All the hysteria about the NSA Spying Thing got a major boost yesterday when a Long Island writer posted her story of a raid of her home and questioning of her husband by police and sheriffs deputies over internet searches on terms like "pressure cooker" and the always suspicious "backpacks" and "bombs."
This story was all over the internets, of course, and it was heavily rotated by the Guardian, bless their heart, as a sort of spook-joke diversion because supposedly the raiders asked "What's quinoa?" when they were told that the household cooks quinoa in their rice cooker.
Because of all the hysteria ginned up over the NSA Thing, everyone assumed that the raid was triggered when the internet searches by this household on Long Island were flagged in the NSA's super-warehouse of internet data as "suspicious activity" to be analyzed and followed up on promptly -- or the terrorists would win.
But apparently it wasn't so.
Not a bit.
Now I was skeptical of this thing from the get, simply because it was way too convenient a Summer Shark Story and it was being promoted by a rather well-known writer on the internet. The fact that the Guardian, of all outlets, was not only featuring it but making a joke of it, was the obvious tip off that this story was not at all what it seemed to be and one would be wise to simply let it marinate for little while for it to come to full flavor.
After an intense internet frenzy over the Evil of NSA Surveillance of Everything You Do and how Stupid It All Is, Chickens Coming Home To Roost (and all that), it turns out that -- at least according to the Suffolk County Police -- the husband's former employer at a computer company noted internet searches made on the husband's work computer for the "suspicious" terms in question, he reported these findings to the police, and the police followed up with the household, determining in their investigation that there was no criminal intent and that was that.
Evil Incarnate at Spook Central was -- apparently -- not involved. At all.
Actually, the original Guardian story on it was a total mess, something the Guardian is known for, and the revision out today makes note of some of the more questionable aspects of its former self, and of course it notes that the story out of the police department(s) puts the kibosh on the idea that Spook Central had precipitated the raid in any case.
Let's just say that the Summer News Hole has got to be filled with something so why not this, eh, since it fits right in with the Summer Hysteria over the NSA?
However if the current revision of the story is true, and perhaps it is, it reveals a much more problematical aspect of our Surveillance/Police State than the initial assumptions of Spookery on a Rampage Assaulting the Innocent did.
The story as now told is worse in that its implication is that anyone and everyone is under suspicion and scrutiny by all who hold positions of authority, including employers, and that any and all "suspicious activity" reported to local police will be followed up on as "potential/possible terrorism."
This is insanity, worse in many ways than a false trigger at the Spookery. It means that little Agents of the Lawr Protecting Us From The Devil are everywhere, and they will turn you in at every opportunity, so you better watch what you do, watch what you say, or your ass will be in a sling in jig time.
Talk about conformity and control. There it is. In a nutshell.
That's how it is done. Don't even think of rebellion. Or even think of things that might look like rebellion/terrorism to someone who comes upon your internet searches.
I've maintained for some time that despite all the hooplah of the Guardian's NSA stories, we have seen no evidence that the NSA as such maintains domestic individual files or that it instigates domestic police action. I spent a good deal of time over at FDL yesterday, however, pointing out that there is a tremendous amount of domestic surveillance and abuse that goes on, perpetrated by local, state, and federal authority, sometimes at the instigation of private interests.
As it turns out, this story is a perfect example, though thankfully this time the raid didn't lead to summary execution as some of them do.
I tried to point out that this sort of thing goes on every day in this country, and rarely does anybody pay more than cursory attention any more. Often, the victims are blamed for "causing" the disturbance --as happened in this case, too. ("Doesn't everybody know they're not supposed to do these searches on WORK computers? And if they do it anyway, they'd better clear their cache or be prepared for the consequences?")
With the focus so narrowed to the NSA, it's hard to even see this sort of thing going on, every day, all over the country, often with destructive or deadly results. It isn't just about internet searches by middle class white folks in suburban New York, either.
It's about drug and immigration investigations and enforcement actions in poor communities everywhere, it's about economic and financial injustices perpetrated routinely by banks and other private interests, it's about how the Occupy encampments were suppressed, it's about thousands of unnoticed incidents of police harassment of minorities and youths in stop and frisk and similar actions take place every day, and on and on.
Focusing on the NSA as the source of all of this is absurd; what those spooks have to do with it is minimal or nonexistent, at least as far as we can tell at this point. Instead, the surveillance/police state, which ultimately affects every one of us in one way or another, is the product and practice of agencies and institutions much closer to home. Dealing with it -- ultimately stopping it -- requires us to recognize just how close to us it really is, and requires us to focus our resistance where it has the potential to do the most good, in our own backyard as it were.
But I've found that saying so, in connection with the NSA Thing, leads to no end of accusations, denunciations and name-calling. As if pointing out that the NSA Thing is really a distraction from something much more invasive and destructive is somehow a threat in and of itself.
I wonder why that would be so. Hm.
Meanwhile, the NSA Chief General Keith Alexander made a now infamous appearance at something called "Black Hat" the other day -- I have no idea what "Black Hat" is and I don't much care, but the notoriety of his appearance has gone viral, so it's prolly wise for me to check it out sometime -- where he apparently spent his entire time on the stage lying. I haven't had time to watch the video below yet, but here 'tis for the archives if nothing else. If our spook industry is led by a bunch of cretins and robots -- as seems to be the case -- no wonder things are going to shit so fast. Dayum.