Through the Looking Glass
Oh what a wicked web we weave….. (Sir Walter Scott)
It’s like déjà vu all over again. For anyone who wasn’t so drugged out and asleep at the wheel during the political and social ferment of the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, these lyrics resonated deeply with your personal experiences.
There’s something happening in here,
What it is ain’t exactly clear…
Paranoia strikes deep,
Into your life it will creep.
Start’s when you’re always afraid
Step outta’ line, the Man comes
And takes you away.
OK, so now it’s like flash back time. You don’t even have to step out of line, ‘cause we now know that ‘the Man”, may in fact, be listening to you on the phone, checking out your doings on You Tube, looking at what you searched for on Google, etc., etc., etc., across the spectrum of information technologies that we use every day.
The guy who caused all the recent, high-tech hullabaloo, 29 year-old Edward Snowden, worked for the NSA through a private contractor firm until hightailing it for Hong Kong just as his massive ‘dump’ hit the political fan. Barack Obama was in the process of berating the Chinese over their evil intrusions into US cyber affairs, when the whistle blew in a series of articles published by the Guardian in the U.K. Turns out the US has been hacking into the Chinese networks big-time, for a long time, thereby besmirching the smiling, sincere image of transparency that Obama has polished to perfection. Actions speak louder than words, they say, and according to Snowden, he leaked classified details about U.S. surveillance programs because Obama worsened “abusive” practices instead of curtailing them as he promised as a candidate. Obama, worthy of note, former professor of Constitutional law, currently operating as the head surgeon in charge of eviscerating the Fourth Amendment which guarantees:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Subsequent to the release there has been a fascinating series of analysis. Here are some tidbits.
The Second amendment, the “right to bear arms,” has a fiercely loyal corporate sponsor, the firearms industry with their loyal lapdog the NRA. The Fourth amendment does not enjoy such corporate patronage.
The government put up the defense that they were only looking at the patterns of messages, and not the contents. This position was refuted by a mathematician and former analyst at a major computer-networking firm. Patterns provide plenty of information, she argued, that can be deployed, not only in the prevention of terrorism, but to facilitate insider trading in the financial world, provide damaging personal details to apply leverage on politicians, etc.
One example. It turns out the Bush administration was tapping the phone of Hans Blix, the “arms of mass destruction” inspector from the UN, sent to Iraq prior to the US invasion. The information obtained was used to smear Blix in the US media and undercut his credibility.
The capacity for mining the bonanza of digital data is beyond the wildest wet dreams of legendary FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover. Entrenched in power for decades and largely untouchable, Hoover deployed legions of gumshoes on 24-hour surveillance to accumulate reams of damaging personal anecdotes which served to silence critics and ensure support on Capitol Hill.
The view through the all seeing overlook afforded by the Prism program is that a handful of nerds like Snowden, sitting at well-connected workstations, can cast the cyber dragnet and select the juiciest morsels of data for whatever creepy task is afforded priority. Just as in the days of Hoover, control over politicians, was mentioned as a logical possibility in one of the most recent Op-ed pieces.
Avid Howler aficionados, might recall a previous article, in which I looked at the contrast between visions of the future: George Orwell’s omnipresent, intrusive and repressive Big Brother vs. Aldous Huxley’s dystopian world of drugs, operant conditioning, corporate tyranny and a sheep-like populace which comes to “love the instruments of domination.” It now looks like we get to enjoy ‘the best of both worlds.’
Face it. We are all hooked on the obvious advantages and downright marvels of modern Internet, wireless and satellite-based communications technology. Yet now more than ever, the inconvenient truth is staring us in the face.
The fact is, oversight and control of all this stuff can be used to monitor, mess with you, intrude into your life and, in the case of drones locking into cell phone signals, eliminate those who “step out of line” and are perceived as threats to “National Security.”
Interestingly enough, latest polls in the US show that a majority of Americans tends to agree with the government, that Edward Snowden, the whistleblower, is guilty of treason. They seem to be convinced that there’s a latent danger of a shoe bomber on every plane or an Al Qaeda operative lurking in the food court at the local mall. That the intrusive surveillance state apparatus is like a security blanket with all its cuddly and protective connotations.
As to the people in the US, perhaps too busy watching reality shows, or keeping up their life styles in a dying empire, trying to understand why they can so easily overlook the whole affair, these words are worth remembering:
Naturally, the common people don’t want war, neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood…(however) the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country. (Reichsmarschall Hermann Wilhelm Goering, founder of the Gestapo.)
Cynics might argue that the good news of the permanent war footing in which the US now finds itself is the positive effect on a struggling economy. Call it job creation across the spectrum of the Global War on Terror. There’s always a need for a ‘few good men’—and women of course to outmaneuver, shoot, and of course spy on all enemies of the republic, both foreign and domestic. Leaving the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was queried as to what type of government was in store for the 13 former colonies. He marked “A Republic, madam, if you can keep it.” That could now be seen as an increasingly doubtful proposition.
Tom Peifer is an ecological land use consultant with 18 years experience in Guanacaste. 2658-8018. firstname.lastname@example.org
El Centro Verde is dedicated to researching and promoting sustainable land use, permaculture and environmentally sound development http://www.elcentroverde.org/