Monday, May 7, 2012

Greenwald On McCullagh On 'Surveillance State Democracy'

Americans: your privacy rights have been vanishing apace since at least 2001, and by now virtually all the laws are in place to allow your government to tap, without a warrant, just about any damned thing of yours they want to tap.

Now that the law has been imposed, the ability must be realized. Of course in many cases it already has been. But the government wants "backdoor" access to literally all forms of electronic communication, mandated by law and forcibly implemented by the carriers. Following an introduction by Declan McCullagh of CNET, here's a sample from Glenn Greenwald, regarding the conflict between RIM (BlackBerry) and the Saudi and UAE government, the two governments' decision to ban BlackBerry possession in their countries, and US official... and unofficial... reaction:

What was most amazing to me back when I first wrote about these Obama administration efforts was that a mere six weeks earlier, a major controversy had erupted when Saudi Arabia and the UAE both announced a ban on BlackBerries on the ground that they were physically unable to monitor the communications conducted on those devices. Since Blackberry communication data are sent directly to servers in Canada and the company which operates Blackberry — Research in Motion — refused to turn the data over to those governments, “authorities [in those two tyrannies] decided to ban Blackberry services rather than continue to allow an uncontrolled and unmonitored flow of electronic information within their borders.” As I wrote at the time: “that’s the core mindset of the Omnipotent Surveillance State: above all else, what is strictly prohibited is the ability of citizens to communicate in private; we can’t have any ‘uncontrolled and unmonitored flow of electronic information’.” 
In response to that controversy, the Obama administration actually condemned the Saudi and UAE ban, calling it “a dangerous precedent” and a threat to “democracy, human rights and freedom of information.” Yet six weeks later, the very same Obama administration embraced exactly the same rationale — that it is intolerable for any human interaction to take place beyond the prying eyes and ears of the government — when it proposed its mandatory “backdoor access” for all forms of Internet communication. Indeed, the UAE pointed out that the U.S. — as usual — was condemning exactly that which it itself was doing: 
Not only is the Obama administration (through FBI-drafted proposed legislation extending existing surveillance to Web-based services) wanting to compel warrantless wiretaps across all sorts of "wires," they also want the carriers to implement the skulduggery for them. This is bad news. If the Obama administration and congressional Democrats do not back us in long-established matters of fundamental individual privacy, who is on our side? The ACLU, of course... but is there anybody in government who doesn't advocate spying on every damned American citizen?

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