(Their) Prism Planet June 19, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, US Politics.
Just to add to Gé Bruite’s thoughts here, and particularly this conclusion:
Taking into account there are no visible, transparent or democratic oversights preventing the framing of an arbitrary individuals or groups as ‘terrorist’, and at the very least subjecting them to comprehensive surveillance.
…it seems to me that the news about the NSA ‘Prism’ operation is in a way uniquely depressing, if hardly entirely unexpected. I imagine most of us have the standard operating procedure when it comes to the internet that it is a fairly transparent medium and that little of what we do is not open to scrutiny if the will is there. Indeed it is as well to recall that records of ordinary internet activity are retained by this state for a year after they occur. How fine detailed that is I can’t recall.
Still, hardly unexpected or not, as Gé Bruite notes this was an extensive program encompassing pretty much all social and other media. A very very extensive program.
It will be interesting to see where this story goes and what – if any – effects it has. If it points up one thing it is the remarkable predominance of the United States globally and the very real fact that it remains beyond serious censure in this as in many other respects. This is quite literally what the term superpower actually means. Worth keeping that in mind.
Slate had some useful pieces on this too over the last week, but another depressing aspect to this was the sense that many would trade privacy and lack of intrusion for a nebulous security. Indeed Farhad Manjoo, their technology correspondent, made the point that time and again users of Facebook, Google and so on, quite deliberately allow corporations to do so with their (the users) information. And Manjoo made the point that
Because Snowden is now in Hong Kong, it’s unclear what the United States can do to him. But watch for officials to tar Snowden—he’ll be called unpatriotic, unprofessional, treasonous, a liar, grandiose, and worse. As in the Bradley Manning case, though, the more badly Snowden is depicted, the more rickety the government’s case for surveillance becomes. After all, they hired him. They gave him unrestricted access to their systems, from court orders to PowerPoint presentations depicting the crown jewels of their surveillance infrastructure. (Also of note: They made a hideous PowerPoint presentation depicting the crown jewels of their surveillance infrastructure—who does that? I’ve been reading a lot of Le Carré lately, and when I saw the PRISM presentation, I remembered how Le Carré’s veteran spy George Smiley endeavored to never write down his big secrets. Now our spies aren’t just writing things down—they’re trying to make their secrets easily presentable to large audiences.)
Actually, there’s a number of ways to consider that PowerPoint presentation. It’s entirely cosmetic. It doesn’t matter a damn if it looks like the most finished piece of work ever, or something run off on someone’s computer at home.
But there’s something about its mundane aspect that is, in its own way, as troubling about the rest of it. Its sheer utilitarianism speaks of utter confidence. For the people who produced it the program it describes was business as usual, mundane, everyday, beyond question.
Which brings to mind another thought, that states retain remarkable power, even now in our supposedly globalised, almost post-nation state, world. Of course the US functions in defence of capitalism, but here is an example of what can be done when the will is there – essentially an wholesale intrusion into international corporations. And the confidence behind it to use that power on behalf of a certain form of the status quo.
It’s a good thing this has been revealed. Where though from here is a different matter entirely.