Yesterday, Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, a personage frequently referenced on this website, released an article exposing how the NSA has technology giving them direct real time access to the servers of the nation’s largest internet networks, essentially permitting them to collect the private communications of millions of people both internationally and domestically. From the sound of it, the NSA has the technology to reach into servers and gather the information it wants without the permission or intervention by the service providers. The only assurance that the agency won’t abuse this power is based on their promise not to do so.
From the New York Times:
The article, which included a link to the order, is expected to attract an investigation from the Justice Department, which has aggressively pursued leakers.
That, all by itself is a stunning revelation, not only confirming what many already suspected, but clearly exposing the denials on the part of Obama officials as blatant lies. But, the story is just beginning. As a result of yesterday’s article, Greenwald is rightly anticipating an aggressive response on the part of the Obama Justice Department. The Obama administration has already established himself as the leader in pursuing whistleblowers, having already charging more whistleblowers than all previous presidents combined. This puts Greenwald on the same U.S. government shit list as Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and others.
While whistleblowers are heavily demonized as being self-interested traitors by government officials, Greenwald makes this point:
They could easily enrich themselves by selling those documents for huge sums of money to foreign intelligence services. They could seek to harm the US government by acting at the direction of a foreign adversary and covertly pass those secrets to them. They could gratuitously expose the identity of covert agents.
None of the whistleblowers persecuted by the Obama administration as part of its unprecedented attack on whistleblowers has done any of that: not one of them. Nor have those who are responsible for these current disclosures.
They did not act with any self-interest in mind. The opposite is true: they undertook great personal risk and sacrifice for one overarching reason: to make their fellow citizens aware of what their government is doing in the dark. Their objective is to educate, to democratize, to create accountability for those in power.
Governments rely on secrecy to give them the power to dominate any narrative about what government does. And, just like a cop who routinely fabricates a story to cover up his abuses of power, the government likes to control what citizens know. But, just as abusive cops are increasingly being exposed with video evidence, government abuses are being exposed by leaks from whistle-blowers.
In a democracy, where people are supposed to wield the ultimate control over government, transparency is critical. It is virtually impossible for a citizen to cast a meaningful vote on election day if his government is intentionally keeping him ignorant. When the U.S. government fires a missile from a drone and kills eleven children, it is doing so in the name of and under the authority of the people of the United States. And retaliation for those kinds of attacks can be expected to fall on ordinary American citizens. This is not rocket science. The power to watch what people say and do its the power to control what they say and do. Governmental harassment of activist groups is always preceded by surveillance.
Since the U.S. government is increasingly relying on secrecy in order to avoid oversight or challenge, the role of the whistle blower becomes increasingly more critical. Furthermore, the government, now having more to lose from leaks, cracks down on whistle blowers, making it far more dangerous to be one. And that’s what makes people like Manning, Assange, and Greenwald heroes. There is no doubt it takes an immense amount of courage to challenge an entity as powerful as the U.S. government. What’s worse is knowing that the evidence so far uncovered by whistle blowers shows the U.S. government to be an unscrupulous and ruthless opponent.