[...] Raw data. Legal loopholes. Secret details. Oversight that does too little, far too late. But maybe the [Swedish] FRA can’t be blamed entirely for its transgressions. It’s not like it came up with these ideas on its own.
Last week, British investigative journalist Duncan Campbell revealed Sweden’s involvement as one of the United States’ most important partners in efforts to monitor internet communications across the globe.
“A new organization has joined the “Five Eyes” and is seen as the largest cooperating partner to [the UK's] GCHQ outside the English-speaking countries – and that is Sweden,” Campbell told the European Parliament committee, referring to the colloquial term used to refer to the US, UK, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada.
Nowhere is safe, it would seem, from the reality that “[...] like the US, the defenders of these illegal activities are quick to point out that national security is more important than following laws or respecting citizens’ rights”. Not even our erstwhile cuddly Scandinavian social democracies. Perhaps especially not them.
Just to step back a moment from all of the hullabaloo. What was the plan, do we think?
- Protect Western democracy from evil people.
- But the Lord says everyone is born with Original Sin. Therefore, everyone is potentially evil. Therefore, everyone needs protecting from everyone else.
- Trawl everything that might possibly be useful. But hey, this ain’t dolphin-friendly land. We’ll trawl both the relevant and the irrelevant – and who cares if some of the good guys and gals get speared in the meantime?
- Problem is, what to do with all the catch? Prioritise, of course.
- So: a) some of the bad stuff is really really bad – and actionable; b) some of the bad stuff is irrelevant for our objective of overall law and order (thus we have the British police announcing they only investigate forty percent of crimes); and c) some of the bad stuff may be useful further down the line, only we can’t tell exactly when or how – so we’ll keep it just in case!
- Actually, c) is what I’m most worried about in this game plan I perceive: imagine how you could shape Western “democracies”, if you had embarrassing stuff on every single leading public actor, ready for using at any crucial moment. You wouldn’t, then, have democracy at all, would you? No. You wouldn’t.
I’m beginning to wonder, however, that whilst these revelations may make many a leading politician or businessperson a mite hesitant about rocking too many of these nasty little fishing-boats, as far as the general public is concerned their effect may not only be minimal but the reverse of what most people are currently assuming.
Over the past five years or so, via Facebook and latterly Twitter, as well as through that prior generation of famously blogging enthusiasts, we’ve been brainwashed into baring our every inner thought and occurrence with a happy abandon unknown in the previous century’s history. We’re already quite used to being tracked by advertisers everywhere. We may complain and mutter under our breath how horrible it all is, but when upgrade time comes we don’t usually step back from investing two more years in that cracking (where not cracked) new smartphone.
So why should what the Western security services do to us make any difference? Before the summer, we suspected (some of us, anyhow) we were all being watched. (In fact, around the time of the Iraq War, I was once put in a hospital for asserting this was the case.) After the summer, we know it to be true. We know that anything and everything we do has been registered and recorded for future examination by our virtual lords and masters. We now know what it’s like to live with the chill factor: that feeling you cannot say something because someone else might act on it. Although since the revelations, it really doesn’t matter any more (even as before them we wondered whether encroaching offline injunctions wouldn’t get the better of social networks’ freedoms).
And this is how it’s become: they already know how we think; they probably already know how we’d act under various circumstances. Surely in that, then, there is a tremendous sense of liberation. Surely in that we can begin to come round to the idea that the NSA revelations may lead to more of a desire – not less – on our part to exercise our freedom to speak out.
In for a penny, in for a krona … there’s nowhere you can go to escape these disagreeable behaviours.
Stay where you are, then. Stand firm and understand: this is how it will be from now on. You can choose to be quiet – which is clearly your right. Or you can choose to speak up – in the full liberty-engendering knowledge that we are now in a state of mind we once occupied so joyfully, quite before the Original Sin in question was committed.
As naked as the day we were born. And gradually becoming as unconscious of our circumstance, as that day for certain we were.
Wonderful feeling, ain’t it?
Wonderful just doesn’t begin to describe it!