The Ends of National Security Initiatives
We’ve heard much official speak about the ends of national security initiatives and how the threat of terrorism may affect our daily lives. We are at least conditioned to tolerating full body searches under the assumption that we are potential terrorists. When considering some definition of freedom, it is somewhat telling when all American men, women and children are deemed potential terrorists by their own government. It must have taken a great leap of faith in bureaucracy to have made such a deliberate acquiescence of intellect. It is now a matter of national policy to implement whatever security measures are necessary to protect the government over individual liberty, privacy and choice.
Homeland Security became the centralized intelligence instrument connected with every agency from the NSA down to the local police department. Now that Edward Snowden (former employee of NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton) has revealed the massive domestic network of the NSA, it’s time again for Americans to see themselves in a much deeper intelligence operation that chronicles not only his movements and activities, but also his personal belief system.
What is Happening in America?
There’s really nothing to quip about here. What is happening in America is not unique in annuls of historical texts. Anyone who has studied the KGB would know that its prowess for the efficiency of centralized intelligence was perfected during the cold war years.
NSA Director, Gen. Keith Alexander, in an open congressional hearing, briefly mentioned that there were some fifty terrorist plots prevented. Unfortunately, this information comes through compromising circumstance, and there is nothing in the way of documentation on how (or if) these events unfolded. His statements were scripted in advance of any leaks that might politically compromise the program. In perfect form, the White House assures that blanket collection of information is used with computerized algorithms to find specified patterns within a very narrow parameter. Why then must the untapped privacy of non-terrorists be stored indefinitely in a subterranean main frame in Virginia?
The trillions of phone calls, emails and other private conversations now accruing in a collective intelligence folder, holds the key to fundamental individualisms; information identifying political and religious beliefs, as an example. This is not simply a collection of raw data for the sake of protecting civilization. It is a penetrating snapshot that identifies people by their thoughts, expressed through mass media forums.
Speaking of Undemocratic Governments
When we speak of undemocratic governments that spy on everyone and quietly amass databases, it is really about opting for control over public expression. In Soviet Russia it was never about thought control, as it was about mitigating or preventing the social nature of collective bargaining. Humanity thrives in an open environment of cultural identity, the creative expressions of art, religion, economics, politics. When these identities are reduced to dossiers, computer algorithms and the paranoia of sweeping security agendas, any corruption of ethics over the public trust silently offsets the balance between protection and repression. Today it’s about intervening in terrorist plots, tomorrow it will be about monitoring your opinions.
I had a conversation with a Syrian born neurosurgeon. He lives in a big house in one of the wealthiest counties in America. He said, “I would be willing to sacrifice some of my privacy for more security”. I didn’t respond to his statement, but asked myself what sort of person would be willing to hand over the key to his liberties for a promise like that? It is a contradiction in terms to think that turning over one’s freedom to his government leads to more security. In reality, it is exchanging an external threat for an internal one.
Leader At The Top Calls The Shots
This man, though well educated, came from an autocratic nation where a leader at the top called the shots and everyone under him executed his order. Here we have systemic indolence devoid of the rule of law. Though millions of hard working Syrians may dream of freedoms they don’t have, there is little knowledge of what it takes to build institutional democracy, lacking in the vision of liberty as an institutionalized extension of the public will. Without such broad support over its own interests, a government entity cannot be seen as legitimate.
With the Arab Spring, we have seen demonstrations, revolution and even the executions of long time dictators, but certainly not the beginnings of institutionalized democracy. Even with Qaddafi and Mubarak gone, there are the imposing remnants of their administrations fraught with potbellied cronies who obey orders from the top and collect their bribes.
In another sign that freedom is under fire we can examine the New York City police department’s aggressive civilian espionage policy. Plain clothes police officers trained by former CIA agents (presumably former spies) on how to infiltrate and profile people of interest in the NYC community. Ostensibly for the purpose of identifying potential terror cells, loan wolves and extremists – at first there is some comfort.
Control and Intimidation
As an expanded program, what would it take for this system to become an instrument of control and intimidation? Once such elements were in place nationwide, it would only take the right president, motive, perhaps a national threat or just a change in policy. How would the security government operate under less favorable conditions, such as economic collapse, civil disobedience? How would state threats be defined and what might a person do or say that would constitute a threat?
Pres. Obama assures that the men and women running these programs are honest and that the congressional representatives who oversee them are in the loop. If so, why are there congressional hearings being held to address the gaps in information since the revelation of Mr. Snowden?
I believe that privacy is more than protecting identifying information. Privacy is a citizen’s wall between a government that serves and one that controls. Former Pres. George W. Bush sold the contrivance that the intelligence and judicial system were so inept in thwarting 911, that it should have even more power to do as it saw fit. Some have referred to this strategy of expanding into public intelligence gathering as the Bush revolution; a revolution by the people, against the people – duped by fear.
Constitutional Protections Pertaining to Privacy
The constitutional protections pertaining to privacy is now circumvented by a very powerful national security machine that even the US Congress cannot fully grasp. The internal threat to the many freedoms Americans enjoy will become apparent when a future president enacts the provisions of Martial Law (including the Patriot Act) which would nullify the authority of the US Congress and Judicial system, effectively making him and the army the authority.
Mr. Snowden may be labeled a hero or traitor. Nevertheless, his act of treason has offered the American a rare inside view of a government spinning out of control. This is an opportunity for public debates that question the motives, peel back the layers and hold accountable this intrusive system with its well-meaning, but misguided bureaucrats.