As America spent the first half of October choking on its own bureaucratic filth, the consequences of a “government shutdown” were sensationalized to the point of nausea. Although this selfish display of political theater burdened hundreds of thousands, it mostly served to distract the nation from a much more unpleasant reality. This, of course, is the fact that the NSA is doing its very best to transform the American Dream into an Orwellian nightmare.
When Liberty Becomes a Liability
Despite popular belief, liberty isn’t required for our social experiment to survive. The illusion of personal liberty, however, nourishes the American organism. The mass media, being at the mercy of pre-approved talking points, serves to keep this facade alive. Whether beating the drums of war or scaring people into submission, all major media outlets can be counted on to manipulate the public. The Internet, on the other-hand, has always acted as an equalizer, granting a powerful voice to underdogs of every stripe. Obviously, it was only a matter of time until government agencies hijacked this bastion of free expression.
Although anyone with cognitive ability has long understood that the government is capable of analyzing digital behavior, claims of massive domestic spy operations largely remained the realm of paranoid conspiracy theorists. That was, of course, until the appearance of Edward Snowden. The revelation of PRISM shocked the world, effectively pissing off some of America’s closest allies and damaging the integrity of Silicon Valley’s crowned jewels. Still, it barely scratches the surface of the NSA’s true villainy
Say Hello to MUSCULAR
For over a decade, bloggers and self appointed gurus have claimed that Google is the uncontested king of the Internet. Be that as it may, when compared to the NSA, Google seems to be rendered the equivalent of a mere peasant. For instance, it’s recently been revealed that the NSA, along with its British cohorts, covertly tapped into a fiber-optic link between Yahoo and Google’s massive data centers. The program, named MUSCULAR, crushed SSL encryptions and granted the NSA open access to over 181,280,466 new digital records in just one month alone. Unlike the metadata that Prism provides, MUSCULAR allows unencrypted data, such as the full content of emails, to be collected and flagged for analysis.
Both tech giants issued strong statements of outrage, with Google’s engineers using profanity and Lord of the Rings references to vocalize their disdain. Furthermore, in a resounding “fuck you” to the NSA, Google encrypted their internal network, effectively stopping MUSCULAR dead in its tracks.
Human, All Too Human
While the government downplays the dangers involved with the indiscriminate collection of personal data, the scope and capabilities of the NSA’s intelligence apparatus continues to place tremendous power in the hands of bureaucrats and civilian contractors. Tragically, there is embarrassingly little oversight in place to prevent abuse of such power. To illustrate this point brilliantly, consider the strikingly creepy concept of “LoveInt.” This adorable little term refers to the act of using America’s extensive surveillance capabilities to spy on the love interests of NSA agents.
In a letter to Sen. Chuck Grassley, the NSA recognized that employees stalked foreign women, spied on cheating spouses, and even monitored the communications of an American citizen without a warrant. Only twelve incidents were admitted to, and the majority of these were the result of employees confessing their sins voluntarily. With that said, it doesn’t take a cynic to believe that countless other misuse cases exist where the culprits didn’t fall victim to a guilty conscience.
Once, there was a time when revealing personal information online was considered to be a symptom of borderline retardation. Unfortunately, that all changed once social media began making every random asshole feel like a celebrity. Now, we find ourselves hopelessly addicted to digital social stimulation, eagerly broadcasting our hopes, dreams, personal relationships and beliefs to anyone willing to listen. So while pointing your finger in blame, don’t forget to aim it at the mirror. After all, Lady Liberty is being brutally sodomized by the NSA, and we remain too consumed with gluttony, pointless in-fighting and living vicariously through celebrities to do anything about it.