It has been 7 months since Edward Snowden’s revelations that the US government is spying on every single person in the world with internet access. Every phone call we send, and every email we compose, is being tracked & stored in a massive NSA database, the size of a small town.
When these allegations were first made, they were greeted with tremendous shock & outcry. Seven decades after fascism, two decades after the end of the cold war, we were turning into the same police state that we had fought so desperately against. The initial incredulity that our government could be capable of such a thing, quickly turned to outrage.
But then, the news changed. The stories stopped focusing on the legitimacy of our surveillance state, and instead became a soap opera following the adventures of Edward Snowden. Where is he now? Is he going to fly to Russia? Will Ecuador grant him asylum? Soon, even that adventure played itself out in the media, and the entire NSA revelations became old news. The outrage has turned into quiet resignation.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We live in a democracy, and we hold the power to make our representatives tremble. Indeed, we have on numerous occasions wielded this power effectively. When the Watergate scandal broke, the resulting outrage forced Nixon’s resignation. A clear red line was established, which politicians dared not cross. Even more recently, when the ObamaCare website was plagued by an amateurish rollout, the entire Democratic party & every one of its representatives felt the heat. The President found himself facing a mutiny in his own party, and had to take immediate steps to remedy the situation.
And yet, when the NSA revelations were leaked, none of our representatives felt any similar kind of pressure. Some of them came together to put together a bill constraining the NSA, and others opposed it. It got taken up by the courts, where some judges ruled against the NSA and others ruled in favor of it. The entire issue has now become simply yet another cocktail conversation. Business as usual. And the message we’ve sent to our politicians is crystal clear. We may not like this new surveillance state that has been set up, but it isn’t an important enough topic for us to do anything about it.
The rest of the world doesn’t share our complacency. Europe, which has spent much of the 20th century under the shadow of fascism, communism, authoritarianism, and surveillance states of every shape & stripe, isn’t nearly as cavalier as we are. The President of Brazil cancelled her visit to the US, and governments worldwide are reconsidering doing business with American corporations… and with good reason. Not only is our government spying on its own citizens, but on every single person in the entire world.
A year ago, when news broke of Chinese hackers attacking NYTimes and other leading American corporations, we were furious. How dare the Chinese declare cyberwar on us & invade our privacy? And yet, when our government is found to be monitoring every single email & phone call sent by every single person in the world, it has simply become business as normal.
The NSA apologists usually respond with the bogeyman of terrorism. After heroically fighting off Nazism, Fascism & Communism in the 20th century, it is strangely disillusioning that we’re willing to abandon our core national principles in the name of a few terrorists who can barely mount any sort of fight against us. I wonder what the World War 2 veterans, who gave their lives to the cause of freedom & liberty, would think of us abandoning everything they fought for, in the name of a rag-tag group of Jihadis.
But even that bogeyman of terrorism is itself a false excuse. The American government has been knowingly & intentionally spying on every single person imaginable, even those known to be innocent, simply in order to advance government interests. We have spied on the Heads of States of our own allies, such as Germany, Brazil & Israel. We have spied on businesses, such as France’s electronics company Thales. We have even spied on International Aid organizations like Unicef.
The bogeyman of Terrorism is used to justify the NSA surveillance state, but the truth is, it is spying on absolutely anyone & everyone, in order to advance government interests in absolutely in way conceivable. How long will it be before the NSA starts spying on political dissidents, opponents & other critics? Before you answer that, just consider this: NSA officials have already started using their surveillance powers to spy on their love interests.
We used to stand for something. We used to fight for our principles. We waged war against Hitler & Mussolini, in the name of freedom. We faced off against the USSR, on the brink of nuclear annihilation, in the name of liberty.
And yet, in the past decade, we have changed. The terrorists attacked us on 9/11 and we have since responded by abandoning our core principles. We suspended Habeas Corpus, allowing the indefinite detention of suspects without even filing charges. We opened a Detention Center in Guantanamo Bay, specifically to detain, interrogate & torture suspects in ways that our forefathers had explicitly banned. Our Congress, Senate & Presidency have all changed hands between the 2 parties since then, and yet, these developments still stand. And now, just to eliminate all doubt of what our nation has become, it is widely known & accepted that our government is tracking & spying on every single person in the world.
We used to stand for something. We used to have principles that defined our nation; principles that we fought for. But if the past half-year is any indication, we have long abandoned any pretense of these principles. When our government botched the Obamacare rollout, we threatened them with political death, and they trembled. But when we learned of the extent of our surveillance state, we simply grumbled, shrugged, and moved on. Our Representatives in Washington, and our surveilers in the Pentagon, have certainly noticed. The message is crystal clear: Keep our wallets fat, our minds entertained, and we’ll let you do anything you want. If you think America has changed in the past decade, we can certainly look forward to more in the coming years.
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