On May 30th, 2013, Edward Snowden left behind his family, his country, and his lucrative job as a contractor for the National Security Agency to blow the whistle on the most far-reaching and invasive spying programs in human history. A year ago today journalist Glenn Greenwald, documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras and NSA contractor-turned whistleblower Edward Snowden were combing through the millions of documents Snowden brought with him to Hong Kong to reveal for the first time the inner workings of the most secretive government agency of the most powerful and monolithic government in history. The year that followed shed an unprecedented amount of light on some of the most egregious abuses of power ever committed against the citizens of a supposed free country. Below you will find the list I have compiled of more than one hundred news articles detailing the extent the NSA has gone to effectively eliminate privacy in the 21st century.
In an excellent interview with VICE, Greenwald explains how metadata can tell government snoops more about a person than if they were just listening or reading the content of our communications. (The whole interview is worth your time but the section on metadata begins around 09:45).
Reports detail how NSA and GCHQ attempted on multiple occasions to crack Tor email encryption services, exploiting vulnerabilities in the Firefox browser giving them access to an individual’s entire computer.
Some takeaways: You can’t trust a single thing the government says. While it is spending tremendous amounts of resources attempting to eradicate privacy, it is working just as hard to shroud its own actions in secrecy. The surveillance state is not being erected around us for our own safety. It is a tool to crush dissent. The NSA’s mantra has been to “collect it all.” The programs are capable of seeing your very thought processes. Every keystroke you make, every link you click, every article you read, where you were and more. They have the capacity to know more about you than your therapist or your significant other. They know not only whom you associate with, but also who your associates associate with. It could be said they can know more about you than you know about you.
And the end result of this is that when people feel that they can be watched at any moment, they begin to police their own actions. It’s Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon transposed to the 21st century. When the government can know everything about a person, when privacy is effectively eliminated, it creates a subservient class. The telescreens of George Orwell’s “1984” exist today in the form of personal computers and smartphones. Big Brother is always present in our lives, capable of knowing the most intimate details of our lives. And the government treats the exposing of this fact to the general public as treason.
Such broad powers cannot be trusted with anyone. The NSA’s surveillance powers elevate the executive branch to a level unimaginable by the Founders. The president can and likely does track the communications of members of the legislature and judiciary. The checks and balances of the Constitution are rendered hollow and irrelevant by the size and scope of the NSA’s powers. It poses a threat to the liberties and freedoms of everyone in the world.
Since education is the whole point of Edward Snowden’s leaks I want you all to reblog this post and to tweet it on Twitter and share it on Facebook. Spread this list far and wide. The more people know the more likely they are to engage on the issues and actually bring about substantive reform.