Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.
This post is about domestic spying. Specifically, that done by the National Security Agency. Or at least, the NSA is one of the participants. While on the NSA website, I noticed a “Kid’s Page” link. That’s where the graphic above comes from. I’m not sure how that fits with the rest of the post. Maybe I really don’t want to know. But it did make me think of Crosby, Still, Nash and Young, and “Teach Your Children Well.”
Now, about the “domestic spying ring”: Sometimes the words employed by our Electeds and those who work for them are so poorly chosen it’s more frightening than usual to think of them in positions of power. David Sirota writes about one such instance at Nation of Change, in “A New Standard for Oxymoronic Newspeak.” (emphasis mine)
If there was an ongoing contest in the art of self-contradicting newspeak, a quote from a U.S. military official during the Vietnam War would be the reigning victor for most of the modern era. In describing the decision to ignore the prospect of civilian casualties and vaporize a Vietnamese village, that unnamed official famously told Peter Arnett of the Associated Press that ‘it became necessary to destroy the town to save it.’ …
But now … the Vietnam quote has been dethroned by an even more oxymoronic line — one that perfectly summarizes the zeitgeist of the post-9/11 era. As Wired’s Spencer Ackerman reports, ‘Surveillance experts at the National Security Agency won’t tell two powerful United States Senators how many Americans have had their communications picked up by the agency (because) it would violate your privacy to say so.’
In a letter to senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall, the agency wrote: ‘(A) review of the sort suggested would itself violate the privacy of U.S. persons.’
Wyden told Ackerman that all they asked for was a “ballpark estimate of how many Americans have been monitored under this law.” They didn’t ask for names, just the estimate.
So why would the NSA nonetheless refuse to provide one? Most likely because such an estimate would be a number so big as to become a political problem for the national security establishment … .
… if the government officially acknowledged an even bigger domestic spying regime than we already know about, we might finally reach a tipping point — one in which public outrage forces a wholesale reevaluation of the NSA’s entire mission.
Stuff like the “we can’t tell you how many of our own citizens we’re spying on because that would violate their privacy rights” is yet another indication of growth of the policy state thinking and actions. I’ve written about this, in general, fairly often, because it shows up in so many ways. Just this year:
The “right to be secure” doesn’t mean what it use
Police State, Part I: The Bipartisan NDAA
Police State, Part II: The Nation’s ‘Biggest Spy Center’
Police State, Part III: It’s Really Happening, and the State Thanks Those Ignoring It
SCOTUS Okays Strip Searches for Minor Offenses, and Camp David G8 Kettling Begins
Brewing Beer or Manufacturing Molotov Cocktails?: Welcome to ‘Preemptive Policing’
How Many Drones In the Sky Must We Have, Before We Declare Ourselves Safe?
That Feeling of Security, Brought to Us by the U.S. House Unmanned Systems Caucus
I don’t really have any hopes that Obama or Romney will be pushed on this subject. But if ignoring and rationalizing are a primary response, one result will very likely that the “tipping point” Sirota mentions will continue being pushed further and further out. And probably what we teach the children about all of this will have an influence further out, too.
(National Security Agency Kids Page graphic via NSA)