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Monday, 10 June 2013 10:53

When the Surveillance State Is Used to Investigate and Prosecute Whistleblowers, the Occupy Movement and Environmental Activists

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

spymaskIt's worth noting that a noticeable number of progressives are protesting not the expanded government invasion of privacy under President Obama, but rather those sites, such as BuzzFlash at Truthout, who are harshly critical of Obama for justifying a secret system of massive spying on individuals.

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I could fill this commentary with a load of urls linking to articles raising the alarm on how a president who is a constitutional lawyer is extending the groundwork – laid by Bush and Cheney, but really begun during the cold war with the creation of agencies like the CIA, NSA, Pentagon and NRO (National Reconaissance Office – the spy satellite system that tracks people, monitors phone calls, and collects data from space) -- but this is really about the arc of history, democracy and common sense.

Edward Snowden, who admitted this weekend to being the leaker of the latest NSA revelation that the US is collecting -- the kind of data that moves toward the direction of a Stasi state -- is ensconced in Hong Kong, hoping that his heroic action on behalf of the Constitution will not end in his arrest and extradition.  We know what fate will await Snowden – if Hong Kong extradites him, which it probably will because it is a part of China now, and China doesn't want to encourage whistleblowers in its own nation. He will be treated as an enemy of the state, although if processed through a civilian court may not experience the psychological and deprivation torture that has been Bradley Manning's fate.

Snowden told Glenn Greenwald -- who is no doubt the subject of an investigation by the NSA, CIA and FBI using data and information collected on the constitutional lawyer turned journalist – that "I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things."

Already the Obama administration is calling for Snowden's prosecution.  After all, his leak is a tsuanami of an embarrassment to the White House.

President Obama assured us on Friday that our phone conversations are not being listened to, but that is not a credible reassurance unless the White House comes up with documents that make what is going on transparent in terms of its protocols and process.  There is little "an enemy" can learn from the broad strokes of this secret program, at least as far as we can tell.  When it is pretty clear that the US government has the power, and is using it, to conduct sweeping data mining of the Internet (likely including Skype and Google calls) and access phone records – and likely phone calls – what is there that full disclosure would reveal other than that the "Patriot Act" – as many predicted – is being egregiously abused.

Isn't it pretty clear to anyone that the US government is capturing about all the information it can on anybody it wants to – and then some – so why go through the charade that some mortal wound has been done to our national security because Snowden, like Manning, showed what true patriotism is in protecting our Constitution?

Long ago, this intrusive data and collection of intimate information and communication stopped being about just protecting the United States from terrorists.  It is a massive database that can be used, and probably already is (despite vague reassurances to the contrary) to retaliate, intimidate and prosecute whistleblowers who reveal lying and deceit at the highest levels and others who advocate for a participatory democracy and economic justice.

Most importantly, the collection of knowledge about our every keystroke on a computer and reportable and recordable data on our lives, can be used to protect the status quo of the ruling elite and economic one percent against forces such as the Occupy Movement, protestors against the Keystone Pipeline, and so-called "eco-terrorists" among others.

In short, the collection of information about our movements, our calls, our e-mails, our conversations -- and more -- provides the US government with a secret database that has the potential to reach KGB proportions.

Those progressives who want to back off holding Obama accountable forget that his administration has prosecuted and silenced many more whistleblowers than the Bush administration, and it participated in and condoned the crackdown on the Occupy movement. It has no sympathy – to say the least – for the Keystone XL Pipeline protestors.

But most significantly, we have reached a point in time as a nation when the consolidation of the nation's assets in the hands of the few is accepted as keystone of the security of the national state.  This may be due to the national government being in large part beholden to the wealthy who have accumulated so much financially that they effectively ensure that the interests of the United States benefit their needs -- and to oppose the economic and political order that has created their power is to be an enemy of the state.

So, let's be clear, any national government that collects massive data in secret – and refuses to share the outlines of its spying at home and abroad with the citizens of a democracy is more than suspect.  It is culpable of undermining the Fourth Amendment and other provisions of the US Constitution.

Whether it is the Obama administration currently engaged in such conduct – or remains for a future one to carry out – the odds that internal dissent and protest over the status quo of financial power will become defined as "enemy acts" remains high. In many ways, this has already happened. The abusers of the financial system are bailed out, given a free get out of jail card, and go on to even more financial power consolidated in fewer hands. Those activists who would hold the people who crashed our economy accountable are arrested, pepper sprayed and beaten over the head.  Just do the math.

All that remains, if it is not already underway, is to unleash the horde of information gathered and stored by the US to be used against those citizens who seek a transparent politics and economic democracy.

What is being done in the name of fighting "terrorism" is the basis for shifting into the protection of the ruling elite.

It's already begun.

(Photo: Anonymous9000)