Twenty open tabs in three browsers on two computers. I read and think about last week’s shocking-but-utterly-unsurprising revelations about NSA snoopery. A thousand thoughts run through my head but not a single word makes its way into electrons.
No, it’s no surprise at all that a government agency that was created in secret and is still called “No Such Agency” now reigns so powerful — and will continue to dominate presidents and congresses, no matter who elects them or what letters they have after their names.
It’s also no surprise that not a single MSM news source mentions the Fourth Amendment when discussing whether the latest-revealed snoop programs are legal. They talk about the FISA court and changes to FISA law. They refer to the Un-PATRIOT Act and decades of Supreme Court decisions. They wring their hands over the fact that the Obama administration has never showed the media a copy of the memo that it used to justify these data-gobbling policies to itself.
It feels unreal. You know things are bad, but has the state of things in the U.S. really gotten so dismal that some supposedly educated people believe that a secret memo, written by the executive branch to itself … makes law?
Oh, how much they have forgotten!
Of course, we’re assured by everyone from the Lecturer-in-Chief to minions at Slate that we’re silly — just hysterical, paranoid, and silly — to be alarmed. Because after all, there are “safeguards.” And no mere safeguards. No! We can rest assured that all three branches of government are scrutinizing every snoop program every day to make sure that the rights of We the
Marks Suckers Victims Peasants Cherished Citizens of this Great Representative Democracy are protected.
And of course, snooping on everyone is absolutely necessary because it’s for security. And it even stopped a terrorist attack! Not the one in Boston, of course. Not the one in London, either. (Even though the perps of those attacks were investigated after giving off multitudes of warning signs — then ignored.) But some terrorist attack was stopped, we can be assured (even if we can’t be informed). Because our Masters tell us so.
My “favorite” comment from Officialdom came from a person called James Clapper, a creature hardly anybody had heard of until last week, but who’s
Big Brother the man in charge of national intelligence this week. He predictably claimed that merely knowing that the fedgov is spying on us all may have already compromised Vital Ongoing Anti-Terrorist Operations. But the better part was that he bemoaned the fact that The Guardian and other media sources (bless Glenn Greenwald) had the nerve — the audacity — the chutzpah! — to reveal the existence of a secret snoop program without also revealing the secret safeguards on the program, which are carried out in part by the secret FISA court and secret backroom meetings in congress.
But really, never mind the secrecy! Don’t even notice it! You are protected! Not only by your Duly Elected Representatives, but by nameless, faceless, unaccountable people you’ve never heard of — and if we have our way, you never will hear of them!
No, none of this is surprising — though it feels increasingly surreal. War is peace. Lies are truth. Tyranny is absolutely necessary to protect freedom.
Can we seriously be living on the same planet with creatures like James Clapper? With journalists who cry, “Show me the memo!” — or for that matter, with the growing crowd of R&D tyrants who actually expect us to believe it’s all “for our own good”?
Of course there’s nothing new here — except the degree of perfidy and the increasingly Orwellian nature of the claims from Above.
We can assume that every electronic thing we do is being recorded and stored on fedgov servers. We can even guess (if we’re nearing a level of sufficient paranoia) that the current revelations are deliberate leaks from the USSA security apparatus to gradually condition us so we’ll be less alarmed when we eventually learn the full extent of the powers of the Ministry of Truth. Some of the “revelations” may also be lies to keep us cowed and guessing about how much real reach Mordor-on-the-Potomac (or The Dark Star in Utah) actually has.
As the great Bruce Schneier notes, what we don’t know about fedgov spying is scarier than what we do know. And that’s partly because we have to imagine it and wait for the hammer to fall.
Of course, there’s nothing new there, either. Let’s never forget that the original self-designated terrorist organization was a government — and governments have used terror to grab power ever since (and before).
The only real question is: What do we do about it?
And there I come up — almost — empty.
“Elect the right people”? “Reform government”? Change the laws? Riiiight …
Shoot the bastards? Conduct a revolution? Nice thought, maybe. Ain’t happening this week. And besides, fedgov bastards are worse than hydras: shoot one, 10 (even nastier ones) spring up in its place. And a revolution in this era when over half the population depends on government and “journalists” think a memo or an order is all that’s needed to rule us? Riiiight ….
Of course, we have our good old solutions of declaring personal freedom, outwitting, and (hopefully) outliving the bastards.
Paul Rosenberg notes oh-so-correctly that in their end stages, governments always turn against the people. We can gain some comfort from knowing “our” government is so desperately frightened of us.
He also notes that we can run away — and that many of history’s best people have and do.
Never mind that, in the present case (which Rosenberg wasn’t directly addressing), “running away” — as in going offshore — just means that those secret laws, regulations, and memos decree you now to be fair game for the worst of their snooping.
We can’t — and shouldn’t have to — stop using the telephone or the ‘Net just because James Clapper, Barack Obama, or some other creepazoid might be peeping.
We can take (and I hope, have taken) reasonable precautions, but few of those can go so far as protecting our “metadata,” such as whom we called or whom we emailed and where we were when we did it. And it’s hard to protect ourselves against tyrannical threats whose nature has not yet been revealed.
So I don’t know. I really don’t. I’m at a loss — where I hate to be.
We can defy. We can ignore. We can feel ever-greater contempt. We can hope the entire evil system collapses. We can keep the usual low profile and hope The Ministry never plugs in our individual wire.
I wish I had better to offer you. But today, I don’t.
So just let me close with a hearty TO HELL WITH THEM ALL. And when the day comes that their regime collapses in on itself, may the entire weight of it collapse on those who thought they could rule free people through secrecy and terror.