Went and saw Oliver Stone’s ‘Snowden’ last weekend. A thought provoking and engrossing movie. While it didn’t tell me anything I’ve not been aware of for some time, it also scared Mrs S into sticking all her electronics in a desk drawer and shutting the door to her office. At least until the following morning. Now she simply leaves everything, including iPad, in her office.
Now I’ve been in the habit of covering my cell phone and both its cameras for some time, and my laptop always has the camera blocked. Same goes for my Samsung tablet when it’s not in use. My phone spends all its time when not in use in a pocket or out of line of sight. What they don’t see they can’t record, right? Now I’ve been criticised by members of my family for this behaviour to the point of being labelled paranoid, but it’s long been my contention that if something is possible, such as remotely switching on your camera without your knowledge, then some smart geek will probably know how to do it. And if they’re working for officialdom, that probability factor shifts swiftly into the ‘almost certain’ range of the intrusiveness bell curve. Because whilst one emotionally stunted geek might spy on the girl / boy next door, he or she does not have the time or resources to scrutinise more than four or five people. However, give that geek the resources of a state security agency and then no-one becomes safe from their gaze. Worse still, without accountability, such an agency can quickly begin to take on a Frankenstein’s monster-like life of their own. In the post 9/11 panic, this is exactly the monster that was unleashed by the Bush presidency, fed and enlarged during Obama’s tenure, despite assurances to the contrary.
So, what documents did Snowden actually pass on? Well, nothing that damaging, only the extent of the internal surveillance on the US and UK population. He released no secret plans (Apart from there being programs of mass surveillance) betrayed no agents in the field and no US or UK intelligence personnel were killed as a result. Did he give vital defence documents to Russia? No. To China? Iran, North Korea, Al Quaeda, the Taliban, Daesh? No. China and Russia already knew, and everybody else with two brain cells to rub together had an inkling but the only pieces of information they lacked were the names of the programs under which this domestic mass surveillance was carried out.
It has been conclusively proven that mass surveillance does not reduce terrorism. Indeed, there is an excellent case to present that mass suspicion, repression, meddling and abuses of power actually result in increased terrorist threats. The greater and more indiscriminate the mass repression, goes one argument, the less freely people associate and they retreat into their own little echo chambers, the greater the threat of political violence becomes. Why? Because shutting down or suppressing open individual dissent simply creates a climate where a simple disagreement can fester into real life physical threats. Our Police and other authorities do not need powers of mass surveillance because the more policing intrudes into everyday lives, especially those not guilty of any crime, the more likely there is to be pushback generated against the host culture from those who are, at least in their beginnings, merely hotheaded and dissatisfied with their lot. Put simply. The more widespread repression, real or implied, the greater the implied justification for violence against the perceived oppressors. And once the violence begins, well, then it’s seen as the only solution to any dispute and everyone’s day gets ruined.
I’ve often heard it said that if you have “Nothing to hide, nothing to fear.” This is so far in the direction of wrong it’s not true. The total surveillance by the state was practised in the old Soviet Union, in Nazi Germany, the old GDR with the notorious STASI, the notorious ‘prison state’ of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, and under every regime that has ever sought to repress the whole of it’s population with mass surveillance programmes. A great deal of Soviet era Russian humour was based upon this very principle. My all time favourite below;
Prisoner on transport to Gulag: “I’m innocent of any crime. Why am I going to prison? The court wouldn’t tell me. They just sentenced me to twenty five years!”
Kindly Guard on transport; “No idea comrade, but you must have done something. Twenty five years is a pretty stiff sentence. Can’t you think of anything?”
Prisoner (After a thoughtful pause); “After sex the other night I told my wife that I thought the KGB was spying on us.”
Kindly Guard; “Well there you go comrade. Revealing state secrets.”
It seems this is Snowden’s real ‘crime’; revealing, that for a number of years Western ‘intelligence’ agencies have been rifling through innocent people’s private lives without a bye, leave or thank you or even a proper warrant. Yet isn’t that a crime in itself? On those grounds alone, I would strongly argue that Edward Snowden should not only be pardoned but rewarded for his public spirited actions.