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Digby gets Obama's panopticon right, except for the Obama part

Reacting to The Intercept's latest revelations on domestic surveillance, Digby writes:

I think [why?] the NSA probably didn't design the system as a panopticon. Because they have developed the capability to do it they simply [simply?] wanted to gather all the communications of everyone [so there's no reason to think they did what they had the motive and opportunity to do?] in case they needed it some day [and what would that day look like? Occupy, say?].  (What that need would be is purposely [and what purpose?] left undefined.) But now that it's been revealed, it's entirely likely that the panopticon will be [and not has been?] in full effect. It's already making journalists afraid to talk to sources and writers are thinking twice about expressing unpopular opinions. And many members of the public will weigh the potential cost of civic engagement[1] to the need to protect their livelihoods and the well being of their families. If you know you may be being watched and your words are being stored, it is not at all irrational to "watch what you say" as another presidential Press Secretary so famously admonished the American people to do.  It's not the NSA or any of the spying/police agencies that will benefit from this, of course. They want people to spill their secrets so they can use them if need be. It will be the political and economic power structure that benefits from conformism and obeisance to the status quo.

Rather like East Germany under the Stasi. Or any police state.

Now if the congress demanded...

Let the airbrushing begin!

that the government stop ...

By which Digby apparently means "the executive branch."

.... these programs and initiated the kind of protections that would make a difference it would go a long way toward restoring people's confidence in their basic freedom of speech, assembly and the press, without fear that the government is watching their every move. But it's going to take a long while and a much more vigorous response from America's political leaders...

Perhaps one such leader could be named?

... to make Americans sit in front of their computer or text on their smart phones and not stop and wonder if it's smart to say what they think if it might "look bad" on your "permanent record.

And just to complete the airbrushing:

Update: Oh, and in case you still think that "oversight" is ever going to be enough, get a load of this. They even forget to tell the president.[2]

Of course they did. Obama is truly the invisible man. No, but seriously: Doesn't that "He's only the President" meme ever get old?

C'mon. Obama signs off on everyone he whacks on his kill list. Are we really to believe that the NSA set up a panopticon behind Obama's back, and he didn't know a thing?

NOTE [1] "The costs of civic engagement" is actually exactly the right framing.

NOTE [2] That's what they say. The other interpretation (check the link) is Obama's people gave up that (clumsy) operative to the Germans and squared everything with Merkel's people, so Obama could maintain plausible deniability.

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BruceMcF's picture
Submitted by BruceMcF on

"I didn't know, and if you can prove it was known in the White House, and we don't have enough dirt on you to convince you to keep your mouth shut, why, that's why I have staffers. It'll suck to have to fire one of them, but a President has got to make the tough calls."
~ the President's Inside Voice

hyperpolarizer's picture
Submitted by hyperpolarizer on

Wrong about the cost of civic engagement: it's not about some dipshit notations on your permanent record-- it's about getting your head busted or being pepper sprayed at a peaceful Occupy encampment.

The suppression of Occupy, and the student movements coeval with it -- such as those at University of California Berkeley, and also at U. C. Davis-- was nationally coordinated and violent by design. The message was, and is: those who practice civic engagement will pay for it in blood.