“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.” — Joseph Heller, Catch-22
This morning after reading a few more pages of Glenn Greenwald’s book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State, I had to put the book down and ponder why mass surveillance of private cell and cyber communications from throughout the world, without probable cause, isn’t the most hotly debated topic in the nation.
Americans over the age of 35, a recent KRC Research poll tells us, tend to view Snowden negatively — as a traitor and a spy who stole classified documents and should be punished for his actions. Snowden also is viewed more negatively by people in the four English-speaking countries — Canada, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand — that are part of the “Five Eyes” surveillance alliance, which work hand-in-hand with the NSA to gather intelligence from the general population.
Since 2013 when Snowden’s documents were first revealed, public opinion of the former CIA employee and government contractor has swung from more positive to more negative.
But younger Americans, millennials who live and breathe cyber communications — and people in Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands and Spain — praise Snowden as a whistleblower, for bringing the surveillance state to our attention.
Greenwald’s reporting calls into question President Obama’s desire to truly create a transparent government. The president has stated, “My administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government…. Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their government is doing.”
And yet, Greenwald writes that “Obama’s administration has prosecuted more government leakers under the Espionage Act of 1917 — a total of seven — than all previous administrations in U.S. history combined.”
When we are not free to question illegal practices that we discover in the workplace — private or government — then what kind of a society do we live in? When our privacy can be invaded by the government’s ability to spy on us in our homes through laptops and other technology beyond our knowledge, then what kind of a society do we live in?
“Over the past decades,” Greenwald writes, “the fear of terrorism — stoked by consistent exaggerations of the actual threat — has been exploited by U.S. leaders to justify a wide array of extremist policies.”
If you don’t have anything to hide, why should you worry about government surveillance? Because our government — especially the military and intelligence industrial complex — is becoming controlled more and more by corporate interests, just as corporations today are exerting a dangerous influence over our entire democratic process.
Without checks on corporate power, it is not unfathomable to conclude that in time our most precious resource — our freedom to think — will be under surveillance, too.