Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Contractor Connection

Discussion of the rampant domestic spying going on in the United States (which all the officials like to claim isn't "REALLY" spying, rightsurewhatevah) now and then turns to the private sector operatives (like Young Snowden, who has apparently defected, who knows where -- disappeared from his Hong Kong luxury digs at any rate) who actually do the grunt work to collect and analyze the overabundance of data that pours into the system by the hour.

Ah yes The Contractors. On one of the Sunday Shows, an R congressman was quoted as saying that this sort of thing should all be done by the private sector ("as it used to be") and I thought WTF? The private sector basically runs this system as it is, along with a great deal else of ostensibly government responsibility, and he wants to turn it all over to the private sector? Great. What a maroon.

After this settled in for a while, I came to realize this is essentially the position of most Libertarians (and their small "l" variants as well). Most of them don't have a problem with universal surveillance -- as long as it is not being done by the government. In fact, they seem to be quite in favor of private sector spying on individuals, no matter how intrusive, especially if it is done for marketing purposes. The claim is that the private sector is benign because it doesn't have the power or authority to arrest, incarcerate, compel, and execute. I've even heard supposed liberals in congress express this view.

This position strikes me as either hopelessly naive or so deepy deceptive and cynical it reeks.

These days, elements of the private sector very much do have the "powers and authorities" once thought to be reserved to governments, powers and authorities which they cheerfully and fully exercise at will. One of Young Snowden's points was that he, as a lowly (private sector) analyst, had the power and authority to "wiretap" anyone at any time, and that the upshot of this power and authority is that the life of anyone who a (private sector) analyst took an interest in could be destroyed with no recourse whatever for the victim.

We may think of the Imperial Heyday of Great Britain as another example of private sector powers and authorities. Until the Sepoy Mutiny in India, for example, British rule of the subcontinent was exercised through a private corporation, the East India Company, that had even more extensive powers and authorities than the Crown itself.

The notion that there is something benign about private sector/corporate rule as opposed to government rule is absurd and disingenuous, ahistorical, and very, very wrong.

But it is routinely parroted in defense of the constant private sector spying on individuals with almost no recognition that nearly all the work of the NSA among the other (government) domestic spying agencies is being done by private sector contractors. More and more government functions are being turned over to the private sector every day, at home and abroad, and it doesn't appear on its face to have made ordinary lives any better, nor had it enhanced accountability or ended corruption in any perceptible way.

In fact, it could be -- and should be -- argued that a big part of the problem we face as peoples of the United States and the World is directly due to the passion for privatization that has afflicted governments far and wide. By turning over so much of the responsibility of government and governing to unelected and unaccountable institutions, executives and boards, and by placing so much power and authority over the lives of most of us into the hands of these people and institutions, government itself has become the handmaiden to them.

Universal surveillance of the population is necessary to protect and defend the government and its (private sector) sponsors -- which, BTW, include the very corporate spy agencies that are doing most of the domestic surveillance being railed about these days.

In all the passionate OUTRAGE!!!! ® over the domestic spying revelations currently featured in the media, that simple fact is often neglected -- or outright denied.

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