America's Surveillance State

America's Surveillance State

2014, Politics  -   62 Comments
Ratings: 8.83/10 from 177 users.

This six part documentary series, America's Surveillance State, dissects the United States' present surveillance condition. The thesis statement of the series is that privacy as we understand it is an antiquated fantasy - that we need to adjust our way of living to factor in that someone, somewhere is very likely watching our every move for one reason or another. The US Government is often attributed with being the most usual subject for leading the charge on invading its citizen's privacy, but the film quickly points out that there is every bit as likely a chance that a corporate entity is snooping around in your digital sandbox with the intent of turning a profit on the knowledge they seek to amass.

That stated, the first installment spends a great deal of time looking at the government's efforts. Notorious whistleblower Edward Snowden is often mentioned for having done so much to bring this issue into the public eye. A government programmer, Brad Sumrall, who worked extensively in a similar position to Snowden, is interviewed about his experience sifting through mountains of data whether it was relevant to national security or not. That is the chief debate about these agencies' objectives - whether or not there is genuine validity in their reasoning for examining and compiling data from any source they see fit, including the average citizen. The surface justification is safety, but critics insist that is simply not the case.

Since the historic events of 9/11 realigned the US approach to homeland security, a $60 billion a year industry has come to be. 70% of that, around $42 billion annually, goes to private contractors. That spells an awful lot of private, fiscally-driven interests in maintaining this costly approach to intelligence gathering and analysis, which in turn means there is $42 billion dollars of corporate motivation to be listening in on phone calls and reading emails regardless of whether there is any actual safety-oriented purpose for doing so.

The series maintains this trajectory throughout, scrutinizing the National Security Agency (NSA) and similar entities and programs in hopes of at least posing the question of whether US citizens are better or worse off in having a watchful eye on them at all times.

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9 months ago

They are telling us that we are being watched and asking us, "What are you going to do about it?" They had to create "Snowden" character to rub it in our face.

Jon Jonzz
3 years ago

The inside joke is: NSA stands for No Such Agency. A wise person once stated that, "Democracy has within it the seeds of its own destruction". People need to control Govt. Not the other way around.

tom doe
5 years ago

A lot I do not understand but I was really amazed how fast the people were caught as a result of surveillance.

Toby Blake
6 years ago

We have eyes and ears too!

6 years ago

Is it so tough to realize that all we need to do is generate lots and lots of false data? Have pictures that say, Nice try, ***hole" with nasty images? Easy. :)

Daniel Jordan
6 years ago

God Bless America!

8 years ago

This must have been the very last thing Danny Schechter ever made, as he died a few short months later. He was a great contributor to the effort of the best of America's media critics to get Americans to pay a lot more attention to the way their government manipulates print, video, and electronic news media. This series is a crowning achievement of that effort.

I hope the series' availability on this website means that many more Americans will get themselves informed, as this film will no doubt jolt them out of their complacency. The "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" argument really does need deconstructing. The excellent starting point is the fact that this argument can be traced back to Josef Goebels, Hitler's Minister of Propaganda.

It should also be noted that the pressure on all civil servants to snitch on their colleagues -- under threat of punishment if they are discovered to know something they're not reporting -- was a strategy of both the Gestapo and the Stasi. In fact, there's currently an article on this question vis-a-vis the Stasi on the Der Spiegel website this week.

Today, it's worth following the debate between the NSA and the tech companies over end-to-end encryption, and the industry's argument against building backdoors into it for the convenience of the surveillance community -- either that, or provide the community with a key to unlock it. Of course, the American surveillance state will be the first to whine and complain when the Chinese or the Russians find those backdoors or those keys equally convenient and help themselves to a treasure trove of American secrets.

Crypto Kid
8 years ago

Wouldn't it be great if everybody used PGP and anonymity networks, then we could all just sit back and laugh at the sight of agencies like the NSA and GCHQ crying with their thumbs up their asses.

Airvaulting for Girls
8 years ago

This is a long series, involved, requiring that you do your best to maintain your concentration throughout. But if you haven't been paying enough attention to these issues, you really do owe it to yourself and those you care about to give this as much undivided attention as you can muster. The implications really could not be more enormous, and there is not one iota of hyperbole in that claim, I'm afraid I have to say.

