November 5, 2013
The Edward Snowden revelations have shown us that the closely allied electronic spying agencies, the NSA in America and GCHQ in Britain have indicated that Internet and phone traffic has been comprehensively hacked and stored, to be accessed globally by hundreds of thousands of staff. We now know that the National Security Agency, working in conjunction with its British counterpart, GCHQ, have broken into the fibre optic cables that carry the transfer of data around the world for Google and Yahoo.
The surveillance system appears both insecure and out of control with democratic and judicial oversight having broken down, with the giant tech firms such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo, willingly collaborated with the US government's mass surveillance schemes. The world is the American oyster, to pry open and do with as they will.
Yet in Australia, which is part of the Anglo Five Eyes countries' surveillance system, there has been no questioning of the national security state. Parliamentary oversight appears to look puny, ignorant and indifferent even though the essentially authoritarian and secretive arm of government slithers away from democratic oversight. The expansion of the national security state and it illegal abuses is just accepted, even though it is known that the "war on terror" has led to intrusions on civil liberties, intrusions that do not necessarily have a payoff in terms of increased security.
The Snowden revelations are an indication just how far the Anglo countries have slid from democratic principles and that their commitment is to suppressing instead of informing public debate about surveillance. The data surveillance enterprises, public and private, want to know everything about you, but they don’t want you to know much about them. On one hand, they probe into the minutia of our lives — against our will in the case of the NSA — and on the other hand, they want to maintain as much opacity as possible on why and how they do it.
Apparently, too much transparency defeats the purpose of democracy.