The United States surveillance state has grown to a level never witnessed before in history. Following the revelations of Edward Snowden, the world is now privy to the lengths to which the U.S. government has been watching every single one of us in the global community. International governments caught off guard by the breadth of the United States spying program are now questioning to what extent they want their internet traffic funneling through U.S. servers and ISPs.
In all aspects of the global contemporary life, the U.S. government has found its way into the far reaches of personal space. From NSA email and phone spy programs, to FBI surveillance drones, the airwaves are filled with the prying eyes of our so-called protectors. These discriminating eyes which have creeped their way into every facet of our lives continue to intensify their surveillance efforts across the planet.
It all begs the question, what is it they are so afraid of? Why the need for such an extensive surveillance program? What threat do “We the People” pose to the powers that be? The proliferation of these programs began with the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping and the FISA amendments act of 2008, and has continued on through into the Obama administration who renewed those changes in U.S. surveillance law in 2012.
Government officials from all sides have attempted to defend the programs by rationalizing the need for added security in a post 9/11 world. Former NSA director Michael Hayden earlier this week on Sunday spoke from the pulpit of a previous generation of politicians, a generation whose ideas of government revolve around secrecy and political ambiguity. He defended the United States’ “militarization of the World Wide Web” and spoke out against the anonymity of the internet and the tension it creates “between security and Liberty.” A tension that has been over inflated by the misguided fears of the United States Government.
Those fears became apparent when Edward Snowden leaked sensitive documents to the Washington Post and The Guardian earlier this year, giving us a peek into the NSA spying efforts of PRISM. A program whose legal justification found its roots in FISA and began with a marriage between the NSA and tech giant Microsoft on September 11, 2007. A relationship which would mark the first in a long stream of technology titans finding their way into the bed of the NSA, including prominent companies like Google, Yahoo, Facebook, YouTube, Apple and others.
Although the Snowden documents implicate these companies first hand knowledge of the program, many of them have argued that they knew nothing of the PRISM program and the extent of the government’s surveillance activities. In an attempt to win back the trust of their users, many have now begun campaigns to prioritize the privacy of their customers.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has warned the U.S. government that its venture into voyeurism will only lead to bad business on the international level, initiating further apprehension from international customers. Zuckerberg went onto say that “the more transparency the government has, the better folks would feel.” How convenient are the campaigns of these companies to prioritize privacy when previously they showed no interest. Their efforts to protect the people look more like a concerted effort to protect their pockets and the positions of power and influence they currently hold.
With the assistance of their corporate cohorts and their control of the majority of the world’s servers, the United States has been granted the responsibility of gatekeeper of a global information network – a network which grants them access to some of the most intimate aspects of human interaction. From 2007 onward the NSA and the United States government would become the proud owners of some of the world’s most sensitive information, the information of the People, both foreign and domestic.
From this moment forward, intelligence gathering would no longer be focused primarily on the criminal activities of state enemies but would encompass the whole of internet communication. Unsuspecting and in many cases, innocent global citizens would now become the focus of government inquiry without the need of court permission. While incrementally dissolving the people’s right to privacy the government has simultaneously relinquished the trust of the American people and the people of the world.
An inherent distrust was implied when our government implemented a surveillance program of this magnitude – a distrust which is reciprocated by the people in the form of resentment and ultimately anger. If it is true that the anonymity of the internet is such a threat to freedom as they say, then let us also recognize that the anonymity of U.S. surveillance programs is an equal if not greater threat to the preservation of a free society.
Unfortunately, it has been our government’s decision to give precedence to “security” while neglecting our long honored tradition of freedom. It’s a decision which exemplifies the despotism that has grown throughout the hallowed halls of a once respected United States government. This despotism is forged through the partnerships of corporations and government leadership that seek to solidify their positions of power instead of leading a nation of free people.
Fortunately, the internet has provided the people a platform to stand shoulder to shoulder with the titans of modern society and profess their beliefs and ideas in an equal forum for all to hear. This free forum will continue to give rise to people power movements the world over, despite government attempts to quiet public dissidence. Edward Snowden along with Barrett Brown, Chelsea Manning and Wikileaks are just the beginning of people power representatives, that in a reciprocating effort, will continue to expose the secrets of despotic governments in the same way they seek to expose the secrets of the people.
No longer are the governments of the world free from the watchful eye of public discourse. So long as the United States government continues its pursuit for a surveillance state, “We the People” will stand in opposition to that state, in our fight for freedom.
Written by Justin Blush for Media Roots