Opinion: NSA's surveillance programs are the "most serious attacks on free speech we’ve ever seen."
The NSA's state surveillance programs are anti-democratic and unconstitutional. They could be the most serious attacks on free speech we’ve ever seen.
On Sunday, U.K. intelligence officers held Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda for nine hours at Heathrow Airport, confiscating his laptop, phone and documents and even forcing him to reveal his passwords to online accounts.
And on Monday, we learned that the British intelligence unit GCHQ demanded that the Guardian return all of the data related to Edward Snowden’s leaks. The agents stormed the Guardian’s London headquarters--even though the NSA reporting is flowing from the paper's New York office--and oversaw the destruction of journalists’ computers and hard drives.
These were not just overly aggressive police actions. They were political moves designed to intimidate journalists and silence dissent.
"You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more,” a British agent told Guardian Editor-in-Chief Alan Rusbridger.
This kind of surveillance doesn’t just silence professional journalists. It affects all of us. As we now know, the NSA — with a big assist from companies like AT&T, Facebook, Google and Verizon, who were already busy tracking us — uses programs like PRISM and XKeyscore to build files of everyone’s contacts, communications, movements and browsing habits.
It may be tempting to shrug off these details. “What’s it matter to me?” some ask. “I’m doing nothing wrong.”
But now we’re seeing the trickle-down effects of this surveillance. Email providers have closed their doors rather than comply with secret government requests. And Groklaw, a 10-year-old blog that covers the ins and outs of tech law, is also shutting down, citing the climate of expanded surveillance as one reason.
“I don't know how to function in such an atmosphere” of the NSA “collecting and screening everything we say to one another,” wrote Groklaw founder Pamela Jones. Since Groklaw is built on collaborations that often take place over email, Jones says she can’t continue her work knowing that her communications aren’t private.
The chilling of free speech isn’t just a consequence of surveillance. It’s also a motive. We adopt the art of self-censorship, closing down blogs, watching what we say on Facebook, forgoing “private” email for fear that any errant word may come back to haunt us in one, five or fifteen 15 years. “The mind's tendency to still feel observed when alone... can be inhibiting,” writes Janna Malamud Smith. Indeed.
Peggy Noonan, describing a conversation with longtime civil liberties advocate Nat Hentoff, writes that “the inevitable end of surveillance is self-censorship.”
Hentoff stressed that privacy invasions of this magnitude are “attempts to try to change who we are as Americans.” In fact, they are attempts to define who we are as human beings.
Our human rights to speak and to communicate, to report and to assemble, are all at stake. “What I do know is it's not possible to be fully human if you are being surveilled 24/7,” writes Groklaw's Jones.
We must return to a place where we feel that we can speak freely without consequence.
We must roll back the NSA’s surveillance apparatus.
In 2014, Poul-Henning Kamp, a prolific and respected contributor to many core free/open projects gave the closing keynote at the Free and Open Source Developers’ European Meeting (FOSDEM) in Belgium, and he did something incredibly clever: he presented a status report on a fictional NSA project (ORCHESTRA) whose mission was to make it cheaper to […]
Laura Poitras's Whitney show and book are a glimpse into life under full-strength, targeted US surveillance
Laura Poitras, whose 2014 Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour won the Academy Award for best doc, has a show on at NYC’s Whitney Museum called “Astro Noise,” which attempts to capture the sense of overwhelming surveillance she’s lived under since the US government targeted her while she was shooting a documentary in Iraq.
In less than an hour, Wikileaks will publish a set of TOP-SECRET/COMINT-GAMMA documents — “the most highly classified documents ever published by a media organization” — that document NSA spying on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, former French leader Nicolas […]
You never know when new projects, ideas or opportunities can drop into your lap at a moment’s notice. That may require you to learn a new programming language like Python. Or maybe you need a primer on 3D game development. Or you might realize you could use a serious brush-up on iOS mobile creation.Point is, […]
Isn’t it about time to stretch what your Mac can do? I mean, you’ve got plenty of great programs now…but don’t you think you could use some new tools to get your creative, analytical and organizational juices really flowing? It’s spring, so we cleaned up a whole bunch of super-cool apps lying around and packaged […]
In the world of app development, there’s no greater arena to find success than with Android users. About 80% of the smartphones in use today worldwide operate on the Android operating system, so if you build a great app that Android users love, you’re an international rock star. You’ll be able to make sure your […]