Recently, Fareed Zakaria, a managing editor of Foreign Affairs recently wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post which pushed a false narrative. This article aims to criticize Zakaria’s column since mass surveillance seems to be the talk of many activists, concerned citizens, and pissed-off Americans these days.*
One of Zakaria’s main points is that whistleblower Edward Snowden should face trial in the US. He says this again and again, couched in supposedly pro-Snowden rhetoric:
“He [Snowden] comes off [as]…intelligent and well-intentioned. I say this as someone who believes that Snowden broke the law and should be accountable but also that he performed a public service that lacks proper democratic oversight and judicial checks. There is a way to reconcile these positions: a trial…The Obama administration should make clear that Snowden would get an open, civilian trial in the United States…It would be the trial of the century, shining a spotlight on something that has been hidden deep in the shadows for too long. And that is what Snowden says he wanted from the start.”
Beyond this ridiculous, absurd, and flowery language is Zakaria’s claim that what Snowden revealed had “limited consequences,” with very little that was “morally scandalous” and his strange argument that US hacking on Chinese computer systems is ok (what?). Oh yeah, and add in Zakaria’s construction of a straw man, guessing what Snowden would argue if he was part of the trial. He even found some anonymous legal scholars who said that “Snowden could get a fair trail” and David Pozen of Columbia University to claim that since Snowden’s case is “so highly publicized already…that the basic fact of the disclosures is old news, as is much of content, some of which is not declassified.”
There is one main problem with Zakaria’s piece: there is NO talk of calling government officials, mainly in the NSA, to trial. They are the ones who should be sitting in a prison, not Snowden. As Snowden himself said in a recent interview with The Nation (which I will analyze in depth in a later article):
“…Richard Nixon got kicked out of Washington for tapping one hotel suite. Today we’re tapping [phone lines and reading emails of] every American citizen in the country, and no one has been put on trial for it or even investigated. We don’t even have an inquiry into it.”
The tapping of phones, reading emails and storing information of Americans, and people all across the world is no doubt violating some law or another beyond the 4th Amendment of the Constitution, which is obviously being violated. You might ask: what has the NSA, and government at large, done that would result in government officials going to jail? Well, let me tell you of the NSA’s misdeeds, some pertinent examples of mass surveillance, and more :
- The DOJ was wiretapping the cloakroom of the House of Representatives
- The NSA tried to wiretap an unknown member of Congress
- The NSA is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon due to a a routine renewal of surveillance by the FISA court
- The NSA had set up a program called PRISM to collect data from tech giants including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Skype, YouTube, and Apple, all of whom, are all participating in top secret spying program
- The NSA has developed a powerful tool for recording and analyzing where its intelligence comes from called Boundless Informant
- Such wide NSA surveillance might, as David Seaman noted, allow for the government to blackmail, shame, or discredit any activist or journalist who threatens status quo which follows Thomas Drake’s claim that we are all “persons of interest” for the government
- The NSA repeatedly from 1999 to 2007 kept trying to access the data of private companies with only Qwest refusing access
- The NSA is monitoring credit card transaction as part of its supposed effort to target possible terrorists
- The NSA is building the country’s biggest spy center to store our information
- In March 2013 alone, the NSA collected 97 billion pieces of data from worldwide networks!
- The NSA is getting an “electronic copy” of detail records of all Verizon phone calls within the US and between the US and abroad.
- The NSA wants to collect, know, process, and sniff “all” (or as much info. as they can get) in part by partnering with intelligence agencies in other countries; the idea of “collecting it all” seems to be a big goal of the NSA
- The NSA has processed, as of December 2012, more than a trillion pieces of metadata
- The NSA has “strategic partnerships” with companies such as: At&T, Verizon, Motorola, Qwest, Intel, Microsoft, Cisco, HP, EDS, Oracle, and Qualcomm
- The PRISM program and the “collection of communications on fiber cables and infrastructure” are completely interlinked.
