Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Snowden exposes how a whole country is under suspicion

US whistleblower Edward Snowden’s courageous decision to lift the lid on the secret state is dramatically changing the stakes in the war between covert spy agencies and ordinary people.

Snowden, a former National Security Agency senior advisor, released 41 Powerpoint slides (link) to reporters which detail the vast nature and the scale of surveillance by US spy agencies through the backdoor of all the main internet giants.

So far the Guardian and the Washington Post have chosen to publish only five of the slides, on the grounds the others could be “too explosive”. Snowden felt he couldn’t live with himself if he kept secret what he knew. He says:

"You don’t have to have done anything wrong, you simply have to have eventually fall under suspicion ... and then they can use this system to go back in time and ... derive suspicion from an innocent life”

Fearing for his security, Snowden has now disappeared from a Hong Kong hotel after naming himself as the source of a leak reckoned to be the most devastating of all time by Daniel Ellsberg, who is someone who should know.

In 1971, Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers, a top secret study into military decision-making during the Vietnam War.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, seeking refuge in London’s Ecuadorean embassy to avoid extradition, says Snowden’s request that all 41 should be made public should be honoured.

Whatever the missing slides may contain, Snowden’s actions show snooping on a scale that goes far beyond that of even the Stasi, to the secret police in the former German Democratic Republic. 

During the Cold War, the Stasi spied on the entire population through a huge bureaucracy of spies, informants and phone tapping. Now Ellsberg has described the NSA, the Federal Bureau of Intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency “the United Stasi of America”.
Ellsberg has praised Snowden’s action. He says that what Snowden has revealed show that the 9/11 terror attacks became an opportunity to carry out an “executive coup” against the US constitution.

In his extraordinary interview with the Guardian, Snowden explained why he decided to go public, despite the enormous personal risk.  Although he had a highly paid senior post as an advisor and “telecommunications systems officer”,  he was increasingly horrified by the NSA and intelligence communications targeting everyone and storing the information they gathered from internet companies.

And it was exactly the indiscriminate, secret and unaccountable nature of the surveillance that disturbed him so much.

“Even if you aren’t doing anything that is wrong, they can paint anyone in the context of a wrong-doer ... they may intend to target someone suspected of terrorism but they are targeting everyone,” he said.

Like Ellsberg he is frightened of what he describes as an “architecture of oppression”. He says the secret agencies are “subverting the power of government”.

It’s clear that Snowden has gone to ground because, as he has said, “you can’t come forward against the world’s most powerful intelligence agency” and not be under threat.

Many aspects of the mass surveillance of an entire citizenry recalls the plot of the science fiction film, Minority Report, a dystopia in which people could be found guilty of “pre-crime”.

In Britain as in the US, we could all be found guilty of pre-crime in what Snowden describes as a possible “turnkey tyranny” – an autocratic state in which the government will give itself even greater powers.

Snowden’s action tears a great hole in the web of lies behind which the secret state that its political apologists like Barack Obama and David Cameron try to hide.

Their state, a corporatocracy which facilitates the rule of corporate profit making, is the gravest danger to the limited forms of democracy we still have.

As David Talbot, of the US Alternet website says, if whistleblowers like Bradley Manning and Snowden are “weird”, then it’s definitely time for all of us to get weird.

Corinna Lotz
A World to Win secretary

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