Thursday, May 22, 2014
"United States of Secrets" Part II
This is the second part of the PBS Frontline investigation of the National Security Agency's wholesale gathering of information on United States citizens. It centers largely on the fallout from the revelations generated by whistleblower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The show is depressing. It's not depressing in the same way Hitler's rough-shod rise to power in Germany once was. Rather it is like the smog in Beijing ... killing you softly.
Here are well-scrubbed and well-spoken fifty-something men who, perhaps with good intentions, are simply betraying the United States of America. In English, it might be called "treason," but of course it is not called that because these are the well-spoken fifty-something men who define what "treason" is for their own purposes.
There are no heaps of skeleton-thin Holocaust bodies stacked up in their wake. There is just a smog-like treason that dismantles what Americans once fought and died for.
Kafka would be envious. The owner of a small Internet company receives a letter ordering him to turn over data to the government. The letter says it is legal for the government to do this. The letter warns the man not to divulge that he has received the letter or the contents of it. This too is called legal. When the man decides to fight and when it appears that his case might go to the Supreme Court and there be declared illegal, the government backs down. Yet even after the case is forgotten, the contents of the letter are not revealed.
And so it has been in the past: Each time anyone tries to find out precisely what damage has been done by whistleblowers like Snowden, the government claims it cannot divulge details for fear of compromising sensitive activities. Trust us ... you need to be afraid ... you need to trust us to protect you ... you need to sacrifice privacy so that we can protect you from things you need to fear but we cannot tell you.
No Internet company was willing to be interviewed for the show. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft ... well, it might cut into profits and besides, they have a right to keep their business practices private.
Drip, drip, drip.
Everyone so well dressed. Everyone so well educated. Everyone so sincere.
Termites are in no rush.
But the buildings fall down.
Anyone wishing to get a more 'entertaining' feel for the sort of depression Frontline ladles out could do worse than the movie "Brazil."