- The FBI and CIA can select info. from PRISM if they wish at any time
- The NSA shares data with Canada’s equivalent (of the NSA) called the Communications Security Establishment (CSE)
- The US has signal intelligence partners such as coalitions like NATO and countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom
- Signal Intelligence is exchanged with Israel, which includes private data of Americans, is driven mainly by their interests
- Parts of the NSA focus on “trade activities” of countries such as Mexico, Belgium, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, Spain, Brazil, and Mexico, because of their “importance to U.S. economic, trade, and defense concerns,” with reports from these divisions informing diplomats at specific summits who were informing President Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
- Spying on leaders such as Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff (and key advisors) and Mexico’s Peno Nieto
- The NSA spied on UN Security Council members (such as Brazil, France, Japan, and Mexico), with the US’s UN members saying that thanks to this spying their real position on sanctioning Iran
- The NSA places implants into devices such as servers and routers in order to spy on their internet use and computer use, without detection
- The NSA is having a challenge at storing, ingesting and processing all the data they receive
- The NSA can spy on anyone’s email they want, they just need to name a certain query and a specific justification
- The NSA can access a broad range of data on Facebook thanks to the FBI
- A claim in a leaked NSA document that there is “nothing to worry about” if you “accidentally” target a person living in the US
- The “NSA now has the capability to store all content from all communications, both phone and computer” and in the view of NSA whistleblower Russ Tice
- In January of 2014, the US army in January of this year, deployed two surveillance blimps “called aerostats, for three years of testing over Maryland” which “will have a surveillance range of over 300 miles.”
- NSA and FBI are spying “on Muslim leaders, particularly Muslim leaders who were lawyers, civil rights leaders, and academics.” Also see here.
- Plans by the NSA and US government at-large to use spying to benefit US corporations
- The NSA’s secret “Google-like” search engine, IREACH, where they share “more than 850 billion records about phone calls, emails, cellphone locations, and internet chats” with more than a dozen U.S. govt. agencies
- The NSA is partnering with Saudi Arabia’s brutal state police, is a partner with the Israeli intelligence service on every act of military aggression and gives Turkey info. about the PKK even as Turkey is a key target of US spying
- The possibility that the NSA or any govt. agency could hack into your computer if you watch a funny cat video
- The terrorist screening database of 680,000 people, with almost half not even classified as terrorists, and the CIA, DIA, NSA and FBI being the top people who nominate people to the list.
- A program where “huge volumes of private emails, phone calls, and internet chats are being intercepted by the National Security Agency with the secret cooperation of more foreign governments than previously known.”
- Germany serving as the NSA’s biggest listening post in Europe
- The NSA “secretly intercepting, recording, and archiving the audio of virtually every cell phone conversation on the island nation of the Bahamas.”
- The NSA and GCHQ having a list of 122 leaders, including Angela Merkel, who are being spied on
- The NSA tracking “down the private email and Facebook accounts of system administrators (or sys admins, as they are often called), before hacking their computers to gain access to the networks they control”
- Governments and government agencies regularly tapping into private license-plate tracking databases even if casts many as suspects
- The NSA infects millions of computers with malware, even making fake facebook pages and servers at certain times. Also see here.
- The CIA searched US senate computers. Also see here.
- The NSA has an advice columnist who complains about being spied on…what?
- For years, the “DOJ had utilized warrantless electronic surveillance to identify suspects…[and] no criminal defendant had received such notice.”
- The GCHQ and NSA “targeted WikiLeaks and other activist groups with tactics ranging from covert surveillance to prosecution.”
- The NSA “is using complex analysis of electronic surveillance, rather than human intelligence, as the primary method to locate targets for lethal drone strikes,” which interestingly is centered on a focus on the metadata in one’s phone or cell-phone tracking
- NSA can use US data without a warrant, according to a revealed FISA court order
- The NSA collected email records in bulk for two years of Obama’s presidency and continues to do so up until the present
- The NSA, along with other intelligence services like the CIA and FBI, are “spying on the European Union mission in New York and its embassy in Washington,” along with “38 embassies and missions” which are considered targets, which include “traditional ideological adversaries…snsitive Middle Eastern countries…EU missions and the French, Italian and Greek embassies, as well as a number of other American allies, including Japan, Mexico, South Korea, India and Turkey.”
- Microsoft and the NSA are collaborating over user data, allowing user’s data to be intercepted and stored by the NSA
- The NSA paid the GCHQ to continue spying
- The NSA somehow has “secret backdoor permission to search databases for individual Americans’ communications”
- The NSA “paid millions of dollars to cover the costs of major internet companies involved in the Prism surveillance program” such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo! This falls in line with what the NSA general counsel said: that big tech companies like Yahoo and Google provided ‘full assistance’ in legally mandated collection of data
- The NSA and GCHQ worked to “unlock encryption used to protect emails, banking and medical records” while the NSA itself has tried to crack the encryption of Tor, but that they haven’t been fully successful.
