When discussing Big Brother, it’s next to impossible to avoid referencing Orwell’s 1984. If you haven’t read this book, please do. I recently read Diaries by Orwell, and was surprised to find he was a racist bigot; he hated Jews and the Irish. Don’t let that stop you from reading his prose, however. The man was a fine author.
“So long as they (the Proles) continued to work and breed, their other activities were without importance. Left to themselves, like cattle turned loose upon the plains of Argentina, they had reverted to a style of life that appeared to be natural to them, a sort of ancestral pattern…Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbors, films, football, beer and above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult.”
The above quote speaks volumes about today’s society. Whether it is Ireland, England, the United States or elsewhere, it still holds true to this day. The majority of the present day populace behaves in this manner.
Let me bring you back to the Watergate incident from seventies for a brief moment, a scandal which saw the incarceration of 43 people, most of whom were Nixon’s top officials. It started with a break-in, and ended with the confession that every conversation in Nixon’s Oval Office was recorded. Since this scandal, the media love to stick the ‘gate’ suffix onto anything that remotely resembles a scandal. Not many stories since Watergate were worthy of it, until recently.
Perhaps the NSA eavesdropping scandal in 2006/2007 comes close. After September 11th 2001, the NSA began a classified foreign intelligence program on domestic soil, to intercept telephone and internet communications of persons and organisations without obtaining warrants and therefore outside the parameters of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. UCLA along with several journalists and authors, attempted to sue The NSA, albeit unsuccessfully. The appeal was turned down as the plaintiffs failed to present evidence that they were targets of the program.
“We are, in essence, being asked to trust the state to know best. What reason do we have for such confidence? The agencies entrusted with our protection have repeatedly been shown, before and after the fall of 2001, to be conspicuous for their incompetence and venality. No serious reform of these institutions has been undertaken or even proposed.”
Christopher Hitchens made the above statement when speaking on January 16th, 2006 about the incident. His words are extremely important and need not be forgotten when we consider the recent Snowden scandal. Snowden released classified documents which prove the existence of a complicated and well-funded spy campaign by the NSA on every one of its citizens in the United States. Every piece of electronic communication is stored in the NSA’s huge warehouse. Most phones are also tapped, and the tapping is not limited to people in the America. Recently it has emerged that Angela Merkel’s phone was also tapped. Obama is claiming (and I believe him) that he did not know about the tapping of Allied officials, which brings me to my next point.
I don’t believe the president of the United States has any power to stop the NSA. They are our present day Big Brother, always watching us. In essence, they control The White House. Sounds crazy, but I urge you to consider the following: the next president of the United States attempts to scale back or even stop the NSA spy program, something which the NSA do not want to happen. What is stopping the NSA from going through said president’s personal emails, texts, entire phone history, pictures, et al in an attempt to find dirt on him and thereby have him impeached? What can stop them from doing this on any government official or any citizen?
I find it exceptionally worrying that our streets are empty. I don’t see thousands of people up in arms over this, protesting and putting pressure on the NSA to stop treating everyone like terrorists. Why is this? Part of it is because a portion of the populace believes in the “I have nothing to hide” fallacy. This is the wrong way to think about surveillance. How can any individual be sure they are not violating a law when the federal government does not even know how many laws there are? Consider the following quote from James Duane, a professor at Regent Law School and former attorney:
“Estimates of the current size of the body of federal criminal law vary. It has been reported that the Congressional Research Service cannot even count the current number of federal crimes. These laws are scattered in over 50 titles of the United States Code, encompassing roughly 27,000 pages. Worse yet, the statutory code sections often incorporate, by reference, the provisions and sanctions of administrative regulations promulgated by various regulatory agencies under congressional authorization. Estimates of how many such regulations exist are even less well settled, but the ABA thinks there are ‘nearly 10,000’”
A wired.com article which quoted Mr. Duane goes on to discuss several ridiculous laws. An example given is being in the possession of a lobster under a certain size is against the law. It doesn’t matter if you bought it in a grocery store, if someone gave it to you, if it’s dead or alive. See here: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/16/3372
If the federal government has access to every email, text, phone call, picture message that you have ever taken part in then chances are they could find something on you which violates the 27,000 pages of federal statuses or the 10,000 administrative regulations. You could be behind the next door Big Brother kicks in.