The White House and other government officials admitted to the unprecedented surveillance effort by defending it and denouncing the leaker, Edward Snowden. The official spin doctors are already throwing about words like “espionage” and accusing the whistleblower of “defecting” to China. Don’t believe their lies.
With government power increasing and liberties steadily shrinking over the past decade, “to keep you safe” has become a threadbare cliché.
This may be a bitter pill to swallow, but someone owes the civil libertarians an apology. After all, they were the ones warning about the potential for this type of abuse since the hasty passage of the PATRIOT Act back in 2001.
Why has the U.S. government been working so hard behind the scenes to erase our individual privacy?
Historically, governments do this for one of two reasons. They either regard the people as a resource to be managed or they think of everyone as a potential criminal that has not yet been discovered.
As Claire Wolfe and Aaron Zelman pointed out over 12 years ago in their book “The State vs. The People,” when the state craves control — information is control.
It’s not just our phone data that’s being tracked and stored. Cameras monitor most public spaces and our license plates are regularly scanned as we drive down local streets. As government encroaches into the realm of health care, the privacy of our electronic medical records is at risk.
Our finances are under constant scrutiny by the IRS. Even your hometown banker is required by law to report large deposits or withdrawals of cash.
Partnering with private industry now allows government to benefit from the data mining that follows our preferences, purchases, and places we go online.
This thirst for control goes back well before the electronic age.
Authoritarian and totalitarian governments have always sought to deny privacy to those under their power. Personal information is what has allowed the regime to identify, track, control the movement of, and intimidate the people.
The means for collecting information about us have simply become much more sophisticated. They are powerful tools for a shadowy branch of government that we are told exists to “keep us safe.” And if it weren’t for the conscience of Snowden, most of us would be blissfully unaware that we were the ones being spied upon.
When asked why he became a whistleblower, Snowden said:
The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards. I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.
To those who recognize the implications of secretive government that believes it can operate outside the law, Snowden is rightly regarded as a hero. The bigger question isn’t why he chose to come forth, it’s why haven’t more men like him spoken out?
The answer is that too many within the national security community don’t wish to jeopardize their often-lucrative jobs.
Libertas Institute Director Connor Boyack said:
Otherwise good people grow tolerant, if not outright supportive, of these things. They would rather live comfortably than take the risk of exposing the bad things that fund their salaries. It is not in human nature to do what Edward Snowden has done. He is an inspiration and a role model.
So what do we do with this information? Do we shrug our shoulders and hope someone else will take corrective action? The ball is in our court.
In his video interview, lamenting, Snowden said:
The greatest fear I have regarding the outcome for America of these disclosures is that nothing will change. People will see in the media all of these disclosures. They will know the lengths that the government is going to grant themselves powers unilaterally to create greater control over American society and global society, but they won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to fight to change things, to force their representatives to actually take a stand in their interests.
Snowden has put everything on the line to bring this abuse to our attention. Let’s make sure it wasn’t in vain.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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