Our Lives in the Larder: Celebrating Another Defeat for Freedom

I was going to write about the bizarre and rather sad celebrations across the progressosphere about the great paradigm-shifting “victory” in the passage of the “U.S.A. Freedom Act” — but I find that Tarzie has got there the fustest with the mostest with a fine piece that nails this momentous event as the tremulous sham that it is. He was notes that Rand Paul — new hero of freedom-lovers everywhere — is now calling for 1,000 more FBI agents to monitor the thoughts, beliefs and actions of Americans to make sure they don’t get up to none of them terroristic-like activities … just as AP reveals that the FBI is conducting a vast, secret airborne surveillance across the country. So what’s the takeaway of this historic event? Just this: “We should privatize a few of the NSA’s Stasi operations, while letting the myriad other ‘security’ agencies run wild.” Smell the liberty!

Tarzie has long pointed out a fact ignored by nearly everyone else: the intense focus on some activities of the NSA occasioned by the Edward Snowden saga (coming soon to a multiplex near you) has totally obscured the dozens of other agencies and programs that feast on the corpse of privacy and keep our lives locked in their larders, ready to be devoured at their pleasure. In the end, the main outcome of the Snowden revelations has been to enshrine all-pervasive surveillance as the “new normal”: witness the fervent championing of the NSA by the bipartisan American elite, celebrating and legalizing intrusions beyond the wildest dreams of the KGB and the Gestapo. Meanwhile, with so-called Freedom Acts, FBI airplanes, drones, satellites, fusion centers, vast barns full of private data and so on, the constriction and strangulation of human existence goes on apace.

Some excerpts from Tarzie:

Today [AP] reported that:

The FBI is operating a small air force with scores of low-flying planes across the country carrying video and, at times, cellphone surveillance technology — all hidden behind fictitious companies that are fronts for the government…

Did you see that bit there kids, about cellphone surveillance? But you can continue to ridiculously whoop it up since a spokesperson for the FBI assured AP’s reporters that:

the FBI’s planes “are not equipped, designed or used for bulk collection activities or mass surveillance.”

Of course the planes don’t do bulk collection. There are phone companies for that, and they’re still obliged to give up records to law enforcement agencies, including the NSA, whether they want to or not.  Since our instructions are to be all about the phones right now, let’s try not to think about this bit at all:

the planes can capture video of unrelated criminal activity on the ground that could be handed over for prosecutions.
Bulk video collection. Cool. …

The Freedom Act, the NSA “reform” bill [now passed, will give] the NSA … six months to transition to the proposed new system, which requires a FISA rubber stamp for cell phone data collecting. So all this chest-beating is really about a few days alleged respite from one small element of one agency‘s spying activities.

I’ve said before that among the worst things about the Snowden Show is how, by focusing almost entirely on a single agency, it minimizes a massive surveillance and control apparatus that includes sixteen other Federal agencies, scores of private companies, and state and local police.  Even if you arbitrarily restrict your inquiry to signals intelligence — the only thing the NSA does –unless you are investigating the signals intelligence capabilities of the CIA, the FBI, the DEA, local police and the companies they work with, you’re barely scratching the surface.  Stories like today’s AP revelations about surveillance planes come and go constantly. But the motto of the infosec cabal’s big players seems to be, “NSA docs or it didn’t happen.”

This narrow focus is worse than foolish. It’s a lie.