8 years ago

OMG, Amy Goodman, Bracky eBola, who wants to listen to these obsolete dinosaurs from LBJ's wet-control-freak-dreams?

James Fortner
8 years ago

We are already beginning to self-censor our commentary when we start looking over our shoulders. Subtly, surely we are toning down our rants and muting our opinions as if we were in the grip of an unseen fist or an invisible vise that traps our typing fingers and nips our telltale tongues.

Soon we will be alone and under siege within the citadel of our minds, our ramparts bombarded by the collective arrows of law and religion and society, each catapulting a stone of conformity through our castle walls and all conspiring to raze to the ground our free and sacred selves,.

Airvaulting for Girls
8 years ago

I have a strong feeling, bordering on absolute certainty, that the Founding Fathers would have supported the intentions of Edward Snowden a hundred percent. To my mind, the fact that the country is nearly split down the middle about what to make of him clearly goes to show just how uneducated Americans have become regarding what our country is supposed to be, even if we've seldom been able to live up to it. But this here sh-t, ya'll, has really gotten completely out of control, and the people need to deeply come to understand that the ultimate power really is in their hands, at the end of the day, despite all the resources of the high percentage of psychopaths who have connived their way into positions of authority over them.

edit- Yes, I understand the possible implications of what I said, and neither do I especially give a damn.

8 years ago

What is technologicaly possible is going to be done. The NSA uses that big big data and so do all big industry players and also other powerfull countries like china. I think there is no way to stop this. Anyway the solution I would suggest is, that the technology should be kind of open source. I mean, if they record all this information it should be accessible for everyone. That would be fair and drive the economy and could be really helpfull not only for advertising but for all kind of research aswell, also it would let you check what information about yourself is out there. It would need a kind of new global law wich would state that every information collected on the internet must be publicly accessable and anonymized. So companies who gather data can be controlled and it can be made sure that they do not collect any personal data and or private information. A company which does so anyway and gets caught could be held responsible this way.

Just my 2 cents.

8 years ago

I'm starting to wonder if we can choose? I mean I'm choosing to post this right? And choosing not to really consider the potential consequences of actually doing so. Oh what a deceptive web we weave.

But suppose I did weigh it all up and make an informed decision not to comment - a silent protest; a refusal to participate. Going virtually unnoticed as the data collection cogs gain pace; eternally, patiently, relentlessly gathering.

It's a collective choice, if anything, that will count for change. But the interested parties that govern collective choice have that sewn up. Or at least it would appear as though they do? The vote for Scottish independence, recently, seemed (to me) to be predictably steered in the last few days, trumpeting the illusion of free choice, "The people of Scotland have spoken! Ok people, move along please, nothing to see here."

The obvious irony is that the government hasn't 'issued' all citizens with monitoring devices that must be carried at all times like identification documents, as Orwell might have expected. No, we rejected that notion outright as abhorrent. Yet we actively queue up for latest device upgrades and pay good money for them. We've demanded to be watched in order to feel safe. Orwell would have wretched!

Sigh... but even being aware of this farce, comment here I do, from a tablet with a tracked location, with internal, freely given permissions to do things any virus would be proud to accomplish and the odd flagged keyword for the machines to dissect.

Next time I'm caught on camera nothing will be done, no alarms will sound and no-one will approach me for a little chat. But quietly my file will be appended, cross checked, analysed and sold. Orwell's 1984 missed the subtly of today's world, but perhaps he would just wink and say "Oh, give it time. Subtly is just good foreplay."

Perhaps one day my file will appear in someone's IN tray and no single person alive would know why. The only questions to be asked being those neatly itemized on the front page of that file.

8 years ago

pffft, you know nothing John Snow...You should see England, you can barely turn around without hitting your head on a cctv camera.

8 years ago

.....& our generation thought that g.orwells '1984' amalgamated into
huxleys 'brave new world' were a 'hirngespinst',conjecture of
misanthropic minds (disregarding the warning) deploring future
scientific betterment's as pure denial towards an unavoidable,we stand at the gates of aforementioned predictions &
still can choose which path we shall climb...