, personal banking, and whatever else our lives are chained to these days: we’re living an era that if you’re not on, you simply don’t exist.
We do have a few hopes up our sleeves, though. First, of course, is that more Snowden, and Mannings, and Greenwalds, and Ellsbergs, and so many more do continue to follow their conscience, and choose non-violent but irreducible acts of civic disobedience, for which we all benefit.
Also, let’s hope that, as the technology keeps speeding up, that it heads our way, for a change: that new encryption systems and open, free software become widely available as alternatives to the big search engines and domains that have quickly enslaved us and now, auctioned our digital prints to the best buyer.
Finally, let’s make sure that those sticking up their necks, so we can safely continue to text our little nothings as if they had any relevance, are not being thrown in dungeons alone, or made to look as if they’re speaking on their own behalf and not ours, or be denied their constitutional right to free speech.
It’s a fact that much of the suspicion about the government is fabricated, and has a carefully designed and executed agenda behind it. But it’s also a fact that no government can rule from within closed doors and pursue secret policies unchecked by those it’s in power to protect.
There will be attempts to turn this into a matter of a few individuals, of whether this president is just like the previous one, the permanent threat of terrorism, a crazy set of conspiracy theories, or just the little annoyances of a participative democracy. Let’s not play around, though.
This is essentially how we want our nation to navigate the treacherous waters of a changing world. It’s about what we must hold dear as principles and how far we’re going to preserve the rule of law, and, above all, what we absolutely won’t allow to be thrown overboard in our name. Have a great week. WC