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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 29, 2017
Jeffrey Sommers
Donald Trump and Steve Bannon: Real Threats More Serious Than Fake News Trafficked by Media
David Kowalski
Does Washington Want to Start a New War in the Balkans?
Patrick Cockburn
Bloodbath in West Mosul: Civilians Being Shot by Both ISIS and Iraqi Troops
Ron Forthofer
War and Propaganda
Matthew Stevenson
Letter From Phnom Penh
James Bovard
Peanuts Prove Congress is Incorrigible
Thomas Knapp
Presidential Golf Breaks: Good For America
Binoy Kampmark
Disaster as Joy: Cyclone Debbie Strikes
Peter Tatchell
Human Rights are Animal Rights!
George Wuerthner
Livestock Grazing vs. the Sage Grouse
Jesse Jackson
Trump Should Form a Bipartisan Coalition to Get Real Reforms
Thomas Mountain
Rwanda Indicts French Generals for 1994 Genocide
Clancy Sigal
President of Pain
Andrew Stewart
President Gina Raimondo?
Lawrence Wittner
Can Our Social Institutions Catch Up with Advances in Science and Technology?
March 28, 2017
Mike Whitney
Ending Syria’s Nightmare will Take Pressure From Below 
Mark Kernan
Memory Against Forgetting: the Resonance of Bloody Sunday
John McMurtry
Fake News: the Unravelling of US Empire From Within
Ron Jacobs
Mad Dog, Meet Eris, Queen of Strife
Michael J. Sainato
State Dept. Condemns Attacks on Russian Peaceful Protests, Ignores Those in America
Ted Rall
Five Things the Democrats Could Do to Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t)
Linn Washington Jr.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Hiring Practices: Privilege or Prejudice?
Philippe Marlière
Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Presidential Hopeful, is Good News for the French Left
Norman Pollack
Political Cannibalism: Eating America’s Vitals
Bruce Mastron
Obamacare? Trumpcare? Why Not Cubacare?
David Macaray
Hollywood Screen and TV Writers Call for Strike Vote
Christian Sorensen
We’ve Let Capitalism Kill the Planet
Rodolfo Acuna
What We Don’t Want to Know
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of the Electronics Ban
Andrew Moss
Why ICE Raids Imperil Us All
March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
Paul Bentley
Nazi Heritage: the Strange Saga of Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian Grandfather
Christopher Ketcham
Buddhism in the Storm
Thomas Barker
Platitudes in the Wake of London’s Terror Attack
Mike Hastie
Insane Truths: a Vietnam Vet on “Apocalypse Now, Redux”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail