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“As a final thought, I’d say just to remember that a big part of this is social behavior and not technology per se. And a big part of it is accepting that while we may live in a dystopian society right now, we don’t always have to. That’s the tradeoff, right? Because what is OWS working toward? The answer is, something different. And if we want an end to social inequality, the surveillance state is part of what we have to change. If we make it worthless to surveil people, we will have done this. So, it needs to be the case that what we do doesn’t hang us for what we wish to create.”—
This is a really nice quote from a really terrific article.
Is America a Free Country?
By Justin Raimondo, Antiwar.com, April 22, 2012
The “war on terrorism” has inaugurated a new era in the American polity, a sea-change that has not only threatened to overturn traditional limits on government power but also corrupted the political culture—and opened the way to the terminal crisis of the Constitution.
In a revealing series of interviews on Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now” program, three individuals targeted by the American surveillance state—William Binney, former top NSA official, Jacob Applebaum, an internet security specialist who works with WikiLeaks, and Laura Poitras, an Oscar-nominated documentary film-maker whose work has brought her to the attention of US authorities and led to her harassment by US government agents—give compelling evidence that the answer to the question in the title of this piece is clearly an emphatic no.
Binney resigned his position with the National Security Agency (NSA) after 40 years in protest at the government’s increasingly totalitarian methods of data-collection and retention, without judicial oversight. The government has targeted him: in 2007, his home was invaded by FBI agents after he went to the Senate Intelligence Committee with revelations about illegal NSA spying on American citizens: they pointed guns at him, and warned that he would “not do well” in prison. Applebaum and Poitras have been detained, searched, and interrogated every time they have re-entered the US from abroad—Poitras over 40 times—and had their laptops seized and presumably copied. None of these individuals have been charged with a crime.
The degree to which our constitutionally-protected liberties have been usurped is shockingly described by Binney:
“AMY GOODMAN: Do you believe all emails, the government has copies of, in the United States?
WILLIAM BINNEY: I would think—I believe they have most of them, yes.
GOODMAN: And you’re speaking from a position where you would know, considering your position in the National Security Agency.
BINNEY: Right. All they would have to do is put various Narus devices at various points along the network, at choke points or convergent points, where the network converges, and they could basically take down and have copies of most everything on the network.
While this level of surveillance started during the Bush administration, under President Obama, says Binney:
“The surveillance has increased. In fact, I would suggest that they’ve assembled on the order of 20 trillion transactions about U.S. citizens with other U.S. citizens.
AMY GOODMAN: How many?
WILLIAM BINNEY: Twenty trillion.”
What are they doing with all those emails? They’re targeting their enemies, domestic as well as foreign, and combining this information with “meta-data”—i.e. financial records, credit card transactions—to create comprehensive profiles of those on their enemies list. There’s nothing to stop them from “leaking” this information to anyone, for any purpose—because it all takes place in the dark. And if they want to find something on you, they will find it and use it. This, in short, is what it means to say one lives in a police state. Glenn Greenwald wrote about this in a recent column, and he said something very important that we should all focus on:
“So just look at what happens to people in the U.S. if they challenge government actions in any meaningful way—if they engage in any meaningful dissent. We love to tell ourselves that there are robust political freedoms and a thriving free political press in the U.S. because you’re allowed to have an MSNBC show or blog in order to proclaim every day how awesome and magnanimous the President of the United States is and how terrible his GOP political adversaries are—how brave, cutting and edgy!—or to go on Fox News and do the opposite. But people who are engaged in actual dissent, outside the tiny and narrow permissible boundaries of pom-pom waving for one of the two political parties—those who are focused on the truly significant acts which the government and its owners are doing in secret—are subjected to this type of intimidation, threats, surveillance, and climate of fear, all without a whiff of illegal conduct.”
All modern dictatorships employ the same method of limited freedom in certain realms, expanding and contracting the parameters of the permissible according to the tactical advantage of the moment, and yet always upholding the first principle of any and all tyrannies: that the government grants such “rights” as “free speech” and “free assembly” at its sole discretion. Which means they can be rescinded at a moment’s notice.
This state of conditional freedom that allows these governments to maintain the official fiction they are “liberal” democracies. With Fox News and MSNBC braying at one another, and the airwaves filled with corporate-funded political ads detailing the dirt on this or that candidate, the illusion of liberality persists. Yet all one has to do is challenge the “national security” prerogatives of an ever-expanding American empire—as Binney, Applebaum, and Poitras did—and suddenly one is transported into the world of It Can’t Happen Here, Sinclair Lewis’s masterful evocation of what a distinctively American dictatorship might look like, Orwell’s 1984, or some other dystopian vision of a totalitarian future. Reading these warnings today, one cannot escape their archaic air: not because the visions projected in these novels turned out to be wrong, but precisely because they have already come true.
