August 22, 2013
The national security state's' reaction to Edward Snowden's whistleblowing material on state surveillance and its secrecy is very disturbing.
The modus operandi of the UK and US governments is to convey a thuggish message of intimidation. More deeply, however, as Simon Jenkins says:
The material revealed by Edward Snowden through the Guardian and the Washington Post is of a wholly different order from WikiLeaks and other recent whistle-blowing incidents. It indicates not just that the modern state is gathering, storing and processing for its own ends electronic communication from around the world; far more serious, it reveals that this power has so corrupted those wielding it as to put them beyond effective democratic control. It was not the scope of NSA surveillance that led to Snowden's defection. It was hearing his boss lie to Congress about it for hours on end.
This lying to a democratic body indicates that the American (or Anglo-American?) surveillance industry, which grown big by exploiting laws to combat terrorism, has grown has a culture of misinformation. It simply disregards democratic orders to destroy intercepts, emails and files; treats the parliamentary and legal institutions with falsehoods and contempt to the extent that Parliamentary and legal control is a charade.
As John Kampfner remarks with respect to the UK national security state:
Whenever challenged about the breadth of these powers, government ministers talk of checks and balances. None of these work properly: not parliament, not the courts, not ministerial accountability. Most MPs and peers do not have the technical knowledge to grasp the details of online surveillance. It's easy for the security agencies to run rings around them. Lawyers struggle to find out the facts as so much of the legal side of the security state is now held in secret. As for the politics, the government gives the police sweeping, vague powers and then says it cannot comment on operational issues.
The ministers justify the inexorable extension of security powers by resorting to two mantras: "If you've done nothing wrong, you've got nothing to hide; and "If only you knew what we know …"