In a post titled
How America’s Global Surveillance Empire made it a Helpless Giant at Informed Comment, Tom Engelhardt provides an excellent summary of NSA activities brought to light by Edward Snowden:
The NSA, we now know, is everywhere, gobbling up emails, phone calls, texts, tweets, Facebook posts, credit card sales, communications and transactions of every conceivable sort. The NSA and British intelligence are feeding off the fiber optic cables that carry Internet and phone activity. The agency stores records (“metadata”) of every phone call made in the United States. In various ways, legal and otherwise, its operatives long ago slipped through the conveniently ajar backdoors of media giants like Yahoo, Verizon, and Google — and also in conjunction with British intelligence they have been secretly collecting “records” from the “clouds” or private networks of Yahoo and Google to the tune of 181 million communications in a single month, or more than two billion a year.
Meanwhile, their privately hired corporate hackers have systems that, among other things, can slip inside your computer to count and see every keystroke you make. Thanks to that mobile phone of yours (even when off), those same hackers can also locate you just about anywhere on the planet. And that’s just to begin to summarize what we know of their still developing global surveillance state.
In other words, there’s my email and your phone metadata, and his tweets and her texts, and the swept up records of billions of cell phone calls and other communications by French and Nigerians, Italians and Pakistanis, Germans and Yemenis, Egyptians and Spaniards (thank you, Spanish intelligence, for lending the NSA such a hand!), and don’t forget the Chinese, Vietnamese, Indonesians, and Burmese, among others (thank you, Australian intelligence, for lending the NSA such a hand!), and it would be a reasonable bet to include just about any other nationality you care to mention. Then there are the NSA listening posts at all those U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, and the reports on the way the NSA listened in on the U.N., bugged European Union offices “on both sides of the Atlantic,” accessed computers inside the Indian embassy in Washington D.C. and that country’s U.N. mission in New York, hacked into the computer network of and spied on Brazil’s largest oil company, hacked into the Brazilian president’s emails and the emails of two Mexican presidents, monitored the German Chancellor’s mobile phone, not to speak of those of dozens, possibly hundreds, of other German leaders, monitored the phone calls of at least 35 global leaders, as well as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, and — if you’re keeping score — that’s just a partial list of what we’ve learned so far about the NSA’s surveillance programs, knowing that, given the Snowden documents still to come, there has to be so much more.
The bulk of the blog post contrasts this near omniscience of the NSA with the United States seemingly decreasing ability to affect events worldwide.
Mr. Engelhardt also believes that future whistleblowers are inevitable and that the press will continue to cover future NSA outrages. This would require a reversal of recent trends towards self-censorship on the part of writers. Let’s hope that Mr. Engelhardt is right.
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Given our librarian code of ethics involving the right to privacy and intellectual freedom, librarians and our professional organizations bear a particular responsibility to speak out about the activities of the national surveillance state as embodied by the NSA. Thanks for sharing this article.