Government control and America are rarely considered to be synonymous. Scary topics
like control, censorship and surveillance are shoved onto countries with tyranny raining down on
their citizens with figurative ball and chains. But how far is the American government from these
visions of communism when the American people’s every digital step is monitored, recorded,
stored, and surveyed? When the American government lies, distracts and misguides their citizens
in regards to their reach? When the American people know less about their leaders than the
leaders know about the people? Glenn Greenwald makes excellent points in his video, “Why
Privacy Matters” published on Ted Talks. In today’s society, armed forces, military presence and
armed men are not necessary to force a group of people to fall in line and obey; you simply need
to let them know that their every move is being watched, and they will naturally fall in line.
The controversy surrounding the National Security Agency’s deep dive into the private
lives of millions of innocent Americans reflects not only on their disregard of the Constitution,
and the rights that the American people have, but their outlined limitations. If the government,
and the agencies that which spawn from the government, are above the law that binds their
citizens, how can we still call this a democracy? Putting the government leaders above the law
allows them power that the American people cannot fathom nor battle.
The most terrifying thought left after viewing “United States of Secrets Part 1 and 2” was
the idea that so few people acknowledge that government surveillance on the American people
as an issue. With so many varying versions of the story and the lies spewed by both government
and the companies involved, it can be difficult to wade through the muddied issue. By no means
would it be prudent for the government to outline their every move, detailing down to the last
sentence their plans and tactics. The idea that the government could be completely transparent is a pipe dream, born out of wishful thinking and a naive view of the world. What the American people ought to be able to expect from their government, however, is the decency to respect their citizens, their right to privacy, and the Constitution on which this country was founded. To make matters worse, when their darkest secrets begin to see the light of day, the government chooses to, instead of make nice and explain the truth, cover it up, distort the truth, misguide and overshadow the reality with the version of the pill they hope we swallow. Their sleight of hand tactics shed light on how they view the American people and their discernment for truth. When the American people see these three foundational pillars overlooked and completely disregarded is when we have moved away from the “By the People, For the People” and slid under the slimy underbelly of “By Big Money, For Big Money.”
The monster grows uglier when the for-profit companies not only take part in these acts,
but lie along with the government about their own involvement in the surveillance. Whether or not these companies monitored their customer’s use is not the question here. The issue comes from these companies giving this information to the government without allowing their customers to be aware of the exchange. Again, when the information got out, instead of coming clean with their involvement, voluntary or not, they proved their opinion of the American people was similar to that of the government’s: they will believe what you want them to believe.
The real kicker here is that so few people recognize this as an issue. Even as these news
stories broke, the media shifted the gaze from the hot button topics, the real issue, and looked
at Snowden as a villain rather than asking penetrating, thought provoking questions about the
motivation behind his actions. As stated in Lauter’s article, “Public largely tunes out NSA
surveillance debate, poll finds,” we see that the American people take very little interest or
concern into this topic. Stating that over half of the American people surveyed had heard nothing
about President Obama’s speech regarding the National Security Agency, the article goes
into detail about the public’s opinion on the matter. Is it denial or disbelief? Is it disinterest or
delusion? Or were the American people purposefully distracted through the media to disengage
from the topic? The government has, through this topic, proven that they are able to control what
does or does not come out to the public through the press. It is a question, but a terrifying one.
How can the American people ever be sure of their content when their government prevents
pertinent, breaking news to ever be seen by their citizens for their own protection?
If the American government has their fingers in not only our private matters, but deep
in the companies that the American people trust, the governing forces not only create a wall of
protection for themselves, but a wall of separation from the people they have sworn to serve.
The aftermath of these events leaves space to wonder where the government reach ends. If the
American government has the ability to influence American for-profit companies so strongly,
the American people have no way of determining the truth. These are the companies in control
of our news sources, entertainment, technology, and communication. American citizens entrust
every detail of their lives to these companies, and expect that their data be kept secure. It is a
relationship of trust, and one that is expected to be respected. To know that the companies are
essentially having their practices overridden by the government poses the questions of how
much is being controlled. We see countries like China and North Korea whose very internet is
constrained by the government and cannot help but compare this to the American government’s
direction. The tech giants recognized that this information leak not only shed negative light
on their company, but created distrust among their customers. Over the last two years, these
companies have been fighting to distance themselves from this controversy. The companies listed
as being involved in the surveillance have begun fighting back as they join forces to tell President
Obama that “snooping is not the answer.”
Unless the American people open their eyes to the issues America is facing, the
government will never back down. They have the power now, and they likely will not relinquish
it unless the American people stand up for their rights.