Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Of Snowden and Spiders


The above is a link to a recent interview Edward Snowden, the NSA whistle-blower, did with a German reporter. It's worth watching in it's entirety and it's only 30 min. Snowden is still under protection in Russia, and it doesn't seem like that will change in the near future.

Why would Putin want to assist Snowden? Really, it's more like 'Why not?' After the disaster of the Yeltsin years, Putin has, through his reign, restored prestige and honor to Russia. Instead of a president wandering around DC drunk, naked, and with prostitutes, he is standing up for Russia's place as a geo-strategic power broker. Historically, Russia has stood as the guardian of Eastern Europe and as the mother of the slavs. Of course, not everyone feels this way, and in the end it's just a power play. This sort of Imperial cover is at the heart of the Ukrainian revolt against their president, but I digress.

Anyway, Putin would love to score a point over the US, and while no benevolent giant of human rights, Russia loves to press the American government's face into its own hypocrisy. Snowden mentioned that anonymous voices from the Pentagon would like to see him with a bullet in his head. This shouldn't be shocking, any threat to the Imperial Military-Corporation complex, even a gadfly like Snowden, needs to be smudged out. I'm sure all the ex-KGB technocrats and businessmen are laughing. They do the same thing with dissenters, and upstarts, but Russia hardly tries to disguise this. Journalists or human-rights lawyers wind up dead, and the mysteriousness of their demise, given the circumstances, just gets swept under the rug.

With the US pressure on Russia for its laws on homosexuality, intensified by the spotlight of hosting the Olympics, it seems unlikely they'll let Snowden be thrown to the wolves. Perhaps in the future, in some brokerage, but he might be irrelevant at that point. So for now it seems he's safe.

Anyway, the material he released was interesting, but not shocking. He speaks of a supranational intelligence collecting/sharing net amongst anglophone countries. He also talks about how the US has integral, "in-bed", relations with foreign intelligence communities. Of course it's not an equal partnership. The US is hardly reliant upon Germany, but bears down as the sole super-power left. None of this is shocking since the slice-up of the world after World War 2. While the US lambasted the Soviets for the creation of satellite, communist countries, the US did the same. West Germany was as much a tool for Washington, as East was for Moscow. However, I'm not equivocating over the quality of life. I'd have rather lived in West Berlin than East, but it doesn't reduce the status of being a satellite.

The most fascinating thing is how Snowden elaborated that the NSA and other intelligence organizations try and hide around the shadow of 'use' rather than 'gathering'. They'll deny that they actively use and pursue Americans with the TIA (Total Information Awareness) net, however they're still collecting it. That's the danger, says Snowden, and it's hard not to see the implications.

Of course if you're given over to the myth that the government really works for the public, or has any serious interest in its good, rather than manipulating and draining it, then you might not have a problem with intelligence agencies collating all the data on its citizens. Of course, this is neglecting the justice of spying on other peoples, allies or not, across the world, but I'll scope in on this particular.

Now I'm of the opinion that the State, as a modern Enlightenment invention, is self-deifying and always magnetically drawn towards absolution. Thus cultures, languages, micro-societies, are all brought under one-head. There are no Americans plural, but a singular reality. This was woven into the fabric of the government, e pluribus unum. This was the mission and the mythic destiny of the Federal Union over and above the individual states. Thus when either North or South, with its proud and particular regional varities, tried to break away, there was the threat of war and suppression. This is despite the fact that there was a strong, and vocal opposition to such Statist hegemony. That is, it is technically a right for a state to secede.

However it threatens the absolutizing of the whole, and thus the South was brutally suppressed in the Civil War. I'm not all sympathetic to the Southern gentlemen culture, its sickening visage of christendom, or the brutalization of its chattel slave machinery. But it stepped outside the bounds of the Union. They weren't alone. 40 years prior, the North considered breaking away and forming its own federation when the Madison administration declared war on Great Britain in the War of 1812. Such would harm the trade that New England had, and many abhorred the Southern sympathy for France.

Anyway, my point in all of that is to give a historical vignette of how the Statist ideal is woven into the DNA of the American Union. Of course, it will continue as the technology becomes more encompassing and advanced. It's no surprise that the intelligence seeks to engage in the same sort of behavior. Of course, the dynamic has changed. Instead of an aristocratic public government, there has been the increase of power of the military and corporate powers. That's another history, but all seem, in our era, to become intertwined. Are their rivalries? Of course. Are their inter-branch rivalries? Yup, the different branches of the intelligence communities try and top each other. But in the end they're working to the same goal.

This is not some hair-brained conspiracy of world-domination, but a sober-eyed realistic account of how power works. There's always that old cliche: power corrupts...

Snowden hopes that the public will rise up and demand accountability, but I don't know how realistic that will be. While a stereotype, it has some truth: many Americans are fat, stupid, and lazy. The most popular news sources (Fox, MSNBC) are reflective of the public's quest for truth. The Romans called it bread & circuses, instead it's McDonalds & Justin Bieber. It seems as longs as the many are glutted, it doesn't matter where such prosperity comes from. Just like in our mother Rome: generals and businessmen sacked the East for its riches, and Rome became wealthy and happy.

At least they were honest with their intent: the strong do what they must, the weak suffer what they must. Maybe one day the American people will decide they're tired of the Empire, and they don't want to build Babylon, but I'm not hopeful. But it doesn't mean I won't stop speaking the truth, regardless if others listen. I hope more Snowdens continue to pop up and call attention to what their governments are engaged in.

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