NSA spying programs drive us toward 1984

It’s been three months since now-famous whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed a trove of classified documents regarding the secret spying programs of the National Security Agency, an organization so shadowy, its very existence was kept secret for more than 20 years. On June 6, The Guardian reported the NSA was monitoring the phone records of millions of Verizon customers, taking notes on who they called, when the call was made, where it was made from and how long it lasted. While this revelation was hardly innocuous, it pales in comparison to what has come out since. Even now, Edward Snowden continues to leak information about our government’s domestic voyeurism, painting a picture of an American surveillance state that can be accurately described as Orwellian.

On June 7, one day after the first story, The Guardian followed up with a story about the NSA getting into the servers of Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo! and Facebook, among others, allowing them to access emails, photos, chats and location information. On June 20, we found out Skype was using a secret program to help the government monitor calls and chats that were performed with their technology. A week later, Snowden revealed the United States government had been collecting data from millions of emails between 2001 and 2011; it would later turn out that almost 170,000 of these emails were gathered illegally.

July brought us a whole new torrent of information. Skype isn’t the only company that has been aiding and abetting the criminals in our government; Microsoft worked closely with the NSA to provide them with access to one of its cloud storage services, SkyDrive. Despite the continual assurances by those in power that these programs are designed to keep us safe from terrorists, another July revelation told us that the NSA considers it within their purview to track people that suspected terrorists communicate with, and the people they communicate with, and the people they communicate with.

August was the month for discovering how much deeper the spying programs go than we had previously imagined. We found out the NSA goes beyond its legal authority and breaks privacy rules thousands of times each year. We also found out the NSA keeps on eye on 75 percent of all online traffic in the US, with the full cooperation of the telecommunications industry. Through this entire process, Snowden was called a traitor, charged as a felon and hunted all over the globe by Barack Obama’s “most transparent administration in history.” He was vilified for not sticking around to share the fate of Bradley Manning and so many others who dared to tell the truth. Meanwhile, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper admitted he blatantly lied to Congress about the NSA spying programs. That’s okay, though. He apologized.

For three months, Snowden has released document after document expanding on just what our government is doing, and the revelations haven’t stopped yet. On Sept. 7, Snowden’s information led to a report by the German magazine Der Spiegel, which stated the NSA can hack into any model of smart phone on the market. Think about that for a moment and let the chill go through you.

These are not the actions of a democratic nation. We are on the road to something dark and terrifying, and we’re only now beginning to realize how far down that road we’ve already gone. This is not a question of whether or not you, personally, have something to hide. This is a question of our rapid descent toward a country that looks very different from the America you think you live in, toward a government that more closely resembles the Ministry of Love. If that’s not the country you want to live in, if you’re tired of being kept safe, ignorant and under control, it’s time to step up, get mad and fight back. Big Brother is watching you.

Originally published in The Lumberjack (http://jackcentral.com/opinion/2013/09/opinion-nsa-spying-programs-drive-us-toward-1984/)

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