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Snowden - Prism Versus Democracy - Americas

Snowden - Prism Versus Democracy

Posted by Aneela Shahzad on

After a week of stirring the White House in confoundment upon the disclosure of their top secret program, the ‘Prism’, and days of denials and lies from President Obama and his team; Edward Snowden has revealed himself as the whistleblower, aiming to disclose the dirty games the CIA, FBI and NSA have been playing on the American people and the people of the world, alike.

But Snowden is not the first whistleblower of the US administration, there have been many. Bradley Manning and Julian Assange are perhaps the favorite names, but US history is filled with many such heroic figures, who understood their civil and constitutional rights, and were willing to jeopardize their illustrious careers and risk the permanent enmity of the strongest network of secret predators, for life, for the sake of what they thought to be true.

Nor is this the first instance when the whistle has been blown on the un-democratic breach of the secret agencies of the US into the lives of the American people and humanity at large:

In 2003, Babak Pasdar revealed a US government office in Virginia having access to uncontrolled surveillance over voice calls and data packets. In 2006, Mark Klein disclosed a monitoring facility in San Francisco, alleged to be one of several warrantless surveillance facilities operated by the NSA, under the Bush administration. In 2005, Russ Tice revealed that NSA and DIA are engaged in unlawful and unconstitutional wiretapping on American citizens. In 2011, Samy Kamkar revealed mobile phone tracking in iPhone, Android and Windows Phone mobile devices, thereby continuously sending GPS coordinates back to Apple, Google and Microsoft even when the user has not given the app permission to do so.

Snowden has done it this time, and has said that he was compelled by the indifference prevalent in the employees of NSA, who would simply ‘not take it seriously’ whenever he would want to share his concerns with the enormous information he was exposed to. He said, “… over time, that awareness of wrong doing sort of builds up and you feel compelled to talk about it and… you realize that these things need to be determined by the public…” .

Snowden revealed that ‘NSA and the intelligence community in general is focused on getting intelligence wherever it can and by any means possible…’; he said that they ‘believe on the grounds of a sort of a self-certification that they serve the national interest’; he said that originally, the foreign intelligence gathering was very narrowly tailored. But now, he said, “increasingly we see that it’s happening domestically, and to do that, the NSA specifically targets the communications of everyone; it ingests them by default, it collects them in its system and it filters them and it analyzes them and it measures them and it stores them for periods of time, simply because that’s the easiest and most efficient and most evaluable way to achieve these ends…”.

Snowden indicated that these agencies are subverting the power of the government, and that can be a fundamental danger to democracy, and that the US government is doing that secretly and in consistency. He indicated that the capacity of the system increases every year consistently by orders of magnitude.

Snowden, referring to the lavish life he had forsaken to blow this whistle, said, “I’m willing to sacrifice all of that, because I can’t – in good conscience – allow the US government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”

Snowden said, “The greatest fear that 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’ll know all the links, the government is going to grant itself powers unilaterally to create greater control over American society and global society, but they won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and fight to change things, to force their representatives to actually take a stand in their interests…”.

The ‘greatest fear’ is not only that we are being tracked, all around the world, wherever the American authorities behind these secret agencies deem any individual or country to be a threat to their interests; when America does have an interest in more or less every country of the world. It is not only that this massive influx of data potentially enables the US to ensure strategic advantage in conflicts and economic hegemony in the global market. And it is not only that all this will guarantee the irreversibility of the accumulation of wealth in centers of excellence.

But the real ‘greatest fear’ is that the dream that has been sold by the First World to its own people and the people of the Third World, i.e., of ‘Democracy’, of ‘Liberty, Equality and the Pursuit of Happiness’, is being shattered. And as the cloak of the ‘love of humanity’ and ‘human rights’ is pulled down from the real face of the masters of globalization, humanity as a whole will soon find itself confronted not with ‘superpowers trying to safeguard their soil and people’, but with open tyrants bent to exploit humanity as a whole.

Perhaps Snowden is right, and the Obama administration will perhaps be successful in conditioning the thought of the people into accepting the state’s right of incursion and full surveillance on their every move; perhaps the people of the US will never stand up against their authorities. And even if they do, like they did in the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement, which was compromised even though people all around the Western world stood with it and several countries got caught in its rage that went on for several months, still, it was not converted into an ‘American Spring’ or a ‘Europe Spring’.

This raises an interesting question; how did the low-tech Arab youth bring about the Arab Spring with Facebook and Twitter, and how were the savvy Westerns suppressed? Could it have been that ‘absolute surveillance’ enabled the US authorities to bring about ‘desired results’?