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Snowden exposes how a whole country is under suspicion

US whistleblower Edward Snowden’s courageous decision to lift the lid on the secret state is dramatically changing the stakes in the war between covert spy agencies and ordinary people.

Snowden, a former National Security Agency senior advisor, released 41 Powerpoint slides to reporters which detail the vast nature and the scale of surveillance by US spy agencies through the backdoor of all the main internet giants.

So far the Guardian and the Washington Post have chosen to publish only five of the slides [see below], on the grounds the others could be “too explosive”. Snowden felt he couldn’t live with himself if he kept secret what he knew. He says:

You don’t have to have done anything wrong, you simply have to have eventually fall under suspicion ... and then they can use this system to go back in time and ... derive suspicion from an innocent life.

Fearing for his security, Snowden has now disappeared from a Hong Kong hotel after naming himself as the source of a leak reckoned to be the most devastating of all time by Daniel Ellsberg, who is someone who should know.

In 1971, Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers, a top secret study into military decision-making during the Vietnam War.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, seeking refuge in London’s Ecuadorean embassy to avoid extradition, says Snowden’s request that all 41 should be made public should be honoured.

Whatever the missing slides may contain, Snowden’s actions show snooping on a scale that goes far beyond that of even the Stasi, the secret police in the former German Democratic Republic.

During the Cold War, the Stasi spied on the entire population through a huge bureaucracy of spies, informants and phone tapping. Now Ellsberg has described the NSA, the Federal Bureau of Intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency as “the United Stasi of America”.

Ellsberg has praised Snowden’s action. He says that the revelations show that the 9/11 terror attacks became an opportunity to carry out an “executive coup” against the US constitution.

In his extraordinary interview with the Guardian, Snowden explained why he decided to go public, despite the enormous personal risk. Although he had a highly paid senior post as an advisor and “telecommunications systems officer”, he was increasingly horrified by the NSA and intelligence communications targeting everyone and storing the information they gathered from internet companies.

And it was exactly the indiscriminate, secret and unaccountable nature of the surveillance that disturbed him so much.

“Even if you aren’t doing anything that is wrong, they can paint anyone in the context of a wrong-doer ... they may intend to target someone suspected of terrorism but they are targeting everyone,” he said.

Like Ellsberg he is frightened of what he describes as an “architecture of oppression”. He says the secret agencies are “subverting the power of government”.

It’s clear that Snowden has gone to ground because, as he has said, “you can’t come forward against the world’s most powerful intelligence agency” and not be under threat.

Many aspects of the mass surveillance of an entire citizenry recalls the plot of the science fiction film, Minority Report, a dystopia in which people could be found guilty of “pre-crime”.

In Britain as in the US, we could all be found guilty of pre-crime in what Snowden describes as a possible “turnkey tyranny” – an autocratic state in which the government will give itself even greater powers.

Snowden’s action tears a great hole in the web of lies behind which the secret state that its political apologists like Barack Obama and David Cameron try to hide.

Their state, a corporatocracy which facilitates the rule of corporate profit making, is the gravest danger to the limited forms of democracy we still have.

As David Talbot, of US Alternet website says, if whistleblowers like Bradley Manning and Snowden are “weird”, then it’s definitely time for all of us to get weird.

Corinna Lotz
A World to Win secretary
11 June 2013

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David Payne says:

A wonderment though it is, the blinding acceleration of technological development is well, just that to the public at large and therein lies a snake in the grass and terrible hazard.

Without any kind of parallel in human history, technology is now serving up capacities that not only have not been anticipated, but with the winds of change having reached a howl in our ears, still are not being recognised for what they portend.

Ray Kurzweil has written voluminously about exponential growth, not only as vividly applies to technological change but it seems, to change of all sorts. Technology however is the now un-tethered beast and his efforts at convincing us of the singularity we are approaching are arresting for their sheer scale of persistence. This futurologist clearly believes (as do I) that even those who have a fair grasp on matters of accelerating change and could recognise an exponential graph and its meaning, simply do not have a perceptual handle on what is taking place, so instantly has speed turned from a leisurely pace to nipping at the heels of light. He identifies what is known as the ‘knee’ on the curve which is the point of progression where the ratio of units of technological to temporal change hits the roof - the rocket engines have fired and not simply ‘will’ you not, but already you ‘do’ not, know where you are.

States will always use whatever technology is available to fulfil their ambitions, ‘Control’ ever a tormenting itch in their loins and technology is right now dishing up a wet-dream load of goodies. Storing compressed data is cheaper than chips so why not store it just in case? – and if there are (nuisance) limits today to what can be stored, tomorrow there will not be. Moore’s Law is as steady as a rock and ticks over, doubling computer capacity roughly every twelve months (not allowing for the occasional compounding element the afford of new discoveries). In simple terms that means that ‘at the very least’, in the next ten years, present capacity will increase by a thousand times – not impressed, well consider that ‘today’, the NSA can trawl and save from, digital communications pretty much to whatever extent they choose, (including the content, as if they would not). Now multiply that capacity by a thousand (or a million over 20 years) – the potential to store a video recording of the full lives of everyone is scarily within reach, something still largely unimagined – and you don’t even need a video camera to do it, just those clever algorithms which abound, applied to a mosaic of data that comes from bank-card use, email, texts, voice calls, street and smart-phone cameras with their microphones, social media, the new Google-glasses with their permanent videoing utility (which will potentially transmit multiple recordings of the same scene when inevitably they and their competitor products become ubiquitous) – and not to forget, drone & satellite surveillance.


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