Sunday, June 23, 2013

Several Things To Keep In Mind About This Domestic Surveillance Thing

*If all you're paying attention to is the NSA, you're missing a good 70% or more of the story, given that word has it (not from Snowden or the Guardian, btw) that at least 70% of the (secret) intelligence budget goes to the myriad private sector "partners" who actually do and analyze much of the surveillance and who design, build, and operate most of the surveillance infrastructure.

*The motivations of Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian in being the primary conduit for this story do matter, just as one would be interested in the motivations of Sy Hersh and the New Yorker or Judith Miller and the New York Times or Brian Killmeade and FOX. To attempt to deny that Greenwald's and the Guardian's motivations matter is an attempt to obscure the full story. Generally speaking, that's not wise in a case of this sort.

*While most of the surveillance revelations aren't new, the documentation is. The failure to produce documentation is partly why previous whistle-blowing efforts about domestic surveillance failed to carry the kind of punch this one has -- though they weren't ignored by any means. The documentation provided by Snowden to the press has reinforced the stories we've been told or have surmised about domestic surveillance over the years, and it has made quite plain that our worst suspicions about it were actually on the mark.

*It is not beyond consideration that this whole brou-ha-ha is a "limited hangout" operation. Such things have happened before and no doubt they will be done again. It could equally be that there are several simultaneous factors at play. We do not live in a linear, binary world in which only one path is open, only one fact can be considered true, and only one potential is possible.

*Let's keep in mind that at the time of the first surveillance bombshells from the Guardian, there were a number of brewing pseudo-scandals and potentially real scandals surrounding the Presidency. Benghazi. IRS. AP reporter surveillance. FOX reporter surveillance. And there was an ongoing background rumble over the failure of the Justice Department to charge and bring to trial any of the malefactors of great wealth who had plunged the country and the world into such economic misery. Keep in mind, too, that the initial stories were posted from Hong Kong -- which is Chinese territory despite efforts to obscure the fact -- while the Chinese Premier was meeting with the American President in California. Pretty much all of the pseudo- and potential scandals have faded from the "news" while this one has taken  primary attention.

*Don't forget the "news" is a corporate enterprise -- which includes the Guardian. There is little or no "independent media" of national or international scope and reach. All serve corporate interests. Why they focus on what they do -- and when -- is always a matter for corporate interest and determination. Just because a "news" outlet is presenting information you agree with or want to hear doesn't mean it is 1) independent; or 2) telling the truth.

*Corporations compete with one another for attention and pre-eminence, and they co-operate with one another in pursuit of mutual interest. Surprisingly enough, they can do both at the same time.

*In much of the western world, and certainly in the United States, government serves the interests of its corporate partners first. We refer to "captive government" in these cases. An exclusive focus on the NSA in these stories obscures the overall picture of surveillance in this country and it serves as a means to diminish the importance of the corporate sector in organizing and conducting the surveillance.

*How the surveillance is implemented and what is done with the information once acquired -- and by whom -- is still unclear, though the picture is somewhat less murky than it once was. There is an active information marketplace wherein data is traded and bought and sold like commodities. The government is an eager player in this marketplace, but so are many, many private sector interests. Who gets what information and what they then do with it is still enough of a mystery that most people have no idea what kind of information on them is accessible and to whom, and few have any idea to what purposes it may be put.

*The recent spectacular death of Rolling Stone and BuzzFeed journalist Michael Hastings has sent shock waves through parts of the media, though it doesn't seem to have affected other parts at all. By comparing and contrasting reactions it may be possible to get a better picture of media... complicity, let's say... in pursuit of powerful interest. Who do you protect? Who do you serve?

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