‘I’M NOT GUILTY OF ANYTHING, SO I DON’T CARE” ARGUMENT EASILY REFUTED IN THE EDWARD SNOWDEN CASE LEAK CASE … BIG BROTHER’S MISUSE OF ‘MEGADATA’ A VIRTUAL CERTAINTY … U.S. SPYING ON ITS OWN CITIZENS RESEMBLES THE GULAG … plus … RANDOM OBSERVATIONS FROM TRIPS TO CITY HALL
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
“I am not here [in Hong Kong] to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality” — Edward Snowden
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, JUNE 13, 2013) — There is no overstating the implications of Edward Snowden‘s heroic revelations, at great personal cost, of the massive spying the U.S. government has been doing for the past seven years on its citizens. For years, the government has denied the very thing that Snowden has exposed and a red-faced Obama Administration has been forced to admit.
Beyond the fact that the case offers proof that the America we all once knew and loved no longer exists lies the irreducible granite block of veracity — We cannot believe what our government tells us. You are no longer on the grassy knoll to assert that U.S. officials are harvesting megadata on every U.S. citizen who uses a phone or a computer. At last, there’s proof.
Concerning Snowden’s expose, the argument has been made that “if you’re innocent you’ve nothing to fear.” This false premise then produce a valid conclusion but one that is not true: “Therefore, they can collect information on me, because I’m doing nothing wrong.” Forget the slippery slope. This is an ice-glazed downhill 80-degree decline.
It’s incredible that any serious, intelligent person would reason in this sloppy, haphazard way on so critical an issue. The simple counterpoint to this, of course, is to point out that even if you are innocent, the U.S. government still collects massive amounts of data on you. It even has a program, as Snowden revealed, to organize the information — yes, there is a file on you in the government’s hands. You could be as pure as Ivory Snow and as innocent as Little Miss Muffet, and you’ve still been thrown into the same category as “Suspected Terrorist.”
Once the data becomes part of the government’s clutches, neither you, Timmy the Bartender, nor your Aunt Emma’s pet poodle will have any control over how it is used. That’s the key. Remember, as much as intelligence, counterintelligence, and surveillance remain a necessary evil in this high-tech, networked world of ours, the information harvested will become tainted by politics. Remember that Snowden revealed that “Any analyst at any time can get anyone.” They can and they will.
Snowden, a contract employee for the federal government, was a low-to-mid-level analyst for the National Security Agency‘s Hawaiian office. He said that from his computer, he could focus in on any person contained in the megadata collection. He had the autonomy to do it, he said, and that there were and are many other analysts who had and have such power. Analysts are human. They have ups and downs in life, make friends and enemies, have relationships, break up, get into messes, and all the rest of what goes on in the human experience. In other words, they can use personal grudges to abuse their power.
It is an easy thing, for example, for a government analyst to access, review, and make use of information against someone whose politics he finds disagreeable. We won’t list the nearly infinite ways in which this information can be used to turn the lives of American citizens into something from the gulag. The fact is, the government has this information on you, and at any point, it can be used against you, for any purpose and at little or no provocation.
Snowden revealed just three aspects of the government’s information harvesting. There are more.
— A sealed court order forcing Verizon to turn over millions of phone records. Snowden leaked this document.
— PRISM, a program that gathers communications from customers of Internet companies such as Apple, Facebook, Yahoo!, and Google. PRISM provides the feds “direct access” to the servers of Internet providers. Prior to Snowden’s leaking, these companies as well as the federal government have denied such a program exists. Well, it does. Been on line today? The government knows all about it.
— A program with the chilling name, “Boundless Informant.” BI tracks, collects, catalogs, and maps the sources of data the government collects through PRISM and other domestic spying. It creates files on individuals.
As these revelations show, the U.S. government has unilaterally and secretively granted itself the power to break its own laws. This unlimited power exists beyond the realm of the three branches of government (yes, even the executive branch, since President George W. Bush signed the Patriot Act into law and Barack Obama built up its provisions into a Death Star opposing freedom).
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is no longer America.
LEFTOVERS FROM A CITY HALL VISIT & COUNCIL MEETING
On Tuesday night, our Right Honorable Good Friends on the city council conducted their regular meeting (Tonight at 6 p.m. in the council chambers, it will host another Committee of the Whole gathering to take up the Pittsfield School Department Budget). Earlier that day, THE PLANET paid a visit to city hall. Our traipse included tea and crumpets in the city clerk’s office, the mayor’s office, and other assorted stops that we shall keep to ourselves. We present, in no particular fashion, some random observations:
* Thus far, it’s been a slow Campaign ’13. Most of the incumbent councilors have taken out papers. There’s been little new blood, except in Ward 1. The only candidate for mayor to take out papers is the current office holder, Dan Bianchi.
* Kathleen Amuso has taken out papers to run for council at large. She has yet to take papers for re-election to the school committee. A person can take out papers for multiple offices, but he or she can only turn in the documents for one of them. From this move, it appears Amuso has had it with the school committee. One cannot blame her.
* The rumor mill has Donna Todd Rivers considering a run either for at large or mayor. THE PLANET visited Rivers to get a comment. She said she’s considering “running for office” but didn’t know which one. Rivers, as you may know, has announced the closing of her bead business on North Street. That would seem to be an effort at clearing the decks. Apropos to little, she said to us, “You hate my radio show.” THE PLANET’s reply: “No, we don’t.” How could we? We have never listened to it.
* The medical marijuana issue moved forward. Once this gets approved, watch how many phantom back injuries start cropping up in Pittsfield. A rash of hangnails also is expected, except for middle and high schoolers. They already know how, when, and where to easily get pot. Ask any 15 year old. Zero tolerance, schmolerance.
* THE PLANET visited the mayor’s office earlier in the day. Bianchi was huddled behind closed doors with Mary McGinnis, his chief of staff, and “not available.” THE PLANET also noticed that the window shades to the corner office were pulled way down. No peeking inside. Later, when we arrived for the council meeting, the mayor hadn’t arrived yet. He entered the room just before the meeting began and left early. We locked eyes, once. THE PLANET detected a faint chill, but we weren’t sure if it was from the mayor or from the temperature. For some reason (probably to keep everyone from falling asleep) they keep the room temperature in council chambers to a comfortable -11 degrees F.
* To keep ourselves occupied, THE PLANET sketched of the councilors during the meeting. Barry Clairmont wasn’t present. He missed his chance at immortality, getting drawn (though not quartered) by THE PLANET. We felt like a court artist, rendering the mugs of clueless defendants. Norman Rockwell, we are not, but our caricature came out pretty darn good. Perhaps we should get the drawing framed to be hung in city hall.
“Good-bye, proud world! I’m going home: / Thou art not my friend, and I’m not thine.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson, from “Good-bye.”
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.