June 10, 2013.
Edward Snowden may go down in history as one of this nation’s most important whistleblowers. He is certainly one of the bravest. The 29-year-old former technical assistant to the CIA and employee of a defense intelligence contractor has admitted to disclosing top secret documents about the National Security Agency’s massive violation of the privacy of law-abiding citizens.Read the rest here.
Like Daniel Ellsberg, who disclosed the Pentagon Papers, Snowden is a man of principle. “The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to,” he told interviewers. “There is no public oversight. The result is that [NSA employees] have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to.” For example, he said, he could have accessed anyone’s e-mail, including the president’s.
This is not the first time that the American people have learned that their intelligence agencies are out of control. I revealed the military’s surveillance of the civil rights and anti-war movements in 1970. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washigton Post disclosed the Watergate burglary by White House operatives, which led Congress to created two select committees to investigate the entire intelligence community.
Among other things, the committees discovered that the National Security Agency had a huge watchlist of civil right and anti-war protesters whose phone calls it was intercepting. The FBI had bugged the hotel rooms of Martin Luther King and tried to blackmail him into committing suicide rather than accept the Nobel Peace Prize. The CIA had tried to hire the Mafia to kill Fidel Castro. President Richard M. Nixon used the Internal Revenue Service to audit the taxes of his political enemies. His aides tried to destroy Daniel Ellsberg for leaking a history of the War in Vietnam, both by prosecuting him and by burglarizing his psychiatrist’s office for embarrassing information. The FBI opened enormous amounts of first-class mail of law-abiding citizens in direct violation of the criminal law.
Since then the technology has changed. The old Hoover vacuum cleaner has been redesigned for the digital age. It is now attached to the Internet, where it secretly collects the contents of everyone’s “audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs” from Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple. It also siphons billions of telephone communications and Internet messages off the fiber optic cables that enter and pass through the United States. None of us has a reasonable expectation of privacy any more.
Christopher H. Pyle teaches constitutional law and civil liberties at Mount Holyoke College. He is the author of Military Surveillance of Civilian Politics and Getting Away with Torture. In 1970, he disclosed the U.S. military’s surveillance of civilian politics and worked as a consultant to three Congressional committees, including the Church Committee.
Comment: The term "surveillance state" many describe what the US has become but it is an inadequate descriptor in terms of the invasive reach implied. It is, perhaps, more apt to describe the US as a "surveillance empire" because the threat it poses to freedom, justice, and liberty (all hallmarks of true democracy) is global.
Who the US watches and for what reasons will never be made known. But it is worrying that the data mined is stored to wage its security war against whomsoever it pleases as Professor Pyle discusses above.
The only option for survival and renewal is to resist in whatever way you can - and this means to resist wherever you are.
I bet Thoreau is turning in his grave about now.