On ‘Planetary-wide Surveillance Without Just Cause’

Why is it that dissident journalists are articulate and eloquent in their arguments? One good reason is that the truth is on their side. Another is that they’re dedicated to human rights. Watch Jacob Appelbaum, a dissident security researcher and Wikileaks associate, speaking today in an interview on “Democracy Now!” It’s a stunner, and not just when he is asked about his fiancée, who “woke up with two men prowling outside of her house wearing night vision goggles, watching her sleep at 3:00 in the morning for about half an hour.”

Jacob Appelbaum speaking on ‘Democracy Now!’ Click for the video and go to 50:37 on the track.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you think is most significant about what Edward Snowden has revealed, and also the treatment of him, as well as others, including yourself, before and since?

JACOB APPELBAUM: Well, as far as what Snowden has revealed, I think when [U.S. Senator] Ron Wyden suggests that what has been revealed is merely the tip of the iceberg, that suggests something extremely terrifying, and that suggests that what Snowden has revealed is in fact just the tip of the iceberg. And what he’s revealed so far is planetary-wide surveillance without warrants, without due process, without just cause, where most of the legislation is either secret or secretly interpreted. And in a few cases where there may be something that resembles judicial oversight, it’s a kangaroo court with no opposition. And the people that are supposed to do oversight in the United States are either corrupted by the process, or they simply do not understand it and are unqualified to be involved in that oversight.

That’s just the beginning.

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  1. says

    I think there are many complex ideas at the root of what this journalist is saying, though I can’t seem to sort them out without dissolving into hopeless abstractions that leave me even more perplexed.

    Most Americans no longer care if they are being spied on by their government. We live in a society so transparent they already feel they have no meaningful secrets left. Through social conditioning, government becomes an almost aestheticized ideal of perfection from which we need hide nothing. This surrender and abnegation of the self to idealized authority is in reality a form of nihilism that is the foundation of totalitarianism.

    Surveillance and exploitation have been the principle forces that have formulated the mass media’s technologies, purpose and ethos for at least a century. As such, humans are not served by the media but instead are part of its apparatus. As a collective, humanity becomes the device itself, a fertile field from which wealth is mined. Under total survelliance the individual vanishes.

    I think this is why culture jamming has intuitively evolved among some types of social dissidents. Through absurdity, systems of survelliance and control are blocked for at least an instant. Profound ironies result. One seems to be that the best journalists, like Greenwald and Assange, no longer serve the media but rather jam it.

    As I say, I can’t make my way out of this forest of thoughts. And I need to sleep. Maybe its better to just note that our government is run by a bunch of assholes and be done with it.

    • Greg Hlatky says

      Well, who’s going to bell this cat? The President’s courtier media? The lickspittles of his own party? The yammering punditti on MSNBC and CNN who shriek that any criticism of the incumbent is racism?

      Here’s a homework assignment for you. Find out which “social dissident” said this: “A couple of months back, I quoted Tocqueville’s prescient words from almost two centuries ago: Although absolute monarchy theoretically ‘clothed kings with a power almost without limits,’ in practice ‘the details of social life and of individual existence ordinarily escaped his control.’ In other words, the king couldn’t do it even if he wanted to. What would happen, Tocqueville wondered, if administrative capability were to evolve to bring ‘the details of social life and of individual existence’ within His Majesty’s oversight? That world is now upon us. Today, the king concedes he most certainly can do it, but assures us not to worry, he doesn’t really want to.”

      This is, once again, the law of unintended consequences. You want a big government? This is what you’ll get. A government that thinks it’s empowered to do anything and has the means to do it will, eventually, unleash programs like this. A government more modest about its ambit won’t. If only there was some outline for an organic law that detailed the responsibilities of the government and which made clear that anything outside those responsibilities was reserved to the people. Where could we find such a document? Where? Where?…

      Outrageous as this program is, “progressives” have the least standing to complain. The Left is perfectly happy, for example, for the IRS to audit groups organized to oppose the incumbent; your rights end where the taxation power begins. And nothing illustrates the arrogance of the Administrative State better than the EPA official who compared the agency’s enforcement policy to the Romans invading a village and crucifying the first five people they saw as an example to the rest.

      • says

        Perhaps “big government” (however that might be defined in our wing nut political climate) is the problem. In any case, the US government has the lowest per capita spending rate of any developed nation, and yet by far the largest apparatus for domestic and foreign spying. Even oppressive societies like Russia and China do not have the same technological capacities – though perhaps they would if they could. These facts, however, won’t deter people from making judgments based on political biases. That might be part of the problem. Forgive me if I avoid further discussions involving partisan politics.