Resurfacing through the fog of the past is
this 1983 New York Times David Burnham articleabout the National Security Agency and its potential for abusive surveillance practices.
Pay particular attention to the last paragraph, which correctly predicts the rapidly growing interconnectedness of information in the cyber sphere, and with it our dependency on that sphere in everyday life.
Everything from banking, to talking with family members flows through those lines, which also happen to flow through the NSA.
No laws define the limits of the N.S.A.’s power. No Congressional committee subjects the agency’s budget to a systematic, informed and sceptical review. With unknown billions of Federal dollars, the agency purchases the most sophisticated communications and computer equipment in the world. But truly to comprehend the growing reach of this formidable organisation, it is necessary to recall once again how the computers that power the N.S.A. are also gradually changing lives of Americans – the way they bank, obtain benefits from the Government and communicate with family and friends. Every day, in almost every area of culture and commerce, systems and procedures are being adopted by private companies and organisations as well as by the nation’s security leaders that make it easier for the N.S.A. to dominate American society should it ever decide such action is necessary.
Now arguably, the 2011 ruling by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that some of the NSA’s spying was “unconstitutional,” and the following compensations to the tech companies involved, at the very least implies that there are some laws that define limits.
Nonetheless, those laws have largely been made and judged upon in secret until recently, when former NSA analyst Edward Snowden blew the top off the NSA’s PRISM program.
Consequently, this article would likely have remained forgotten without those Snowden revelations.
And finally, the phrase “dominate American society” has chilling implications, namely that information is power, and the U.S. intelligence apparatus (giddily) claims to have access to literally all of it.
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