Why you should be concerned about America’s surveillance state, even if you aren’t committing crimes

July 1, 2012 | By | 3 Replies More

Glenn Greenwald has talked with many people who tell him that they haven’t done anything wrong, so why should they be concerned about America’s surveillance state? Here are the reasons:

Those who wish to organize should have the right to do so away from the targets of the organization. If the government is listening in, this makes any type of activism “extremely difficult.”

It is exclusively in the private realm that creativity, dissent and challenges to orthodoxy. Only when you know that you can explore “without external judgment where you can experiment” and “create new paths.” Psychological experiments verify this need for privacy; without it, people speak more stiffly. When you assume that you are being watched, your speech will be chilled and you will be encouraged to act in a conformist way.

Third, surveillance creates a “pervasive climate of fear.” It makes people afraid to speak candidly and meaningfully to other people in their same community. Greenwald (who admits that he has 11 dogs) draw on a dog example. Even when a fence is taken down, dogs are hesitant to go into a previously fenced-off area. The most insidious part of the surveillance state is that those who are being monitored are easily convinced that their limits, their conformity, is liberty and freedom.

What can be done about this situation in the United States. There are things you can do to remove yourself from the “surveillance matrix.” Some people have limited their economic interactions to cash transactions. There are way to communicate on the Internet that maintain anonymity (e.g., The Tor Project). It is important to educate yourself and others “beyond the prying eye of the United States government. For instance, you can educate yourself as to your rights when you have direct interactions with government officials; sources include Center for Constitutional Rights, National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms and the ACLU. To this list, I would add the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Forcible radical transparency is a way to take the offensive. That is why Greenwald (and I) support Wikileaks and Anonymous. Greenwald states, “I want walls to be blown in the wall of secrecy.”


Category: Communication, Orwellian, Spying

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (3)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Glenn Greenwald reiterates that all of the accusations the U.S. government aims at Wikileaks should apply equally (or moreso) to the New York Times. Politicians such as Dianne Feinstein don’t get this:

    [T]he evidence has long been overwhelming that the U.S. is eager to prosecute him and is actively seeking to do so. That’s because it’s filled with people like Dianne Feinstein, whose supreme loyalty is to the National Security State which enriches them, and who are plagued by a demonstrated willingness to trample on basic Constitutional protections in order to protect it.


  2. Erich Vieth says:

    On this Fourth of July, our government continues to criminally prosecute those who are working, at no personal gain and with great personal risk, to expose the facts that our government is A) torturing, B) spying on its own citizens and C) lying. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/03/squelching-secrets-why-is_n_1628547.html

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    Secrecy upside down: At the 6 minute mark of this video, Glenn Greenwald reminds us that the people of the United States are supposed to be completely in charge of the U.S. government. Hence, one would expect that the government would be completely transparent while the government would not be spying on its citizens, except for probable cause that the target is committing a crime defined and enacted by the citizens. We have a power imbalance that Greenwald characterizes as “dangerous.” Whenever humans can secretly spy on others, “inevitably” that power is severely abused.

    Today, we are experiencing the exact reverse situation. Greenwald mentions (at the top of the video) that the NSA is collecting 1.7 billion email and phone messages per day. Nothing Americans say or write to each other is beyond the reach of the U.S. government.

    People often say that they don’t care, because “I have nothing to hide.” Really? Would you willingly hand your passwords over to a stranger?

    The interview opens with Alyona Minkovski’s comment that the federal government has made hundreds of requests for information to Twitter this year alone, and Twitter has complied with 75% of these requests.

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