The computer you are sitting at right now probably has a microphone. It probably also has a camera looking at you this moment. Is it sending sound and pictures from inside your house to the PRISM program at NSA?
Who knows? But one thing is for sure — the technology is sitting there, on your desk. Welcome to Winston’s world.
Yesterday we crossed a line. What once seemed kooky is now happening. I figured this would be a fight for a future generation, but it is ours. The frightening future has arrived.
The American government has never done anything as sinister as PRISM. No, Korematsu’s camps were awful, but Oceania really was at war with East Asia. Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote a thoughtful and detailed legal discussion which everyone should read before they ever again mention the relocation of Japanese in World War II.
But no war, no threat, no nothing justifies the National Security Agency obtaining a direct pipeline to the Skype chats of every American. What possible justification is there for the government watching granddad talk to his grandkids in real time back in Laurel, Maryland?
If you haven’t seen the The Lives of Others, it is time you do, now. It portrays the moral depravity of government surveillance teams. Like the Stasi monsters, our own American monsters listened in to soldiers in Iraq speaking with their wives, when they though nobody was.
The Lives of Others also portrays human goodness — the rejection of the surveillance state by small moral choices. The whistleblower who blew up PRISM is an American hero who joins others who have kept the republic alive like Joshua Chamberlain and Harold Agerholm — which probably means the corrupt and dastardly attorney general will prosecute them.
And let’s dispense with any Republican who defends this program. If the Patriot Act justified it, then that law needs to be scrapped, scorned, and spat upon. Republicans need to stop with the “this wasn’t our intent” garbage also. That line of argument betrays an ignorance of history and a naiveté of power.
If Prism was done without statutory support, it’s time for all Americans to do whatever it takes to shame, embarrass, and identify by name the bureaucrats who administered it at the National Security Agency. Stop with always blaming Obama alone. That’s primitive and unsophisticated. It means you never worked inside government, where mid- and low-level people drive bad behavior.
Perhaps PRISM will be a bookend to 9-11 that once again unifies Americans. If not, I fear what those offended by PRISM will do to the ones defending it.