In our current climate of warrantless surveillance and indiscriminate data collection, having constant access to the internet has become a liability as much as a convenience. Despite allowing for wonderfully pedestrian luxuries like on-demand hitchhiking and real-time pizza delivery tracking, internet services have forced us to choose between excessively leaking information or abandoning civilization to live amongst the tree-people.
And since it’s hard to wash the smell of sap and mildew out of your shorts, it’s up to you to protect your data. Using dedicated privacy software like Disconnect gives you an added layer of online insulation. “But what if I don’t have anything to hide,” you say, crouched in the corner suspiciously hiding something. Well you should still look at privacy software.
The browser protection and content blocking powers of Disconnect have been lauded in The New York Times, LifeHacker, PCMag, TechCrunch, and Ars Technica for good reason. You get several privacy tools in a single service available for all of your devices, plus robust ad-blocking and tracker-blocking plugins. Basically, it’s like an Internet Swiss-army knife, except, instead of using it to cut shoestring in the woods or whatever campers do (we don’t go out much), it allows you to find the most bizarre anime from every corner of the world (we don’t go out much). You can get a lifetime access to everything they offer for 90% off.
Let’s assume that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, their staffers, and every member of Congress for the last dozen years has always acted with pure motives in the realm of national security. Say they’ve used the power they’ve claimed, the technology they’ve developed, and the precedents they’ve established exclusively to fight al-Qaeda terrorists intent on killing us, that they’ve succeeded in disrupting what would’ve been successful attacks, and that Americans are lucky to have had men and women so moral, prudent, and incorruptible in charge.
Few Americans believe all of that to be so. Combining the people who didn’t trust Bush and the ones who don’t trust Obama adds up to a sizable part of the citizenry. But even if all the critics were proved wrong, even if the CIA, NSA, FBI, and every other branch of the federal government had been improbably filled, top to bottom, with incorruptible patriots constitutionally incapable of wrongdoing, this would still be so: The American people have no idea who the president will be in 2017. Nor do we know who’ll sit on key Senate oversight committees, who will head the various national-security agencies, or whether the moral character of the people doing so, individually or in aggregate, will more closely resemble George Washington, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, John Yoo, or Vladimir Putin.
What we know is that the people in charge will possess the capacity to be tyrants – to use power oppressively and unjustly – to a degree that Americans in 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, or 2000 could’ve scarcely imagined. To an increasing degree, we’re counting on having angels in office and making ourselves vulnerable to devils. Bush and Obama have built infrastructure any devil would lust after. Behold the items on an aspiring tyrant’s checklist that they’ve provided their successors:
–A precedent that allows the president to kill citizens in secret without prior judicial or legislative review –The power to detain prisoners indefinitely without charges or trial –Ongoing warrantless surveillance on millions of Americans accused of no wrongdoing, converted into a permanent database so that data of innocents spied upon in 2007 can be accessed in 2027 –Using ethnic profiling to choose the targets of secret spying, as the NYPD did with John Brennan’s blessing –Normalizing situations in which the law itself is secret – and whatever mischief is hiding in those secret interpretations –The permissibility of droning to death people whose identities are not even known to those doing the killing –The ability to collect DNA swabs of people who have been arrested even if they haven’t been convicted of anything –A torture program that could be restarted with an executive order
Even if you think Bush and Obama exercised those extraordinary powers responsibly, what makes you think every president would? How can anyone fail to see the huge potential for abuses?
I am not saying no one would resist a tyrant. Perhaps Congress would assert itself. Perhaps the people would rise up. Then again, perhaps it would be too late by the time the abuses were evident. (America has had horrific abuses of power in the past under weaker executives who were less empowered by technology; and numerous other countries haven’t recognized tyrants until it was too late.) Part of the problem is how much the Bush-Obama paradigm permits the executive to do in secret. Take that paradigm, add another successful 9/11-style attack, even after many years of very little terrorism, and who knows what would happen?
“No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State,” by Glenn Greenwald (2014).
What better source than Glenn Greenwald, the journalist Edward Snowden turned to for the reporting of many of the NSA documents exposing as fact that the American government is violating it’s own constitution with a global, illegal, and criminal warrantless surveillance program.
Everyone in America is having their online and phone data saved and stored by their government, but for what purpose? Glenn Greenwald dives into this issue explaining how part of the NSA’s goals go hand in hand with the COINTELPRO program that targeted and eliminated freedom fighters in the 60s. You’re safe not if you’ve got nothing to hide, but if you aren’t a threat to the status quo. There is a war on journalism while activism is being equated with terrorism. The NSA is there to keep the police apparatus and government informed of those who dare to speak out, question, and act against their abuse of power.
Of course, this should not scare us, but inform us and help us take measures to better prepare and defend ourselves.
As ever, rumors are circulating about the features Apple may include on the next iteration of the iPhone. Will it store fingerprints as a security feature used to unlock the device or aid secure transactions? That’s the buzz. The idea has undoubted appeal. I’d love to press my thumb to a screen rather than entering the four-digit code the currently unlocks my device. But wait. If I store a thumbprint on my iPhone, does that mean the government would be free to seize it, sans warrant, on the theory that I forfeited any expectation of privacy when I gave it to Apple?
There is reason to think so.
The government doesn’t need a search warrant to extract location data from cell phone users, a federal court ruled Tuesday, noting that a cellular subscriber, “like a telephone user, understands that his cellphone must send a signal to a nearby cell tower in order to wirelessly connect his call.”
my understanding is that ‘espionage’ means giving secret or classified information to the enemy. Since Snowden shared information with the American people, his indictment for espionage could reveal (or confirm) that the US government views you and me as the enemy.
A Republican Party resolution that renounces NSA spying is an extraordinary document. For over a decade, the GOP dismissed civil-libertarian complaints about the War on Terror. The RNC stood behind Team Bush through the war crime of torture and a secret, illegal program of warrantless surveillance on U.S. citizens. Circa 2009, the Tea Party began vying for control of the Republican Party. But even then, mass surveillance on innocents wasn’t among its complaints.
President Obama’s first term would play out with the GOP opposing him on virtually every issue except his embrace of his predecessor’s War on Terror approach.