“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.” – Edward Snowden
For the past three days the news has been full of congressional struggles over the sunsetting of the notorious Patriot Act, which had been pushed through in the weeks of panic after 9/11 and allowed unprecedented surveillance of all Americans, here and abroad, in an attempt to prevent another terrorist strike on these shores. It did so by expanding the scope of the NSA, originally created to provide surveillance of foreign communications, to all communications of everyone on the planet, including all Americans here at home.
One of the most egregious defenders of NSA surveillance has been Big Sister, Senator Dianne Feinstein (Stasi-CA), who has clamored for the extension of the Patriot Act and more, more, more NSA spying on us. The bitter irony here is that she was quite rightly outraged when it came to light that the CIA had been spying on her staff members as they collected information for her Senate Intelligence Committee Report on CIA torture, but at the same time, with radiant hypocrisy, she finds it highly desirable that the NSA monitor every character her constituents type, every syllable we utter.
What would our Founding Fathers have said about our secret budgets for the CIA and NSA, secret surveillance, secret internment, secret grand juries, secret courts, secret trials, and secret prisons?
We now live in a country where, in spite of Senator Feinstein’s getting a bowdlerized version of her Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture declassified, your own torture by the CIA is way too classified for you to be allowed to tell anyone about it.
A country that sea to shining sea is Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon where our good behavior is enforced by satellite eyes, FBI surveillance airplanes, and millions of street cameras.
A country where a DHS license-plate tracking system will reveal where your car is at all times…even if you have your cell phone turned off and the battery removed so they can’t track your position that way.
A country in which all our security czars are livid over the idea that Americans are able to encrypt their communications and want to make this illegal. After all, what if someone in Topeka wrote something that we wanted to read to make sure he wasn’t doing anything worng?
And don’t even get me started about our intrusive and ineffective Homeland Security, which sounds so much better in the original German, Heimat Sicherheit, that for a delicious period in 2008, hackers arranged that when you did a Google search on the string “Heimat Sicherheit“, the first hit you got was to the Homeland Security home page. How sweet that was! Although probably the reason you haven’t heard more about it is that the hackers are now being reeducated in a secret prison somewhere.
In the last couple of days, the Senate and the House have been colluding to replace the Patriot Act with the Freedom Act, which ostensibly removes some of the excesses of the Patriot Act but in reality is so full of loopholes and back doors that it will have virtually no impact on the surveillance of Americans and thus should really be called “The Appearance of Freedom Act”. Its real intent is to placate critics of the Surveillance State without inconveniencing the apparatchiks.
Yes, folks, the Security State is here, now.
The most eloquent assessment of it i’ve seen is from Wolfgang Schmidt, retired head of the Stasi, a man who damn well ought to know what he’s talking about. He writes, “The dark side to gathering such a broad, seemingly untargeted, amount of information is obvious. It is the height of naivete to think that once collected this information won’t be used. This is the nature of secret government organizations. The only way to protect the people’s privacy is not to allow the government to collect their information in the first place.”
It appears to me that we have one last chance. If we fail to elect leaders in 2016 who are committed to rolling back state surveillance, the Police State will be far too intrenched to ever get free of…..if it isn’t already.
Meanwhile, to lighten the tone, a touch of whimsy on the door of Hot Cookie on Castro Street.