Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only ask one time of year, but when we do, we mean it. Without your support we can’t continue to bring you the very best material, day-in and day-out. CounterPunch is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. Help make sure it stays that way.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Spy Who Wouldn’t Spy

by TOM CLIFFORD

The  simplicity of the US constitution’s fourth amendment is as refreshing as it is clear.

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons   houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation  and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

That amendment, along with the rest of the constitution, was twice sworn to be upheld by President Barack Obama.

That is just one aspect of the increasing Kafkaesque episode playing out before us.

Edward Snowden  is  facing charges of spying. That was his job, that’s what his American employers hired him to do.

It was his refusal to spy on Americans that led him on the trek to Ecuador and the threat of legal sanction. He should, by rights, be charged with not spying.

The defenders of the spying state insist it was only meta data.. not actual content. In other words, communication records and networks were being monitored rather than what was said.

But a sigh of relief would be misplaced. There is no comfort from the “we are not listening to content” argument. There is no need to listen to content. It is time consuming, laborious and not terribly informative.

Far better, from the spooks point of view, is that meta data kills two birds with one stone. It saves time and this is the clincher…it provides a clearer and bigger picture.

If you ring your bank manager the overwhelming likelihood is that you are discussing money , not say, the weather un less you need a loan for a rainy day.

Besides content can be misleading. Language, accents, laughter, coughing, even bad lines, can garble messages.

And deniability is a big plus. It permits the spooks to say, with more than a grain of truth, we never listen to the content. This allows the veneer of oversight to remain. Lawmakers who do not have a clue about the technology (because it is secret) ask questions not to enlighten but to obfuscate.

What the spooks don’t say is that there was never any need to eavesdrop on content.

Spy agencies know that words do not betray us, actions do. It is not what we are saying that interests them so much as who we are talking to.

Once you know the latter, the former poses little challenge.

But of course, there is always the argument that if you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to worry about. Only the guilty will be afraid on non-stop surveillance.

Many sectors of civil society have a legitimate right to hide certain facts but are not terrorists. Battered wives are just one example. They need safe sanctuary. Nobody would dispute Nigella Lawson’s right to privacy following recent events. Why then deny legitimate privacy to others.

Besides denying people their privacy, on such a scale,  in the US it is unconstituional. Those who have broken the constitution are the very ones demanding the person who exposed their criminality be locked up.

Kafka would have relished this.

TOM CLIFFORD can be reached at tclifford@praguepost.com

 

Tom Clifford is a freelance journalist and can be reached at: cliffordtomsan@hotmail.com.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
David Swanson
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
David Swanson
Turn the Pentagon into a Hospital
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail