The following post is by TDV Managing Editor, Redmond Weissenberger, and is excerpted from this week's TDV Dispatch. To read the Dispatch and other TDV subscriber-only publications, please subscribe here.
Sometimes seems like we live in a topsy-turvy world. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in the former home of the Proletariat Revolution, while the Home of the Brave's government desperately wants his scalp. Three decades ago, this was unheard of. Communist Russia was supposed to be a place of tyranny and surveillance. Uncle Sam was supposed to leave his citizens in peace. Now the roles have been flipped as Putin's Russia is taking in political refugees attempting to outrun the grip of the American state.
The Snowden leaks have proven a few things. First, the United States government - like all monopoly states - can't be trusted with uninhibited power. Second, Washington's political class only considers whistleblowers innocent if they don't embarrass the guys in charge. And third, there is a panopticon spying program, enforced by the American government, operating worldwide. Prior to the Snowden disclosure, it was only a crank rumor (one constantly stated at TDV) that bureaucrats were keeping tabs on everyone. Now we know for sure and the mainstream media can no longer deny it.
The latest revelation, via the intrepid Glenn Greenwald, is that the National Security Agency is capturing every American's private phone and email records, regardless of if they are corresponding with someone outside the country. The current law requires analysts to obtain a warrant from a secret court if they plan to snoop through the domestic files of an American citizen. But the NSA's XKeyscore program allows users easy access to data whether a warrant has been obtained or not. We are supposed to believe that the cherubic and harmless NSA agents check with their conscience when they decide to look up phone records.
If history is any guide, only a boob would truly believe the US government would refrain from engaging in nefarious acts. For decades, the American state has been using force and violence to intimidate the globe. The Church Committee revelations in the '70s showed that intelligence agencies attempted to assassinate various government leaders throughout the world - including using the mafia to rub out Fidel Castro. Operation Mockingbird - the CIA propaganda program aimed at major media outlets - operated on domestic shores to make public opinion susceptible to warmongering. The US intelligence state has a record of transgressions, yet the people are told to put their trust in a confidential court and shadowy analysts.
The vast metadata collection was one thing. But the new XKeyscore program makes it incredibly easy for government officials to look up the correspondences of everyone residing in the US and its puppet states. This is a terrifying new development in the era of the rising police state. For now, assume everything you post or write on the internet is being collected. We have no reason to believe the government will do the right thing.