Firstly, the title of this blog is a quote from Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four”. Secondly, I believe that book is slowly moving from the fiction section in our public libraries to the non-fiction section. We are currently in a very contentious period regarding internet privacy. As most of us would know, our phone calls, Google searches, emails, texts, Facebook messages etc. are all being monitored by corporations, governments (and not necessarily our own) and probably ex-girlfriends/boyfriends.We have three key individuals known worldwide for their efforts in alerting the public about the covert actions of government agencies. These agencies are spying on not only the citizens of their own nations, but of many other nations as well. Of these three individuals, one is currently serving 35 years in extreme solitary confinement for releasing classified military documents to Wikileaks. Another has sought refuge in Russia after publicly announcing the NSA Prism program. Lastly, we have Assange who is ‘actually’ accused of sexual assault charges, yet still held up in the Ecuadorian embassy in Britain on a 24 hour watch.
Of these three individuals, I find Snowden the most interesting. Snowden is one of America’s most wanted persons. He was labelled a traitor by former Vice President Dick Cheney, to which Snowden stated that “Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honour you can give an American…” (Logiurato 2013). Snowden might be a hero to some, or a traitor to others, but when I discuss Snowden and his actions with some close friends, many were not even sure what he actually did. As Sterling states, “Americans don’t even know how to think about characters like Snowden” (Sterling 2013).
The following video, one of the earliest interviews with Snowden following his leaks, explains his role in the NSA and what that role entailed.
As Snowden states, the post 9/11 surveillance state quickly jumped from a focus that was “narrowly tailored to foreign intelligence gathered overseas” to a greater focus domestically, of which “the NSA specifically targets the communications of everyone” (Kevin M. Gallagher 2013). For specific information about collection of data, this is further discussed by reddit user ‘hippiekyle’. Essentially, the NSA is continuously collecting metadata of individuals and their activities. This may not seem like a big deal, but it should be noted that former CIA and NSA director, Michael Hayden once stated “We kill people based on metadata” (RT 2014).
Issues regarding surveillance aren’t only exclusive to the US. Even with the mass public support of individuals such as Snowden, most recently the Australian senate passed new laws that give the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) greater powers. As depicted in the tweet below, these new laws provide ASIO the power to heavily enforce penalties on whistle blowers who disclose classified information, as well as journalists who report on such classified information (Admmo 2014).
More information regarding these laws can be found here.
On a slightly lighter note, I think the confronting concept of the ever-growing surveillance state is best summed up by Matt Damon in the film Good Will Hunting; released 7 years before our invasion of Iraq and about 15 years before Snowden even leaked information about the extent of the NSA’s surveillance program.
Good Will Hunting 1997, Youtube clip, Miramax Films, Massachusetts, USA.
Kevin M. Gallagher 2013, ‘NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden: ‘I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things’, 9 June, YouTube clip, viewed 12 October, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yB3n9fu-rM>.
Logiurato, B 2013, ‘SNOWDEN: ‘Being Called A Traitor By Dick Cheney Is The Highest honour’, Business Insider, 18 June, viewed 12 October 2014, <http://www.businessinsider.com.au/edward-snowden-dick-cheney-traitor-comment-guardian-chat-glenn-greenwald-2013-6\>.
Admmo 2014, ‘Australian Greens list unprecedented security and surveillance powers being passed in Oz
@caparsons @OpenMedia_ca‘, 25 September, Twitter Post, viewed 12 October 2014, <https://twitter.com/admmo/status/515067119931637761>.
Orwell, G 1950, Nineteen Eighty-Four, New York: Signet classic.
Redacción AN 2013, ‘Assange, Manning y Snowden nos dieron información y poder: Mesa Política MVS’, Image, 24 June, viewed 12 October, <http://aristeguinoticias.com/2406/mexico/assange-manning-y-snowden-nos-dieron-informacion-y-poder-mesa-politica-mvs/>.
RT 2014, ‘Former CIA director: ‘We kill people based on metadata’, RT, 12 May, viewed 12 October, <http://rt.com/usa/158460-cia-director-metadata-kill-people/>.
Sterling, B 2013, ‘The Ecuadorian Library’, Medium, 2 August, viewed 12 October, <https://medium.com/@bruces/the-ecuadorian-library-a1ebd2b4a0e5>