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Americans are Protesting the New Surveillance; What Does the Future Hold?

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Steven Watt, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Human Rights Program, told an assembly of agencies in conjunction with the Organization of American States that the National Security Agency (NSA) is conducting surveillance on hundreds of millions of people worldwide. “The government has sought to justify this mass surveillance on national security grounds, yet official reports indicate that the NSA has conducted surveillance of the communications of world leaders, of allied foreign powers, U.N. and E.U. offices, foreign corporations and endless numbers of innocent Americans and foreign nationals.”

Edward Snowden played a major role in bringing to the attention of the world the existence of the NSA’s mass surveillance programs.rally For bringing these things and others of equal importance to light, he is declared a criminal, and is in fear of severe punishment. On Saturday, October 26, during a massive “Stop Watching Us” rally in Washington, D.C., his statement, read aloud, was: “This is about the unconstitutional, unethical, and immoral actions of the modern-day surveillance state and how we all must work together to remind government to stop them. …It’s about our right to know, to associate freely, and to live in an open society.”

Angela_Merkel_(2008)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

It becomes clearer daily that Edward Snowden is a hero, a patriot, and a true fighter for freedom. Today, we find ourselves caught up in an unexpected dark corner of the Obama presidency. It has come to light that our government has spied on private correspondence even with our allies. They have invaded private phone calls and Internet communication. We can feel the pain of German chancellor Angela Merkel, knowing that conversations she perceived as private were being listened to and recorded by agents of the United States. The United States has clearly gone well outside the boundaries one would expect from a country that has taken pride in its stances on freedom and human rights.

In America, we can write in criticism of the government; we can stand on soap boxes or wooden platforms, and carry signs expressing our displeasure; but we are under a growing threat of having our personal exchanges monitored and judged. Is this a reflex response to the new openness afforded by the Internet? On the one hand, thinking persons can share insights about leaders and lawmakers; on the other hand, there is a new level of inspection by government listening posts.

Today we may say, “We have nothing to hide.” But if the government intrusions go unchecked, tomorrow the watchers may become emboldened to move to new levels of surveillance. Tomorrow or the next day, we may all have files and folders recording our beliefs, our political stands, even our parenting and marital fidelity.

Does this all sound extreme? Consider: If the federal government can categorize our phone calls and electronic letters, how long will it be before local elected officials in townships and counties undertake the same measures? In rural areas, church membership and school selection may become items for collection. Voting records may be the last to fall prey, but they too may become open to inspection. In small towns, employers and those who supply housing might, through clandestine bargaining, come into possession of our most private activities.

As we are watched, we develop a passive attitude; if we don’t harbor important thoughts, then we avoid the attention of the government listening posts. If we don’t think, we don’t attract attention.

Obama may be a great and thoughtful president, but he has made mistakes. He seems clearly at fault in this new surveillance issue. He seems to have had, and denied, earlier knowledge of the measures brought into being following the terrible attacks of September 11, 2001.

This president has expanded bombing and killing by drone aircraft, in spite of the high incidence of civilian casualties. He has failed to close the horrendous torture and detention centers in Guantanamo Bay. Now he has insulted German Chancellor Merkel, while posing as a friend. It is not only the Muslim world that is seeing in the United States a fall from grace. Even our allies see the new corruption and profiteering. They see the end of the very attributes that made us great, that we hold as sacred. How long can the world endure a nation that grows daily more hostile, seeking to rule with an iron hand?

Some will say, “My country, right or wrong!” But some must have the courage of Edward Snowden, and the foresight of George Orwell, in order to see our nation through these darkening hours. Is 2013 the new 1984? Is the end of the American era etched in stone? Or will the free-speech promise of the Internet continue to carry us through uncertain times? We might join together then, to await a great new morning, a bright new day, and a re-birth of the freedom that was the dream of our forefathers.

Photos: Rally photo, Asterix611 at Flickr. Chancellor Merkel photo, Wikipedia

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About John Lake

John Lake had a long and successful career in legitimate and musical theater. He moved up into work behind the camera at top motion pictures. He has done a smattering of radio, and television John joined the Blogcritics field of writers owing to a passion for the liberal press, himself speaking out about the political front, and liberal issues. Now the retired Mr. Lake has entered the field of motion picture, television, and video game (now a daily gamer!) critique. His writing is always innovative and immensely readable!
  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    Surveillance is very much like playing with matches. At some point, a huge and uncontrollable fire will rage. That’s what is happening right now. This new technology is a wonderful thing but it has a huge downside in things like unwarranted surveillance.

    The media has to become concerned enough about this issue to demand answers in every debate forum. All candidates( at every level) should be required to weigh in on this most sensitive subject. The next potential area of exploration is in litigation claims against governments and private sector corporations who engage in unconstitutional surveillance. This is a difficult issue because it cuts across every sector of the society.

    Ultimately, the United States Supreme Court should weigh in on the issue.
    The vote would be close-probably 5-4 in either direction. There are people up there that could provide the needed swing votes like Chief Justice Roberts or even Associate Justice Kennedy.

  • Hosea McAdoo

    Since America has given up democracy for fascism, protests will have as little benefit as petitions, calls and letters to leaders(?). In a fascist state the will of the people is ignored as is their vote. It is the corporations will that is acted on by government. The role of the people is to pay taxes, keep quiet and work cheaply.

    Surveillance as practiced appears so useless for security that one must come up with another reason. That is likely to be for the benefit of corporations. They can spy on rivals in other countries, see what plans other countries have and to use it as either simple blackmail or blackmail via government arrest or targeted killing and would be very beneficial to the fascist elite.

    It is way too late in this cycle for citizen disapproval to have any effect.

  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    People vote with their pocketbooks. That’s what Barney’s and other retailers are finding out right now with racial profiling claims boiling over into the public arena and soon in the District Courts.

    Once a customer presents a valid credit card for a purchase-it’s a done deal.
    There should be no further questions.

  • bliffle

    I’m afraid SCOTUS doesn’t offer much hope, given their political propensities, 7 of 9 appointed by republicans. Ah, the republicans, once champions of individual freedom have submitted to the corporate skeleton that was always in their closet and will do whatever their master demands.

  • Dr. Joseph S. Maresca

    Even Republicans must realize that small business is the growth area. Isn’t that the route that got people like Bill Gates and others started?