The Panopticon

From the President’s January 17th speech:

“…America is today the strongest, the most influential and most productive nation in the world. Understandably proud of this pre-eminence, we yet realize that America’s leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment[…]

A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction[…]

[…]But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Well said; eloquent even. And very, very hard to disagree with; Obama was preaching to the choir as far as we’re concerned.

Yet it didn’t specifically address NSA overreach, did it; generically warning of a breach in trust is not the same as preventing or directly addressing said rift. And the speech certainly skimmed over NSA’s continued egregious violations of Americans’ privacy.

Perhaps Obama addressed this point later in his announcement…oh. Wait. My mistake. I’m so embarrassed – that’s the wrong speech, NOT what Obama said Friday. The above speech is from January 17, 1961, as forcefully given by then President Eisenhower.

Not that Ike gave a bad speech, or was in error 1, but what then did Obama say this past Friday?

“Given the unique power of the state,” Mr. Obama said, “it is not enough for leaders to say ‘trust us, we won’t abuse the data we collect,’ for history has too many examples when that trust has been breached. Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power; it depends on the law to constrain those in power.”

Also well said, but I noticed Obama made sure to include the caveat that changes would merely be to the program “as it exists now”, broadly tipping his hand that the current NSA program would continue. Just not, you know, as clumsily and openly illegal as in the past, even as he assured foreign heads of state that America wouldn’t be bugging their phones, emails and mistresses any more.

While the Obama’s speech Friday showed (I believe) an evolution in his thinking (indeed confirmed {for me} that he initially really didn’t know of the NSA program when Snowden/The Guardian released that first waterfall of documents {in itself very scary}, it stepped away from burying NSA in a grave of its own making 2; again, Obama stated the NSA program will continue, regardless of the people’s right to know about it. In fact, if anything Obama’s speech attempted to inure us to the notion of ‘bulk collection’: it’s here to stay, children.

If you inadvertently become a ‘target’ of the panopticon there will always exist a file on your activities and electronic communications, dating back to when you first came to the attention of the Eye of Suaron. New data will routinely be added to it and the file will never be deleted.

In just over 50 years we have arrived at that which Ike warned us about – an Orwellian society fronted by an oligarchy supported by the military-industrial complex and wholly run by corporate interests. 3

Were J. Edgar Hoover alive he’d shoot a load in his silk big girl panties.

WNBTv - Good TV!

Show 3 footnotes

  1. He most certainly was not.
  2. Though I’m convinced that Obama would happily feed Snowden a couple of polonium filled pirozhkis
  3. If you think me wrong, go ask The Ministry of Truth and see where that get’s you.

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