As the revelations of government surveillance seem to grow by the day, so too do the defenders of this policy.
In past years, under the administration of George W. Bush, the Total Information Awareness Program evoked sharp and critical opposition, especially by elites.
The contrast between that period, when the program was contemplated and discussed, and the present, when it is a fait accompli (or a done deal) is striking.
Both criticism and protest are muted, perhaps because President Barack Obama seems intrinsically more trustworthy, while Bush was largely perceived as incompetent – especially after the widespread destruction of Hurricane Katrina.
But the present mass surveillance programs, touching over 100 million Americans, and billions of internet exchanges, seem perfectly Nixonian in their reach and scope.
Vast clusters of Americans, taped, tapped, put on lists and surveilled by government is not just an invasion of privacy; it is government intrusion and government attack.
It is Big Brother, but on a scale that even George Orwell couldn’t conceive. For Orwell’s work was a slap at totalitarian regimes. He could hardly foresee today’s corporate – national security – complex, where virtually every human communication is catalogued, stored –forever.
Under the rubric of fear of terrorism, the government, under the aegis of the so-called ‘Patriot Act,’ has waged war against its own citizenry; for surveillance is but step one.
‘Fear’ – the most powerful weapon in the arsenal of any State, breeds acquiescence, docility and obedience.
It leads, inevitably, to disaster.