SURVEILLANCE is not accidental strategy, but rather the cutting edge of individuals’ self-pacification, a well-tested mechanism of social control. One hesitates to speak, then even to think; one chooses one’s associates warily, lest found on someone’s list, the all-pervasive fear of being watched, dissected, analyzed by the prying eyes of the State, now a government-empowered and –legitimated National Security Agency (and multiple other intelligence agencies, along with such legislative onslaughts as TALON, CIFA, TIAP, and don’t forget MATRIX, Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange, some of which going even too far for Congress’s reactionary taste), fully capable of spying on and retrieving the most intimate conversations between people hitherto unsuspecting of eavesdropping. Hopefully, suspiciousness of government will ensue, even though practices of this nature continue, because, as political theory teaches us, democratic society and government are founded on trust, without which, there can be no social compact—and start expecting the worse.
Snowden put his finger in the dike holding back the sea of totalitarianism, itself not an inaccurate designation any longer, i.e., if one believes that civil liberties is the linchpin of its polar opposite, a social democracy based on the respect for and equal treatment of the individual under the rule of law, because what the US government has done is destroy the American constitutional-social fabric, in the process making a mockery of the law through trampling on traditional safeguards to freedom of thought and rights of association, protection from unwarranted searches and seizures, and down a slippery slope to everything from use of informers, planted evidence, “dirty tricks,” to encouragement of mutual suspicion, the breakup of radical organizations, whatever government deems central to its interests, safety, and continued lawlessness.
Snowden turned the spotlight on the forbidden territory of the dark world inhabited by the Obama administration, a reaching out of tentacles not only in America but on a world basis, as his revelations of PRISM and foreign communications intercepts, including wiretaps of diplomats and conferences shows. The details are familiar by now, from the Guardian, Washington Post, New York Times, to the Continental press and worldwide—a story that will not go away, given the enormity of the offense and the hypocrisy of Washington. For this reason, I believe Snowden is a marked man in Obama’s eyes, to him to be practically equated with Osama bin Laden, and therefore, being in Obama’s cross-hairs, if not through rendition (“accidents will happen”) then a direct target of paramilitary operations, Snowden is right to fear for his life and to seek asylum. At this writing, he has landed safely in Moscow, through, as reported, the cooperation of Chinese and Hong Kong authorities (creating diplomatic friction between them and the US) and will be in transit to a third country. The Damoclean sword of the Espionage Act will have to await other victims, sure to turn up in light of Obama’s obsession with secrecy and personal hostility toward being crossed. As I’ve said before, secrecy for him is insurance against being discovered for having committed war crimes.
Snowden cannot be allowed to go free, not because he divulged State Secrets, but because he symbolizes the power—may I say, sublimeness?—of truth, particularly against what he exposed as a pack of political criminals, and beyond that, exposed, through their workings, the inner springs of repression on which American society and its structure of power depend, namely, self-pacification as an overriding state of moral-political inaction of body and mind, a rejection of social protest in thought and deed, the individual subject to cues provided by acute patriotism, consumerism, and the heavy-handed militarization of Authority. That, we could see, and for some, speak out against. But this added factor, brought out by Snowden, of surveillance, gives self-pacification silent and powerful reinforcement: the fear of terrorism, itself contrived by government to justify security arrangements bordering on informal regimentation, has become transformed/extended into what psychologists would term—if only they examined consequential societal issues—the “introjection” of the entire power system in America, including its capitalist and military foundations, and the people’s own expected docility to its furtherance, goals, and ideology. That is a big burden to carry around, even if unnoticed (the test of repression’s value and successfulness to an authoritarian government), which leaves the individual naked and vulnerable to the extreme politicization of mindset designed to eschew critical thinking, and rather, glorify the State.
Domestic spying of the breadth and scope practiced by the NSA (which along with the CIA has become Obama’s Janus-faced look toward both internal and external acts of structural-political subversion) becomes the handmaid of counterterrorism, the latter, now self-legitimated through government edict thus spreading a cloak of legitimacy as well around the former. Surveillance is good! We hear ad nauseum that there must be a balance struck between security and privacy, with the former invariably taking precedence—a convenient debater’s trick because the former can be infinitely enlarged, and the latter, a straw man, toothless to boot. America’s fear of terrorism, itself a form of terrorism practiced on the people, paves the way for domestic spying on the part of Authority with impunity. Surveillance, as we are made aware by Snowden’s revelations, becomes so pervasive and institutionally entrenched (the recent exposure in the New York Times of the close relationship between the NSA and Silicon Valley confirms what he already has shown in the way the government has gained the cooperation of Google and others, our presumed agents, via the social media, of liberation) as to render one fearful, apathetic, in the face of Inevitable Technology and Big Government, that our turn may be next in the docket, the FISA Court applauding in the background, fearful, that is, that we may be suspected of ultimate subversion if we do not conform to every tenet, measure, operation, transmitted from On High.