Since September 11, 2001, in the name of national security, the U.S. government has given itself enormous new powers to watch and control people in the U.S. From surveillance cameras being installed in public streets and aerial drones patrolling cities, to local police departments employing military-grade weapons and tactics – the U.S. has embarked on a spying and terror program. This is an extension of the surveillance and military intervention which the U.S. government carries out all over the world.
Currently, the Obama administration has openly admitted it has created and been using “kill lists”, assassinating individuals all over the world, including at least four U.S. citizens, one of whom was a 16-year old boy, assassinated by a drone strike in Yemen. Drone strikes have been used in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Libya and other countries. The majority of people killed in these strikes are innocent bystanders, often children.
In May, Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance program. The size and scope of this program only seems to be getting larger as more details are leaked to the public. The government has been monitoring our phone records, emails, internet activity, travel information, finances, library records, and any other information it can get. In recent weeks documents have come out showing the U.S. has been spying on its own diplomats, foreign governments and more. All of these efforts are only expected to increase in the coming years. Currently the U.S. is about to finish construction of an NSA spying center in Utah, which is over 1.5 million square feet in size and costs over $1.7 billion to construct.
At the same time, the U.S. has been using its surveillance technology to go after journalists and whistle-blowers who report any information the U.S. government does not want the public to know about. The Obama administration has brought more journalists and whistleblowers to court than all previous U.S. administrations combined. The Associated Press revealed that the Justice Department had secretly obtained two months of telephone records of its reporters and editors in order to find the source of a leak. Individual reporters have been tracked, their emails confiscated, and journalists have faced prosecution for “aiding and abetting the enemy,” making it a crime to report the news.
Those who report the extent of the U.S. government’s surveillance receive the harshest punishment possible. Chelsea Manning (formerly known as Bradley Manning) was sentenced for the leak of thousands of military documents in 2009, showing U.S. military forces engaged in war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. After serving three years in prison and eleven months in solitary confinement, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Edward Snowden faces a similar sentencing if he is caught.
These persecutions haven’t been about the leaks themselves, but about sending a clear message to anyone who reports information the U.S government wants to keep secret. The true goal of these surveillance programs and the attacks on journalists and whistleblowers is to try and silence and even criminalize opposition to U.S. policies. The message from the U.S. government and the Obama administration is sit down and shut-up.
This policy is also applied to protest. The Occupy protests were monitored by Homeland Security counter-terrorism units, infiltrated by local police, and disrupted by a nationally coordinated assault of mass arrests, tear gas and riot squads. From its outset these protests were treated as a criminal and terrorist threat when in fact they were a sign of the anger bubbling beneath the surface.
None of this is without precedent in the U.S. The Sedition Act of 1798 made it a crime to criticize the government. The Espionage Act of 1917 criminalized anyone who is considered “disloyal” and was used against activists who opposed World War I. In 1940 the Smith Act was passed making it illegal to be a communist and was used against any political dissidents who dared to speak out. During the Civil Rights movement the FBI initiated COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program) that spied on, infiltrated, and disrupted civil rights organizations and groups protesting against the Vietnam War.
Today the U.S. government is simply improving and expanding its capabilities into an enormous surveillance state, able to operate in the U.S. and around the world. This surveillance reaches further and deeper than in any previous time period. And we should have no illusions that our speech and our actions are free and unwatched.
The goal of this surveillance state is total domination. Those the government fears are less small groups of terrorists around the world and much more ordinary people here in the U.S. and other countries who are willing to stand up in a world dominated by the interests of banks and corporations. Like all ruling elites in history, they are hoping their tactics will make people too afraid to ever stand up. But like all ruling elites – they will never succeed at that.