Glenn Greenwald: How America's Surveillance State Breeds Conformity and Fear
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An article in Popular Mechanics in 2004 reported on a study of American surveillance and this is what it said: “There are an estimated 30 million surveillance cameras now deployed in the United States shooting 4 billion hours of footage a week. Americans are being watched. All of us, almost everywhere.” There is a study in 2006 that estimated that that number would quadruple to 100 million cameras -- surveillance cameras -- in the United States within five years largely because of the bonanza of post-9/11 surveilling.
And it’s not just the government that is engaged in surveillance, but just as menacingly, corporations, private corporations, engage in huge amounts of surveillance on us. They give us cell phones that track every moment of where we are physically, and then provide that to law enforcement agencies without so much as a search warrant. Obviously, credit card and banking transactions are reported, and tell anyone who wants to know everything we do. We talk about the scandal of the Bush eavesdropping program that was not really a government eavesdropping program, so much as it was a private industry eavesdropping program. It was done with the direct and full cooperation of AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and the other telecom giants.
In fact, when you talk about the American Surveillance State, what you’re really talking about is no longer public government agencies. What you’re talking about is a full-scale merger between the federal government and industry. That is what the Surveillance State is. They are equally important parts of what the Surveillance State does.
I think the most interesting, and probably revealing, example that I can give you about where we are in terms of surveillance in the United States is a really ironic and unintendedly amusing series of events that took place in mid-2011. What happened in mid-2011 was that the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which as we know are very, very oppressive and hate freedom, they said that what they were going to do was ban the use of Blackberries and similar devices on their soil. The reason is that the corporation that produces Blackberries was either unable or unwilling to guarantee that Saudi and UAE intelligence agencies would be able to intercept all communications.
And the governments in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were horrified by the prospect that people might be able to communicate on their soil without them being able to intercept and surveill their communication. And in response, they banned Blackberries.
This created huge amounts of condemnation in the western world. Every American newspaper editorialized about how this showed how much these governments were the enemies of freedom, the Obama administration issued a stinging denunciation of both governments, saying that they were engaged in the kinds of oppression that we couldn’t tolerate. And yet, six weeks later, the New York Times reported that, “The Obama administration was preparing legislation to mandate that all services that enable communications” -- and I’m quoting from the New York Times -- “to mandate that all services that enable communication, including in encrypted e-mail transmitters like Blackberry, social networking websites like Facebook, and software that allows direct pure messaging like Skype, be designed to ensure government surveillance,” which is exactly the same principle that everyone can damn United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia for.
The principle being that there can be no human interaction, especially no human communication, not just for international between foreign nations but by America citizens on American soils that is beyond the reach of the U.S. government.
This was the mindset in 2002 when the Bush administration, to dredge up John Poindexter, from wherever it was that he was -- and he was going to start the program that they call the Total Information Awareness Program. The logo which, I actually looked in the last couple of weeks, you should go look at that, you won’t believe how creepy it is, has a pyramid with this huge eye hovering over it. This eye is the “all-seeing eye” and the only problem with the Total Information Awareness Program is that, they just put a name on it that was too honest about what it was.