Op-Ed by Claire Bernish
Mass surveillance has, for the larger segment of the U.S. populace, become an integral facet in the illusory feeling of security. But does it serve any purpose at all — other than providing the Surveillance State a handy excuse for keeping tabs on anyone it chooses, while simultaneously quashing every one of our paltry remaining legal rights?
While it may be comforting to feel the overarching blanket of indiscriminate surveillance keeps us all safe from harm, the deaths of at least 50 people in an Orlando nightclub prove indisputably the contrary.
In fact, the National Security Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation — and, indeed, every agency — attempting to employ the weary excuse they spy on you to keep you safe can be disproven in the events of the early morning hours this past Sunday.
No less than 50 people perished at the hands of at least one gunman in an Orlando LGBTQ-friendly nightclub as they unwound from the week’s stress on Latin night in the early morning hours of June 12. And while foreign news outlets first reported the mass shooting, American media soon caught up to what had taken place on U.S. soil.
Unfolding over a period of hours, Pulse nightclub took to Facebook to sound the alarm, posting, “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running” — as the shooter (or perhaps shooters) mowed down revelers and reportedly took survivors hostage.
In the aftermath of the carnage, several aspects of the attack become startlingly clear.
First, discrepancies in eyewitness’ accounts of unfolding events — such as on-the-spot interviews describing not one, but two shooters — were not slated to hit mainstream headlines.
Second, any number of dragnet, mass surveillance programs — or even those targeting, specifically, ‘questionable’ individuals — had done nothing to foreshadow, much less prevent, the slaughter for the NSA or FBI.
How could that be? How could programs tasked with specifically trawling social media, personal correspondence, and thus profiling individuals most at risk for committing such atrocities, possibly miss the mark — exponentially?
Simple. These programs were never designed to detect, stop, or catch actual terrorists in the first place.
What? Seriously? You mean the government’s welcoming, protective arms did nothing at all to save us?
But in the aftermath of a mass murder event, it’s expected we would all ignore that particularly relevant detail and succumb to further intrusions on our most basic liberties to cozy into the safe blanket of surveillance, which most frequently targets those who stand against the State causing extremism in the first place.
Shortly after this disgusting infringement on the personal freedoms we hold dear, there are calls for stricter strictures on gun control and freedom of association emanating from the mouths of politicians — who, no less, happen to be involved in contentious electoral proceedings. We are, of course, expected to swallow this — no questions asked — as the U.S. government moves to ‘rein in terrorists and their agendas.’
Don’t be fooled. Though the quote by Benjamin Franklin — “Those who would give up essential Liberty to purchase a little temporary Safety deserve neither Liberty nor Safety” — has been so incredibly skewed from its original meaning, the modern understanding holds fast.
When we base the usurpation of freedom on the fleeting comfort provided by the government in times of tragedy and strife, the resultant disavowal of rightful freedom soon follows; and to no laudable ends, whatsoever. Consider recent reports the NSA has expanded plans to use your so-called ‘smart’ appliances against you — and now seeks to expand those programs to include even biomedical devices, like pacemakers.
Consider Americans under consistent, constant scrutiny — as contentiously revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013 — for the basic act of using their cell phones or deeming necessary encrypted email accounts. Or using the phone. Or journalists under the watchful NSA eye. Or, worse, the complete erasure of rights inextricably linked to the same concept of terrorism far too many Americans willingly accept as the root of the entire issue.
We are a nation under attack, indeed, but not by the brown people those in power would have you believe are out to steal our freedoms. No, to the contrary, we are under attack by the very government that would commandeer our basic civil liberties under the all-too false guise the terrorists want what we have.
But we have too little. We have too few of the basic freedoms that once defined us as a people who broke away from the governmental chokehold. What we’re left with, in the meantime, are the scraps and trappings of a liberty so far removed from its original intent as to be ineffectual in preserving the same.
Whatever your opinions, or even assertions, about the events in Orlando — understand — we are gazing over the precipice from whence there exists no ability to return. We have the temporary luxury of gazing expectantly over the edge, or we can pull back the reins that seemingly hold us in place and say, ‘Enough.’
Enough with the facade of programs whose blueprints offer little more than the feeling of safety. Enough with a State so paranoid it seeks to stomp out any opinion in opposition to it. Enough capitulation.
Take the admonishments of the State proffered by whistleblowers who see the bigger picture — this will not end well. No matter the hysteria, signing away your rights can do nothing but strip you of power.
Don’t — no matter your apparent, personal justification — allow them to take more than the miles you’ve already voluntarily offered.