The Daily Glenn

Glenn Greenwald on surveillance

. . . the U.S. has become precisely the kind of surveillance state that we were always told was the hallmark of tyrannical societies, with literally no limits on the government's ability or willingness to spy on its own citizens and to maintain vast dossiers on those activities.

The vast bulk of those on whom the Government spies have never been accused, let alone convicted, of having done anything wrong. One can dismiss those observations as hyperbole if one likes-- people want to believe that their own government is basically benevolent and "tyranny" is something that happens somewhere else-- but publicly available facts simply compel the conclusion that, by definition, we live in a lawless surveillance state, and most of our political officials are indifferent to, if not supportive of, that development.

That's precisely why our political class is about to bestow amnesty on telecoms which broke multiple laws in how they enabled the government to spy on us, even though what the telecoms did-- on purpose and for years-- is unquestionably illegal. Our political leaders in both parties plainly want this limitless surveillance to continue, and they don't think that telecoms do anything wrong even when they work with the government in spying on Americans in ways that are against the law.

And they're saying that explicitly.

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Ultimately, what is most significant about all of this is how the most consequential steps our government takes-- such as endless expansion of its domestic spying programs with literally no oversight and constraints of law-- occur with virtually no public debate or awareness. By contrast, the pettiest of matters-- every sneeze of a campaign aide and every trite, catty gossip item from our moronic travelling press corps-- receives endless, mindless herd-like attention.

The very nature of our country and our government fundamentally transforms step by step, with little opposition. We all were inculcated with the notion that what distinguished our free country from those horrendous authoritarian tyrannies, both right and left, of the Soviet bloc, Latin America and the Middle East were things like executive detentions, torture, secret prisons, spying on their own citizens, unprovoked invasions of sovereign countries, and exemptions from the law for the most powerful-- precisely the abuses which increasingly characterize our government and shape our political values

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This doesn't mean there is a complete erosion of freedom equal to all of those societies. Free speech still basically thrives; we elect our leaders; and individuals retain a fair amount of autonomy in their personal choices. But it is simply undeniable that many of the political attributes that were always used to define the oppressive societies against which we were supposedly fighting are now explicitly vested in our own government. By itself, the scope and breadth of domestic spying is just staggering, and much of it is illegal.

No speculation or inferences or rhetorical flourishes are necessary to reach these conclusions. Just go read what has been disclosed about what our government is doing in the dark, with no oversight and in violation of our laws-- and the ways in which our political and media class work feverishly to defend and enable it all-- and there really is no other conclusion which a rational person can reach. In a country that lived under minimal notions of the rule of law, the very idea of having Congress pass a special law to immunize retroactively an entire industry which illegally spied on us, on our own soil, for years would be inconceivable. Yet even in the face of these latest revelations of just how broad and brazen this lawbreaking is, that is, in the absence of unexpected developments, quite likely what is about to happen.

MUCH MORE: The Lawless Surveillance State

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