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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

must we resign ourselves to living in a total-surveillance state?

prism

On Thursday, the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald revealed that the “NSA [is] collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily.” On Friday, The Washington Post followed up with “U.S., British intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program” called PRISM, almost simultaneously with the Guardian’s own article on PRISM.

Uproar ensued, and continues. (The AP’s Big Story has an excellent rundown of what we know — and, more importantly, all we don’t know — right now.) But if this follows the same path that previous such revelations have, nothing will change. The EFF might file a lawsuit against the U.S government, which will have no impact, because a few years from now, we’ll learn about how the NSA has doubled-down and created an even more intrusive, even more invasive, even more privacy-busting program via some legal weaselling.

Not that the weaselling is even necessary. Because we have our supposed Constitutional scholar of a president defending this (via the AP):

Obama asserted his administration had tightened the phone records collection program since it started in the George W. Bush administration and is auditing the programs to ensure that measures to protect Americans’ privacy are heeded — part of what he called efforts to resist a mindset of “you know, ‘Trust me, we’re doing the right thing. We know who the bad guys are.'”

But again, he provided no details on how the program was tightened or what the audit is looking at.

Obama said this, too:

“It’s important to recognize that you can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience,” he said. “We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.”

He cannot possibly believe that “100 percent security” is possible, can he? And surely he cannot have missed coming across that famous bit of philosophizing by Ben Franklin: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Can he?

Of course not. The President of the United States simply doesn’t see anything wrong with mass surveillance.

And then there are the idiots — to whom I will not link — who insist that there’s nothing to worry about in this news if you’re a good and decent person doing nothing wrong, as if privacy only matters to criminals, and as if no one had ever been thrown in prison for something they didn’t do. And then there are the other idiots — also not getting a link from me — who say it’s all our own faults anyway, because we willingly share our information on Facebook and Twitter and are so stupid that we actually think Gmail is secure. As if it were absolutely inevitable that that information must be used against us.

With so few people apparently genuinely upset about this news, and seemingly no way to push back against such surveillance anyway short of disconnecting oneself from the modern world and living like a hermit:

Must we resign ourselves to living in a total-surveillance state?

I don’t want to think this is the case, but I’m not seeing any other options right now…

(If you have a suggestion for a Question, feel free to email me.)


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