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USA surveillance net: What, me worry?
America's Surveillance Net

 Whistleblower Edward Snowden worked as a contract employee at the National Security Agency.
THE GUARDIAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 7/21/2013

NEW HAVEN, Conn.

-- A school of fish swims peacefully in the ocean. Out of sight, a net is spread beneath it. At the edges of the net is a circle of fishing boats. Suddenly, the fishermen yank up the edges of the net, and in an instant the calm, open ocean becomes a boiling caldron, an exitless, rapidly shrinking prison in which the fish thrash in vain for freedom and life.

Increasingly, the American people are like this school of fish in the moments before the net is pulled up. The net in question is, of course, the Internet and associated instruments of data collection, and the fishermen are corporations and the government. That is, to use the more common metaphor, we have come to live alongside the machinery of a turnkey tyranny. As we now know, thanks to the courageous whistleblower Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency has been secretly ordering Verizon to sweep up and hand over all the metadata from the phone calls of millions of its customers: phone numbers, duration of calls, routing information, and sometimes the location of the callers. Thanks to Snowden, we also know that unknown volumes of like information are being extracted from Internet and computer companies, including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple.

The first thing to note about these data is that a mere generation ago, they did not exist. They are a new power in our midst, flowing from new technology, waiting to be picked up; and power, as always, creates temptation, especially for the already powerful. Our cellphones track our whereabouts. Our communications pass through centralized servers and are saved and kept for a potential eternity in storage banks, from which they can be recovered and examined. Our purchases and contacts and illnesses and entertainments are tracked and agglomerated.

If we are arrested, even our DNA can be taken and stored by the state. Today, alongside each one of us, there exists a second, electronic self, created in part by us, in part by others. This other self has become de facto public property, owned chiefly by immense data-crunching corporations, which use it for commercial purposes. Now government is reaching its hand into those corporations for its own purposes, creating a brand-new domain of the state-corporate complex.

MISPLACED FAITH


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REVOLUTION IS AFOOT, CARRIED OUT AGAINST THE LAW OF THE LAND

Jonathan Schell is the Doris Shaffer Fellow at The Nation Institute and teaches at Yale. He is the author of "The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence and the Will of the People," and "The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger." © 2013 The Nation--distributed by Agence Global