What in principle would justify the scope of the surveillance revealed by the Snowden leak? Would it be enough, for example, if it could be shown that a specific potential act of terrorism had been prevented by, and could only have been prevented by, the full breadth and depth of what we now have learned is the playing field of the security services?
We should hesitate before we stray off the touchline. The idea that public safety, the safety of the innocent, is an absolute which trumps every other consideration, is tacitly abandoned in the way we live.
Nobody would be killed on the roads if the speed limit were 10 miles an hour. Flying would be safer if airport security demanded body searches with no exceptions and the examination of every item in every piece of luggage. On the matter of surveillance in general we have, without much discussion, learned to live with almost blanket surveillance by CCTV in our towns and cities. As a result thousand of crimes, including murder, have been solved and perhaps many more prevented. But how many more would there have been if we doubled the number of cameras, or increased them tenfold, a hundredfold?
Between that and the surveillance we are now talking about there is a qualitative as well as a quantitative difference which hardly needs pointing out. The cameras are in public places, they are not in our houses or our cars or even in our gardens. By contrast, the world of surveillance operated by the people we pay to guard us exceeds the fevered dreams of the Stasi.
Even so, let's go carefully here. The Stasi were not dealing with a global threat of murderous malignity. The constituency of everything to be feared has also been altered dreadfully by a technology which vastly underwrites a capacity for evil as it does the capacity for the social good. As for our spooks, I know what I want from them. I want them to eavesdrop on the phones, the emails, on every tap of the keyboard of anybody who comes under suspicion. Somebody somewhere has the responsibility, indeed the necessary duty, of identifying those who bear us ill. I would like there to be secret cameras in their houses. I would applaud the technological means to survey and interpret every breath they take. However, metaphors for the expansion from this selflimiting scope beggar the imagination. If the world of secrets is its own universe, here we have an expansion of the universe which brings to mind something cosmological.
It had to happen. When all that possibility of expansion became available the spooks were going to avail themselves of it as naturally as night follows day.
Imagine that some law enforcement agency received reliable information that a drug lord or a suicide bomber or a murderer on the run was at this moment hiding out in … let's say Beaconsfield. Should we have a problem with the idea that for the next few days there was going to be blanket electronic surveillance on every message or metadatum flowing in and out of Beaconsfield? Would I get worked up about that? Not much. How about Swindon? Manchester? You can see where this is going. At some point in the expansion there is a phase transition our attitude will undergo. Something that seemed OK no longer seems OK.
The impulse we are now experiencing goes back as long as we have been living in groups. How much do we owe each other? How much of our very self, our individuality, our privacy, our subjective and autonomous freedom to live as utterly unique human beings, is up for grabs on the say so of whoever is making the rules for the group, not withstanding that the rulemakers have been validated by all of us?
It is no light matter to put in jeopardy a single life when it is the very singularity of each life which underpins the idea of a just society. But it appears to me that our masters are in the grip of the delusionary nightmare of completeness: the complete annihilation of every rogue bacillus. It's as if there is a belief that in the end the virus has no riposte, that there cannot be and will not be a means to evade blanket security if it is blanket enough.
What is the society we wish to protect? Is it the society of complete surveillance for the commonwealth? Is this the wealth we seek to have in common - optimal security at the cost of maximal surveillance? Not that anybody asked us. It takes a brave newspaper to have forced the question into the open.
The FBI can secretly activate a computer’s webcam to spy on an individual without turning on the indicator light, a former official revealed to the Washington Post in an article published Friday.
According to the Washington Post’s account of what Marcus Thomas — former assistant director of the FBI’s Operational Technology Division in Quantico — said, “The FBI has been able to covertly activate a computer’s camera — without triggering the light that lets users know it is recording — for several years, and has used that technique mainly in terrorism cases or the most serious criminal investigations.” Source!
The National Security Agency is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world, according to top-secret documents and interviews with U.S. intelligence officials, enabling the agency to track the movements of individuals — and map their relationships — in ways that would have been previously unimaginable. The records feed a vast database that stores information about the locations of at least hundreds of millions of devices, according to the officials and the documents, which were provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. New projects created to analyze that data have provided the intelligence community with what amounts to a mass surveillance tool.
Jonathan Zimmerman is a professor of history and education at New York University. His books include “Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory.”
In 1947, Sen. Harley Kilgore (D-W.Va.) condemned a proposed constitutional amendment that would restrict presidents to two terms. “The executive’s effectiveness will be seriously impaired,” Kilgore argued on the Senate floor, “ as no one will obey and respect him if he knows that the executive cannot run again.”
I’ve been thinking about Kilgore’s comments as I watch President Obama, whose approval rating has dipped to 37 percent in CBS News polling — the lowest ever for him — during the troubled rollout of his health-care reform. Many of Obama’s fellow Democrats have distanced themselves from the reform and from the president. Even former president Bill Clinton has said that Americans should be allowed to keep the health insurance they have.
Or consider the reaction to the Iran nuclear deal. Regardless of his political approval ratings, Obama could expect Republican senators such as Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and John McCain (Ariz.) to attack the agreement. But if Obama could run again, would he be facing such fervent objections from Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.)?
Probably not. Democratic lawmakers would worry about provoking the wrath of a president who could be reelected. Thanks to term limits, though, they’ve got little to fear.
Nor does Obama have to fear the voters, which might be the scariest problem of all. If he chooses, he could simply ignore their will. And if the people wanted him to serve another term, why shouldn’t they be allowed to award him one?
President Barak Obama used the sexually vulgar expression “tea-baggers” to refer to tea party members in a letter he wrote to a Texas grade school Teacher. The term “tea-baggers” has been used to ridicule the tea party, a group of American activists who advocate reducing taxes, shrinking the size of government, and returning to traditional family values. Obama was replying to a letter he received from Thomas Ritter, a 5th grade school teacher from Irving, Texas. Full story!
Let’s get past this era of Marxists, Communists, Progressives and Socialist Liberals; I pray we have learned our lesson. Forgive us Father for what we have let happen to the GIFT You have given us. Give us wisdom, insight and courage to impeach this tyrant. Amen.