The American people have increasingly become aware that government surveillance and corporate censorship have combined to keep people ignorant and controlled. What is taking place has generated some dark humor. A friend of mine, also a former CIA officer, wrote to me recently and said tongue-in-cheek that he retains a lot of respect for the Agency because it is the only major government national security entity that does not read our mail and emails. Those jobs are the responsibility of the NSA and FBI. I responded that I would imagine that CIA does in fact read quite a lot of mail where it operates overseas but it is probably done the old-fashioned way by recruiting an underpaid mail clerk as an agent.
The whole issue of the government spying illegally on its own citizens has again made the news with the claims by conservative commentator Tucker Carlson that NSA has been spying on him, presumably because he has connections that the government regards either as subversive or, in the new reckoning, as “extremists” who are potential “domestic terrorists.” Given the reasonable assumption that anyone who voted for Donald Trump might well fall under those categories, that means that something like half the US population could be under suspicion.
Mass electronic surveillance of literally trillions of phone calls and messages worldwide without a warrant in violation of the Fourth Amendment restrictions on searches without probable cause or a proper warrant issued by a judge has been the regular NSA authorized procedure at least since 9/11 and there is no reason to assume that it is no longer the practice. It basically is initiated by the agency involved (normally NSA or FBI) going to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court or to some other appropriate judge to get a warrant on an individual where there is some probable cause. Probable cause can consist of “someone searching the web for suspicious stuff.” The Court then gives its approval, which it does in the case of FISA 99% of the time. When that individual is then surveilled, the names of his or her contacts are also added to the investigation. And it goes on from there, expanding and growing until it includes thousands of phone numbers and email addresses, individuals who are overwhelmingly innocent of any wrongdoing.
So, it is safe to assume that many of us are right at this moment eligible for being monitored electronically by the federal government. If one combines that with the Biden Administration’s June 1st announcement of a war on “domestic terrorism,” which it clearly considers to be a function of “white supremacists,” it is easy to see where all that is going. Biden pulled no punches, describing the threat from “white supremacy” as the “most lethal threat to the homeland today,” so that would mean that the government is doing all in its power to stamp it out, whatever it takes and whatever that means.
Surveilling ordinary Americans for what they might be thinking, which is what this comes down to, would be a George Orwellian 1984 tale for our times, updated from when Winston Smith was doing mandatory daily exercises in front of his television set. He slacked off a bit and the TV instantly admonished him. He then wondered whether it was possible that he and all the other residents of Airstrip One (once called Britain) are surveilled all the time. He concluded that they were.
So, if your television set suddenly speaks to you in the next few months, it might not be Alexa. The other development that has surfaced in the past couple of weeks is the increased corporate cooperation with what the government is saying and doing. Mainstream media has certainly done its share of obfuscation, including the current near total suppression of the story that a key witness who provided false testimony against journalist Julian Assange languishing in a British prison has turned out to be a pedophile, diagnosed sociopath and serial liar. But the major player is inevitably social media, which has enormous power in the United States and also elsewhere to shape opinions and propagate false information that serves the government agenda. The media has banned numerous groups, individuals, and links to sites from its pages, a barrier to free speech and freedom of expression. And it has, for example, enthusiastically cooperated fully with the essentially fraudulent government claims of Russian interference in the two most recent US elections. It is censoring or denigrating material that is at variance with official policies, including, for example, Facebook’s pop-ups that appear whenever there is any article that contests the approved version of the response to the COVID virus.
Back in June, the Biden administration said it would also be working with some of the large high-technology and social media companies to “increase information sharing” to assist in combatting radicalization. Biden announced that his Justice Department would create ways for Americans to report radicalized friends and family to the government. One senior official put it this way: “We will work to improve public awareness of federal resources to address concerning or threatening behavior before violence occurs… If you see something, say something. This involves creating contexts in which those who are family members or friends or co-workers know that there are pathways and avenues to raise concerns and seek help for those who they have perceived to be radicalizing and potentially radicalizing towards violence.”
In other words, in plain English, the Biden Administration is calling on Americans to spy on friends, neighbors and family and reporting any “extremist” views to the authorities. Well, Facebook is now fully on board with more of the same, engaged in the “hot” war against the “white supremacists/extremists/domestic terrorists.” It has blocked or shut down many former contributors and also begun posting at least two versions of warnings to users. One targets individuals who might have personally been visiting an “extremist” site while the other encourages users to snitch on friends or family who might be enticed by such material. The personalized pop-up reads as follows: “[Name of Recipient], you many have been exposed to harmful extremist content recently – Violent groups try to manipulate your anger and disappointment. You can take action now to protect yourself and others.-Get support from experts-Spot the signs, understand the dangers of extremism and hear from people who escaped violent groups.”
The snitch on friends version reads: “Are you concerned that someone you know is becoming an extremist?-We care about preventing extremism on Facebook. Others in your situation have received confidential support.-How you can help.-Hear stories and get advice from people who escaped violent extremist groups-Get support.”
To be sure, one has to ask how Facebook knows that one has visited an “extremist” site since they have blocked such material. Are they somehow hacking into the personal accounts of their own users? The situation is dire, no doubt about it, but it has provoked a backlash, including this post: “Become the extremist Facebook warned you about!” One also has to wonder how Facebook will deal with individuals who complain about some other groups with a demonstrated history of promoting violence, including black lives matter, that are not white supremacist related. It will almost certainly do nothing, just like the federal government’s demonstrated “racially sensitive” supine response to a year of riot, burning, looting and homicide. In truth Americans are standing at the edge of a precipice with just one more “crisis” possibly coming that will tip everyone over the edge so we wind up with a totalitarian government which works hard to keep everyone safe by doing the opposite. We are almost there, and if you doubt it just go take a look at Facebook.
Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.