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Whistleblower who revealed NSA wiretapping activities speaks out from hiding in Hong Kong: "you are not even aware of what is possible."

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on June 16th, 2013)

In a scene like a nightmare, the US government confirmed on Thursday night the existence of a mass-scale federal wiretapping project called Prism. The confirmation from the feds came after an anonymous whistleblower leaked the relevant documents. What the materials disclosed was horrifying.

For years now, Prism has been utilized by the National Security Agency (NSA) to monitor internet and telephone communications between the US and foreign nationals. And, according to the Prism PowerPoint slide, the data it can collect is essentially unlimited. For just 20 million a year, the agency is able to monitor "email, chat (video, voice), videos, photos, stored data, VoIP [internet phone calls], file transfers, video conferencing, notifications of target activity – logins etc, online social networking details" and a mysterious category called "special requests.”

Major companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Youtube, Skype, Google, and Yahoo are involved, although it is not yet known whether they participated knowingly or involuntarily.

Earlier this week, it also was revealed that the NSA has been collecting telephone data and phone records from millions of US Verizon customers under a classified court order. The order directs Verizon Business Network Services to turn over “on an ongoing daily basis” the “following tangible things”:

“All call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”

To add insult to injury, the order forbids Verizon from revealing this fact to anyone, including, obviously, their own customers. There is also nothing is the order telling the NSA when this information must be destroyed.

Amy Davidson of The New Yorker, writes,

“The government seems to have a list of all the people that Verizon customers called and who called them; how long they spoke; and, perhaps—depending on how precise the cell-phone-tower information in the metadata is, where they were on a given day…And the customers of other providers shouldn’t be reassured: it is likely that this order is simply one of a type—the one that fell off the truck.”

This starkly alarming data leak discloses only the latest incident in a string of deceitful and abhorrent acts perpetrated by the current administration. But it is one of the most significant, as it reveals the tip of the wide iceberg of federal espionage that fetters the freedom of the every American citizen.

Today, the 29-year-old NSA whistleblower responsible for the leak has come forward. "I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” said Edward Snowden, who is a former technical assistant for the CIA and has been working with the NSA for four years now.

In an interview with The Guardian this morning, he explained his decision to disclose the explosive information,

"The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife's phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards…You are not even aware of what is possible. The extent of their capabilities is horrifying. We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network, I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place…I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under."

Snowden, who says he’s had a comfortable life with a salary of around $200,000, a home in Hawaii with his girlfriend and a loving family, chose three weeks ago to leave his former existence behind. Perhaps forever.

“I am willing to sacrifice all of that because I can't in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building," he said.

After copying the last set of pertinent documents for the leak, Snowden boarded a plane for Hong Kong and took up residence in a hotel, where he is still residing. His lifestyle may seem paranoid to some, but Snowden understands the capabilities of the government that is hunting him. He used to be one of them. Having observed the Obama’s administration’s aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers, he realizes that his situation is precarious at best. He also had some comments to make about President Obama’s marked policy shift on personal liberties, saying,

“A lot of people in 2008 voted for Obama. I did not vote for him. I voted for a third party. But I believed in Obama's promises. I was going to disclose it [but waited because of his election]. He continued with the policies of his predecessor."

Snowden says he fully expects the US government to do everything in its power to seek him out and punish him for the remainder of his life, however long that may prove to be.
 
"I am not afraid,” he says, “because this is the choice I've made."

Snowden’s biggest fear is that the revelation of his identity will distract attention from the issues at hand. "I don't want public attention,” he said, “because I don't want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing."

 
 
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Neil Postman, author: Amusing Ourselves to Death


What Orwell Missed: Not Just Gulag Bound, But Amusing Ourselves to Death

"It is not necessary to conceal anything from a public insensible to contradiction and narcotized by technological diversions"

(Posted by Bryana Joy on December 03, 2011)

(Cross-posted at The College Conservative)

The political activists which are the most astute when it comes to history today are conservatives.  This is why we are the ones concerned about government overreach, the breakdown of the family and the moral bankruptcy of our nation. By studying the past, we’ve come to understand the inevitable consequences of these courses of action.  We realize that excessive government involvement leads to tyranny, and that the disintegration of the family unit is sure to produce a disoriented and emotionally unhealthy citizenry.  We know that the searing of a society’s collective conscience is a sure road to chaos, and that widespread idleness and disdain for wholesome labor opens the door to depravity and perversion.  But the one thing that we history buffs find most alarming is the communist ideology – because it’s been arguably the most destructive ideology in recent history.

