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Americans Take Surveillance-State With Collective Shrug

Updated on August 1, 2013

In light of recent relevations brought to the fore by hero/traitor and former CIA employee Edward Snowden via The Guardian, we now have tangible evidence of the extent to which the federal government is spying on it's citizens.

Tellingly, the American public takes this news with a collective shrug.

I'm not a terrorist, why should I care?


Is NSA surveillance acceptable?

Pew Reaserch poll conducted after Verizon program story ran, before PRISM
NSA HQ, MD | Source

The polling suggests that you probably don't care. After all, Hollywood has been telling us for decades that the government hears and sees everything we do.

Why should you care?

First, here is what we know they are doing; a snapshot of the Internet is being taken at every moment, and those snapshots are being stored in a $4 billion dollar compound in Utah for future use. Concurrently, details of every phone call are stored in the same manner.

So what? I'm not a terrorist.

Terrorist | Source

What if you want to speak out against authority, what if you want to join an anti-government group such as the Tea Party or Occupy, and you want to claim tax-exempt status - might your past Internet activity be used by the IRS or to generally keep you quiet and on the sidelines? What if you want to run for political office on a civil-liberties platform?

Historical context - what if the government sanctions discrimination against your people (women's suffrage, Civil Rights, Japanese internment, marriage equality) and you want to organize? What if you catch a deadly disease that kills within months and the gov't is nonresponsive (AIDS in the 1980s)? What if the gov't enters an unjust war and your kids are called to serve and die (Vietnam, et al)?

Pollution? Gun rights? Corruption? Censorship? The cause is irrelevant here, only the inherent desire and necessity of the people to demand a just state.

Nincumpoops | Source

Ok, so maybe you aren't going to march against the government - are you willing to give up that choice for the rest of your life? For your kids?

What if your kid wants to be a politician, or a lawyer, or a professor, or a military officer, or a police officer, or an IT guy, or a CEO, or simply drive an armored truck?

The gov't will have on file every single thing that your kids do, say, or look at online or with a phone as teenagers. The government can scrutinize any relationship, any friend-of-a-friend or friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend-of-a-high-school-friend, and use that information to suppress your childs' potential civic activities and neuter any chance they may have of speaking out against authority at any point in their lives.

Are you willing to allow a potential gag to be shoved down the throats of your children, simply so you can feign a false sense of security in the short-term?

Won't happen, don't believe it. I trust my government with national security and counter-terrorism unequivocally.


Fair enough.

One-point-five-million people have access to the same information as Edward Snowden. Two-million people have access to the same information as did Bradley Manning. Five-million people have security clearances giving them access to classified information. Any one of those five-million could release any of this information at any given time, benevolent or otherwise.

The Verizon and PRISM programs, and with more revelations sure to come (and which emanate from Section 215 of the Patriot Act) are far too broad. And by the way, they weren't capable of figuring out Edward Snowden, so how effective is this surveillance-state anyways? What are we gaining for politely surrendering our entire notion of privacy?

This program was initiated in 2002, exposed in 2006, then ratified by congress in 2007 & 2008. This is not exactly big news, especially if you watch movies such as Minority Report or Enemy of the State. This is however, an utter transgression of the Fourth Amendment. Personally, I was more into quantum physics, the human brain, and spirituality back in those days - but I've moved on to more important things now... and I will not sit idly by and watch it slowly unfold on my watch this time around.

What the NSA is doing may be technically legal, but only in the sense that the Supreme Court has not yet been afforded the opportunity to rule on whether or not the Fourth Amendment is being violated. The FISA court is a joke, they have denied a grand total of eleven (0.3%) NSA requests. The vast majority of Congress has only voted in the abstract, and does not have knowledge of or access to the details of either or any of these classified programs nor the findings and legal interpretations of the FISA court.

Senator Wyden (OR-D)
Senator Wyden (OR-D) | Source
Senator Merkley (OR-D)
Senator Merkley (OR-D) | Source
Senator Paul (KY-R)
Senator Paul (KY-R)
Senator Udall (NM-D)
Senator Udall (NM-D) | Source

This is not a choice between zero surveillance with rampant terrorism, and the end of privacy with complete safety. What is necessary is a public debate about what is acceptable - and not after the fact...

They government could start by compulsory disclosure of classified surveillance programs to the entire Congress, not just the Intelligence Committees. They could limit the scope of a subpoena to two degrees of separation, rather than the entirety of Google or Facebook or Verizon or Yahoo requiring but a single respective subpoena request, and simply storing five zettabytes worth of surveillance of literally everyone for future use.

Who knows which terror event will be the one that requires further scrutiny of all of our information?

Nothing can stop it if we don't say something - if the American people continue to take an expanding surveillance state with a collective shrug. It's not okay. Write a letter-to-the-editor. Call your Congressman. Call your Senator. Email the White House. Share with your friends. Write a Hub!

Let them know that whatever they believe has been gained by broadly and indiscriminately gobbling up vast swaths of data on the populace, is certainly not worth the utter disregard for the Fourth Amendment, and alarming mistrust of the American people.

Especially you Democrats! You roared of tyranny when Bush did his wire-tapping - and now that Obama is in office it's all good. Not cool. The conservatives have been on board since Cheney & W. put all of this in place. They called anyone who questioned Bush unpatriotic. A third of Republicans flip-flopped on the subject of the NSA only now, I would beg simply a side-effect of Obama-derrangement-syndrone...

Now that both major political parties have codified the surveillance state over four presidential terms, precedent has been set. The establishment is united. Only the Liberal-tarians (including Senators Wyden, Merkley, Udall, and Paul) are left to cry foul. Time is of the essence, if we don't speak out now people will once again forget about it all and go back to their lovely lives of bliss.

"Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither."


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    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 4 years ago from New Jersey

      It is disturbing that so much of our personal info is really not personal anymore. It's true D's were in an uproar over the Patriot Act. Obama said he would abolish it. I suppose he is privy to info that the public is not regarding terrorists, and thinks the level of threat in the U.S. is enough to keep this level of spying going on. I didn't like it with Bush, but he did lie about nukes and make it out to seem like we were in more danger than we were. I can't tell with Obama, and the R's are too willing to always think the worst of him, even when he does good things. It is dangerous for so many people to have access to our info, and our borders are no more secure than they were. I agree about the polls.

    • Justin Earick profile image

      Justin Earick 4 years ago from Tacoma, WA

      The media is protecting Obama?

      Wasn't it just last week that all of the media outlets were crying foul concerning Obama's supposed mistreatment of the media and his appalling criminalization of journalism?

      Granted CNN simply backs the establishment, whomever that happens to be at any given time.

      The Faux News crowd are so convinved that the entire world is biased - except for them, hilarious!

      And I totally agree about the framing of questions by pollsters producing self-fulfilling results.

    • BruceDPrice profile image

      Bruce Deitrick Price 4 years ago from Virginia Beach, Va.


      Beware of fake polls that get the answers they want. In this case, the media are working to protect Obama, so they want the polls to say, no big deal, everybody loves the Prez.

      Write the questions to indicate that the Constitution is being violated and you'll get a lot more resistance.