- The NSA shares raw intelligence data including personal info. of Americans with Israel
- The NSA spied on the Indian embassy and the UN. This falls in line with US diplomats spying on the top officials of the United Nations as revealed by Wikileaks cables.
- The US monitored Angela Merkel and numerous other phones of world leaders, and not surprisingly they won’t let Merkel see HER OWN NSA file
- Snowden claims that the NSA caused the Syrian internet blackout in 2012 accidently in an attempt to infiltrate it
- The NSA recruits people at hacker conventions but has recently, and justifiably, taken a lot of flack
- When the NSA “intercepted the online accounts of legally targeted foreigners over a four-year period it also collected the conversations of nine times as many ordinary internet users” many of whom are US citizens
- The NSA “searched through its data troves of emails and other communications data for 198 “identifiers” of Americans’ information in 2013 alone.”
- Vodafone “revealed the existence of secret wires that allow government agencies to listen to all conversations on its networks, saying they are widely used in some of the 29 countries in which it operates in Europe and beyond,” likely some of those agencies are the NSA, CIA and FBI.
- Top NSA officials “wrestled for weeks with how to respond to an unprecedented surge in open records requests from members of the public in the wake of the first mass surveillance revelations” from documents provided by Snowden
- Ironically, US secretary of State John Kerry claimed that the US “obtained intercepted phone calls that prove Moscow is deliberately trying to destabilise eastern Ukraine”
- Snowden claims that the NSA spied on Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch
- The NSA “created ‘back doors’ into…Huawei[‘s] networks.” This is what Fareed Zakaria supports for some strange reason
- The GCHQ collected Yahoo! webcam images and then fed them to the NSA
- The NSA spied on rival states during the 2009 climate summit according to Snowden
- The NSA and GCHQ have been “been developing capabilities to take advantage of “leaky” smartphone apps, such as the wildly popular Angry Birds game, that transmit users’ private information across the internet.”
- The increase in mass surveillance could be because of a “need” to brunt climate activism
- The NSA has a tool to hack into iPhones by using a backdoor
- U.S. tax dollars are being used to monitor “Americans who voice dissent against the extraordinary influence that some of the world’s most powerful corporations have on our elected officials”
- The FBI has used drones to monitor citizens on US soil. This isn’t a surprise as tar sands drones seem to be coming soon
- Rice Tice has said that the the US engaged in “illegal use of space-based satellites and systems to spy on U.S. citizens”
- Not only is the FBI engaging in intimidation to some degree, but it is also clear that “state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies are systematically monitoring First Amendment activities…in the name of safety and security in a post-9/11 age.”
- According to a New York Times article, all U.S. mail is being scanned and put into a database which is called Mail Isolation Control and Tracking. Funny enough, Gizmodo contemplated it three years earlier, asking if people could imagine if the Postal Service scanned and emailed all your letters
- The FBI conducts its own signals intelligence as part of the Data Intercept Technology Unit (DITU) which feeds data to the NSA, possibly doing even more surveillance than even the NSA
- There’s the Magic Lantern program developed by FBI to log keystrokes and there’s the Computer and Internet Protocol Address Verifier, another FBI surveillance program
- Finally there’s DCSNet which is the FBI’s “sophisticated, point-and-click surveillance system that performs instant wiretaps on almost any communications device”
These crimes by the NSA especially, are now anomaly, since, as Kirk Wiebe said…
I could simply say that NSA officials should go on trial and be put in jail. Snowden has alluded to this. I could even say that the NSA should be abolished, just like the CIA, as I have previously advocated for. However, the mass surveillance apparatus is more expansive than just the NSA, or just the CIA. After all, corporate and government surveillance are intertwined, which is in part because after 9/11 the US intelligence community “found itself in control of a huge amount of money, contracting with domestic and foreign companies to build and proliferate tools needed to spy on the world” which led to what some call a “surveillance-industrial complex.” Hence, there is more to worry about than what some claim to be a “surveillance state” since it is MUCH more complex and intricate than that. It is important to also recognize a valid point by Zaid Jilani:
“Government can be an incredibly positive force when it is transparent, accountable and empowering. When it is not those things, not only should we oppose it, but we should be proud that there are people on the Right who are willing to join with us in that cause—they’re helping us actually increase faith in the positive aspects of the public sector by addressing its abuses. Not only can we advocate for rolling back the national security state and implementing positive government programs like Medicare for All and a national living wage, but if we are to win over the American public, it may very well be necessary to do both.”