 Communism, which is “scientific socialism,” and the only form of socialism that has been implemented in a significant way, is estimated to have caused the deaths of between 23 million and 149 million people. George Orwell and Ayn Rand, two firsthand witnesses of totalitarian communist regimes and vehement critics of the system, both became popular and influential writers whose works have had a profound influence on the conservative movement. Orwell is known for his satirical Animal Farm and Nineteen-Eighty-Four. Ayn Rand authored Atlas Shrugged and Anthem. Their works depict communist societies, where manipulation and coercion are masked as equality and justice. They create fictive settings in which government employs the despised tactics of book-burning and censorship and silences the press in order to effectively control the public. Today, conservatives hold up these writings as examples of the consequences of unfettered government, and suggest that we are “Gulag Bound.” Liberals make a big show of promoting banned books and support campaigns like “Delete Censorship”. Neil Postman says we’re all wrong.

In his landmark book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, published in 1985, Neil Postman turns on its head the notion that the absence of Newspeak and the renewed interest in opposition to censorship,which has reached historically unparalleled proportions, is a positive sign, or that we are to be congratulated for having avoided the doom laid out for us by Orwell. Orwell, he suggests, did not warn us of the real threat we are facing. Orwell could not have warned us, because Orwell could not have known. It probably didn’t even occur to Orwell that the world in 1984would not need to be scared into submission by heavy-handed policies, but would walk docilely into the slaughterhouses of the intellect with their iPhones in their hands and their headphones in their ears. Orwell didn’t tell us that it is not necessary to conceal anything from a public insensible to contradiction and narcotized by technological diversions.

Postman’s main premise in his book is that the medium used to communicate a message affects what that message will be. Television, he explains, is not just a different medium of communication than typography – it expresses a completely different message. Being image-based, television has, in taking over communication in the Western world, put the lid on the long Age of Exposition which was made possible by the printing press, and ushered in a new Age of Show Business. Television has fragmented the mental powers of our culture, divorced information from action, and served, in general, to distract our national consciousness through consistent entertainment away from relevant issues. In short, television has made government suppression of ideas unnecessary because people are no longer capable of deep and complex thought.

While censorship is a subject that people on both sides of the political spectrum love to get riled up about, Postman explains why it isn’t really an issue:

I would venture the opinion that the traditional civil libertarian opposition to the banning of books…is now largely irrelevant. Such acts of censorship are annoying, of course, and must be opposed. But they are trivial. Even worse, they are distracting, in that they divert civil libertarians from confronting those questions that have to do with the claims of new technologiesThe fight against censorship is a nineteenth-century issue which was largely won in the twentieth. What we are confronted with now is the problem posed by the economic and symbolic structure of television. Those who run television do not limit our access to information but in fact widen it. Our Ministry of Culture is Huxleyan, not Orwellian. It does everything possible to encourage us to watch continuously. But what we watch is a medium which presents information in a form that renders it simplistic, nonsubstantive, nonhistorical and noncontextual.

We are a “public adjusted to incoherence and amused into indifference,” he ventures. And our danger is not that we are unable to read the controversial books that have acted upon our culture, but that we no longer care to do so.

So, are we “Gulag Bound?”  Probably.  Thinking people are watching the times and warning us of the fast-approaching totalitarian chasm splitting the road.  But the immediate danger facing us is the fact that there are so few thinking people left, and that most of them are non-thinking by their own choice  simply because Jay Leno and football are so much more fun.  If we are heading for the gulag, we are heading for it in perfect freedom, with our eyes wide open.


Purchase the book here:

 

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