February 2, 2014
Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, is seen as a traitor by the conservative Abbott Government. In so doing they take the position of the security hawks.
Security hawks consider any unauthorized disclosure of classified information unacceptable, stressing that cleared employees take an oath not to disclose such information, and that no government can operate without some secret deliberations and covert actions.
So what are these secret deliberations and covert actions?
The spy agencies had hijacked the internet is what Snowden told us. The NSA was hoovering up metadata from millions of Americans. Phone records, email headers, subject lines, seized without acknowledgment or consent. From this you could construct a complete electronic narrative of an individual's life: their friends, lovers, joys, sorrows.
Luke Harding in The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World's Most Wanted Man tells us that:
The NSA had secretly attached intercepts to the undersea fibre optic cables that ringed the world. This allowed them to read much of the globe's communications. Secret courts were compelling telecoms providers to hand over data. What's more, pretty much all of Silicon Valley was involved with the NSA, Snowden said – Google, Microsoft, Facebook, [and] Apple. The NSA claimed it had "direct access" to the tech giants' servers. It had even put secret back doors into online encryption software – used to make secure bank payments – weakening the system for everybody.
The secrecy is not being used for legitimate purposes of national security, but to shield illegal or embarrassing activity from public scrutiny. NSA has been cooperating in potentially disturbing ways with its British, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand surveillance counterparts. In this case the benefits from revealing illegal abuses of authority by the national security state outweigh the costs of disclosing those secrets.
Ministers in the Abbott Government are not even bothering to try to make the case for mass surveillance of communications data following the revelations by Edward Snowden. They turn their guns on newspapers and media that covered the leaks. Their stock response is that we have intelligence services because it is a dangerous world, there are people that want to do terrible things and that Snowden is causing damage to our security in the fight against terrorism.
They hold this position even though the mass surveillance spying programmes are much more than 'overstepping their boundaries'. They are probably illegal and have been signed off by ministers in breach of human rights and surveillance laws. The spooks then lied about their activities, then, when exposed, kept on lying. When placed in the context of the current undeclared war on whistleblowers and independent journalism ramping up in the US, the UK and Australia we can see that this is an attack on democracy.