And please, do NOT claim as this article says that because of mass surveillance, “Equality has finally come to the shores of America in the form of surveillance. We are all in the same boat now and when the lights go out, we are all black.” That is not only insensitive to blacks, but it is bypassing the reality of racial domination and oppression in the United States. There is no doubt that the US is a surveillance society (I’ll agree with the ACLU on this one). But, that term in and of itself is too mild. It is best to call the US what cryptohippie calls an electronic police state, which they define as follows :
“An electronic police state is quiet, even unseen. All of its legal actions are supported by abundant evidence. It looks pristine. An electronic police state is characterized by…State use of electronic technologies to record, organize, search and distribute forensic evidence against its citizens…In an Electronic Police State, every surveillance camera recording, every email you send, every Internet site you surf, every post you make, every check you write, every credit card swipe, every cell phone ping…are all criminal evidence , and they are held in searchable databases, for a long, long time. Whoever holds this evidence can make you look very, very bad whenever they care enough to do so. You can be prosecuted whenever they feel like it – the evidence is already in their database.”
It is more likely that this type of state exists in the US than a police state as traditionally defined, despite what others have to say about it. 
It is important to remember that the Snowden revelations are NOT the first time that people have been concerned about the mass surveillance apparatus. As Eli Pariser predicted in his 2007 book, The Filter Bubble, “by 2014, they [the NSA] anticipate dealing with so much data they’ve invented new units of measurement just to describe it.”  Pariser wasn’t the only one. Maureen Webb wrote about global surveillance, mainly by the US in the wake of 9/11. In a book released the same year, 2007, Webb wrote that the NSA’s electric bill was $21 million a year (likely much higher now), shreds 40,000 documents a day, and that governments were using individual private information they collected to “assess and preemptively eliminate the [supposed] risk that any of us might pose to the state” which she says requires that “everyone be evaluated as a potential suspect.”  She also wrote about RFID chips used in DHS (Dept. of ‘Homeland Security”) visas which could be accessed by the US government and private companies.  In the book, Webb also warned that there will be the creation of a “global identity system predicated on the avoidance of risk” meaning that if one isn’t registered or has no “personal profile” then they will amount to, essentially, a “non-person,” making them a “risk to the state.”  Interestingly, in part of the book, Webb writes about the connection between corporations and the state on surveillance, calling it the ‘corporate-security complex’ :
“…the new symbiotic relationship that is developing between an immense security/intelligence establishment and an ambitious information technology industry [can be called the]…corporate-security complex [which] is an aggressive drive of the project for globalized, mass registration and surveillance.”
Later Webb expands on this writing that billions of dollars, euros and other currencies flow into this complex and makes a bold and dark statement about a surveillance society, which almost echoes some wary-of-government themes, writing that :
“In a surveillance society…[the] government need not represent the people; the ruling class [or elite] is above the law; the people and individuals are answerable to the state; their rights and protections are subordinated to the state’s interest; and the executive branch of government usurps the constitutional power of the other branches of government.”
Webb also writes in her book that global surveillance is not efficient, that it does not help catch terrorists, that it doesn’t address the causes of terrorism, that racial profiling is endemic to mass surveillance, and that global insecurity is exacerbated by such surveillance.  Still, Webb’s alternative to this is reformist and does not involve dismantling the “immense security/intelligence establishment” she is concerned about.
Dana Priest and William Arkin have a similar reformist aim, only to expose information in the name of transparency, but they have a few interesting things to say about the establishment that Webb is clearly concerned about, such as :
- the government spending $10 billion a year to keep “secrets secret”
- the creation of a “national security bureaucracy” which has run amok
- Obama continuing the expansion of this establishment or bureaucracy, which they call ‘Top Secret America,’ despite supposed signs to the contrary
- a “culture of spending” to stop supposed terrorist attacks, which resulted in a huge bureaucracy, which has major problems
- the NSA ingesting 1.7 billion pieces of intercepted communications every day, including telephone calls, radio signals, cell phone conversations, emails, texts and more.
Arkin and Priest also write about the connection between corporations, and the US government on surveillance, noting that the NSA hires private firms to come up with much of its “technology and innovations,” and a federal-state-corporate partnership that “has produced a vast domestic intelligence apparatus that collects, stores, and analyzes information about tens of thousands of U.S. citizens and residents.” 
