The Guardian unearths an order making surveillance of Americans trivial.
President Obama gave an influential speech on counter terrorism and national security policy last week, and while much of the media coverage discussed the President remarks on Guantanamo prison and drone strikes, buried in the speech was a line just as critical to civil liberties online.
When considering the implications of the massive digital Panopticon being developed today, it is important to reflect upon the impact upon individual liberty which even crude, old-fashioned surveillance causes. With the revelation that the New York Police Department had been conducting blanket-spying on Muslims living in New York City and its environs - using methods such as paid informants, wiretapping, detailed cataloguing of Muslim neighbourhoods, documentation of Muslim-owned businesses, infiltration of houses of worship, and many other invasive tactics, it can be observed what effects intensive monitoring can have on ordinary individuals.
Throughout six years of spying on entire communities for no other reason than their religion, not a single lead or terrorism investigation was generated by the programme. Nonetheless, the damage done to the psyches of individuals who knew their community was deeply infiltrated was palpable. Communities and personal relationships were torn apart by government-induced suspicion and paranoia, as people became too afraid to speak or even associate with one another.
… Given what relatively crude means of surveillance can do to a community, what long-term effect will a pervasive, technologically-advanced, multi-billion dollar national spying programme have on the fabric of society? One means of combatting seditious and unwanted speech is to simply make ordinary people too afraid to speak and commiserate with each other whatsoever, and the surveillance state being built today may ultimately accomplish this goal.”
Murtaza Hussain, An increasingly unchecked surveillance state
“Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications.”