Take Orwell’s classic work, which posited a world in a state of perpetual warfare (check!), where constant and universal surveillance is the norm (check!), where “thoughtcrime” is ruthlessly punished, and where most ordinary people (the “proles”) are basically left alone, with totalitarian methods of repression directed almost exclusively against rebellious elites (check!) This last item is the point Greenwald made in his piece, and it bears repeating and elaboration. The idea is to make it possible to exert control without affecting how most people live their lives. If you aren’t a “whistle-blower,” a Julian Assange, or a Bradley Manning: if you don’t reveal closely-guarded government secrets, if you aren’t making documentaries about how the Americans conquered and lorded over the Iraqis, then you have nothing to worry about. There are no political prisons, no gulags—but if you step out of bounds the government has enough information to discredit, destroy, and/or imprison you. Two journalists—Tom Vanden Brook, a writer for USA Today, and Ray Locker, an editor—who were writing about the Pentagon’s use of military contractors to whitewash its sorry record in Iraq and Afghanistan, found that a website and a false Twitter account in their names made a sudden appearance, in what appeared to be a coordinated effort to discredit them and their work.
The contractors deny all involvement, and, yes, this happened under the Obama administration—last week. Barack Obama is an essential element of the developing totalitarian trend in the United States: indeed, I would argue his reelection is the essential factor pushing this process forward.
I’m a libertarian, and so my jaundiced view of the President is not all that surprising. Yet even I am surprised by the deafening silence in the “liberal” community—and the lack of real anger on the left at Obama’s escalation of the war on our civil liberties. Leading “progressives” are apparently indifferent to this administration’s vindictive pursuit of “whistle-blowers”—insiders like Binney who cry foul at government abuses—and the lack of outrage is … outrageous.
With the left co-opted, and the right pushing for an even more draconian crackdown on what is left of our constitutionally-protected rights, we are left with only Ron Paul holding up a copy of the Constitution and demanding its restoration. Unfortunately, even that voice will be stilled—at least, insofar as presidential politics is concerned—after the Tampa convention, in August, when the Republicans anoint Mitt Romney. What this means is that the authoritarian trend in American politics will continue, unabated and unopposed. In this context, it is appropriate to recall the warning of John T. Flynn, a financial writer purged from The New Republic and polite liberal society for his vocal opposition to the policies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt:
“Fascism will come at the hands of perfectly authentic Americans, as violently against Hitler and Mussolini as the next one, but who are convinced that the present economic system is washed up and that the present political system in America has outlived its usefulness and who wish to commit this country to the rule of the bureaucratic state; interfering in the affairs of the states and cities; taking part in the management of industry and finance and agriculture; assuming the role of great national banker and investor, borrowing millions every year and spending them on all sorts of projects through which such a government can paralyze opposition and command public support; marshaling great armies and navies at crushing costs to support the industry of war and preparation for war which will become our greatest industry; and adding to all this the most romantic adventures in global planning, regeneration, and domination all to be done under the authority of a powerfully centralized government in which the executive will hold in effect all the powers with Congress reduced to the role of a debating society. There is your fascist. And the sooner America realizes this dreadful fact the sooner it will arm itself to make an end of American fascism masquerading under the guise of the champion of democracy.
“…. They began to flirt with the alluring pastime of reconstructing the capitalist system. They became the architects of a new capitalist system. And in the process of this new career they began to fashion doctrines that turned out to be the principles of fascism. Of course they do not call them fascism, although some of them frankly see the resemblance. But they are not disturbed, because they know that they will never burn books, they will never hound the Jews or the Negroes, they will never resort to assassination and suppression. What will turn up in their hands will be a very genteel and dainty and pleasant form of fascism which cannot be called fascism at all because it will be so virtuous and polite.”
Those words were published in 1944, and they are truer today than on the day they appeared in print. The dictatorship of the virtuous is being prepared, ever so politely.
The U.S. Government Demands that Google Hand Over Email Data from a Wikileaks Volunteer
According to NBC Bay Area, the Federal Government issued a secret court order to Google and ISP provider Sonic.net to handover account data from Jacob Applebaum, a Wikileaks volunteer who they believe was involved in the leaking of classified docs.
No party involved with the matter is saying much, but it brings back an issue which has lingered around Google for the better part of five years. With all the data they hang onto, there’s always the threat that some governing body will demand to see it, despite Google’s loose promise to keep data somewhat private. Whether or not Google can fend off, or even attempt to fend off, these court orders will be worth paying attention to, as it will give us an idea of how Google’s stance towards privacy has or hasn’t changed.[NBC Bay Area]
“When you communicate over the internet, when you communicate using mobile phones, which are now meshed to the internet, your communications are being intercepted by military intelligence organizations. It's like having a tank in your bedroom. It's a soldier between you and your wife as you're SMSing. We are all living under martial law as far as our communications are concerned, we just can't see the tanks - but they are there. To that degree, the internet, which was supposed to be a civilian space, has become a militarized space.”—Excerpt from ‘Cypherpunks’ by Julian Assange. Buy the book and/or e-book HERE
Facebook: Wie Algorithmen und Drittfirmen die Nutzer zensieren
Am Wochenende hat die Löschung eines Facebook-Kommentars des bekannten Tech-Bloggers Robert Scoble für Aufregung gesorgt. Er wollte auf ein Posting des Carnegie-Melon-Studenten Max Woolf reagieren, doch anstatt die Diskussion über den vor einigen Monaten gestarteten Tech-Blog Pando Daily weiterzubringen, bekam Scoble einen Warnhinweis auf den Bildschirm.