Finally, there is a older book by Mark Monmonier, written in 2002, which is also reformist in nature, is also about surveillance. There is one good thing that Monmonier does: define specific terms. He writes that surveillance is, in his view, about “monitoring to control human behavior” while data surveillance is, in quoting computer scientist Roger Clarke who coined the term, as “the systematic use of personal data systems in the investigation of [people’s] actions or communications.” However, Monmonier also echoes Snowden and others who are part of the corporate front, a supposed social justice campaign, called Reset the Net. At one point he writes that “data warehouses,” private companies like Axicom, which collect “detailed information on individual households” and rent that information to “retailers, insurers, and…detective agencies” is really Big Brother, not the government, while at another point he criticizes those who say that “Big Brother is almost everywhere,” and in the last sentence of the book, he declares: “for some of us, Big Business is a worse threat than Big Brother.”  Not only does this contradict his statement earlier in the book that “Big Brother is doing most of the watching…but corporations, local governments, and other Little Brothers are quickly getting involved” but it is completely absurd. Why can’t someone be concerned about corporate surveillance, state surveillance and big business all at the same time?
While I know that this article did not come up with a way to dismantle and counter the corporate-state surveillance apparatus, that is not what this article was about. Still, I feel obliged to give some suggestions for what is a way forward. First, and foremost, I’d say making the connections between corporate and state forces on surveillance and the terror complex is clear. Then, there can be debate about what is the approach to counter and dismantle this nexis. I must be clear: working with the corporate sector in order to counter this surveillance is wholly counterproductive and it makes you a simple pawn of big business, whether you like that or not. I don’t think anyone wants that. Secondly, I think that reforming the NSA in any way, shape or form is a waste of energy. Instead, those who care about state surveillance should push for the NSA, CIA and FBI to be abolished for starters, with those who committed crimes, perhaps top NSA officials, going on trial. I would say that Snowden should go on trial, but based on the treatment Chelsea Manning got, I do not think that Snowden will get a fair trail in the US. I just don’t see it as possible.
Beyond my proposed ideas is the fact that Maureen Webb is right when she writes that “democratic societies are gradually becoming surveillance societies–or worse…authoritarian police states.”  I’ll end with this: what happens now, in regards of the massive America surveillance apparatus, is up to us.
*While other countries and populations, including many countries in Latin America and Europe, are also concerned and angry about this surveillance, I write this from my perspective as a person who lives in the United States.
The sources for this information come from a widely circulated article for Global Research which I have since criticized on this blog for faulty framing there is an accurate description of the mass surveillance by the US government, documents used in Glenn Greenwald’s new book shown in a 108 page PDF, and numerous other sources (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).
 See here and here. Also see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here for other articles on the subject
 Wendy McElroy of the libertarian Independent Institute uses this term as well, writing that:
“The modern surveillance state is referred to as an electronic police state because it uses technology to monitor people in order to detect and punish dissent. The authorities exert social control through spying, harsh law enforcement, and by regulating “privileges” such as the ability to travel. But all of this starts with surveillance…State surveillance has become more secretive and increasingly exempt from both oversight and accountability [since the end of the Cold War] Fusion centers now reach into private databases such as Accurate, Choice Point, Lexis-Nexus, Locate Plus, insurance claims, and credit reports. They access millions of government files like DMV records…The foregoing is a description of electronic totalitarianism. If its creation is invisible to many people, then it manifests yet another characteristic of a police state: People do not believe their freedom is gone until there is a knock on the door—one that comes in the middle of the night.”
 An example of someone who uses the term police state is Michael Rattner.
 Pariser, Eli. 2007. The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You. New York: Penguin Press, 11.
 Webb, Maureen. 2007. Illusions of Security: Global Surveillance and Democracy in the Post-9/11 World. San Francisco: City Lights, 48, 71-72.
 Ibid, 84-85. I know conspiracy theorists will be giddy about me mentioning the word RFID chips, as many think it is part of some government conspiracy, but they can just wipe the grins right off their faces.
 Ibid, 101.
 Ibid, 194-5.
 Ibid, 196, 201.
 Ibid, 235, 239-240, 243.
 Priest, Dana & Arkin, William M. 2011. Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State. New York: Little Brown & Company, 24, 51, 77, 156, 277
 Ibid, 133, 182.
 Monmonier, Mark. 2002. Spying With Maps: Surveillance Technologies and the Future of Privacy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2, 152.
 Ibid, 151, 170, 172.
 Ibid, 2.
 Webb, 209.