Somebody’s Eyes Are Watching…

// Posted by on 05/26/2015 (8:48 PM)

Government surveillance has remained a controversial topic since the implementation of the USA PATRIOT Act shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The controversial act has allowed for the National Security Agency (hereafter referred to as NSA) to investigate and intercept potential terrorist activities by monitoring such activities as phone call and library checkout records. Despite Obama administration reassurance that actual content of calls is not being recorded, the act remains an overreaction to the attacks. While preventing terrorist activity (both foreign and domestic) is important, the government has taken an Orwellian approach in overreacting.

The government attempted to show it “knew best’ for the American public in ensuring that terrorist attacks with the magnitude of 9/11 would never happen again. Thus, the government overreacted to the violence and enacted the Patriot Act by wide margins in both houses of Congress.

Edward Snowden, a former computer contractor to the NSA, came into possession of top-secret government documents that discussed the NSA’s surveillance programs, including those that centered on government spying on of phone calls. His releasing of these sensitive documents to WikiLeaks is considered an act of high treason by some, and heroism by others. Snowden wants Americans to live in peace and freedom, but does not want the government to take secret operations against its own people. He told Wired that he did not want “…the law to become a political weapon or…to scare people from standing up for their rights…”

Snowden’s fears for the American people are coming true in a sparsely-populated part of Utah, where a large data collection center being used for code-breaking and analysis of call records is opening soon. This secret government facility is adjacent to a town that believes old Mormon tenets that were officially ended prior to Utah’s statehood in 1896.

Mass surveillance is important to protect America, its people, and interests from terrorism, as the nation has had a long reputation of a stable government, which it is trying to protect as well. Snowden wants an informed American public, one that questions the interference of the government in its daily lives, and that is prepared to take caution against threats both internal and external.


Glen Greenwald interview with Edward Snowden

Glen Greenwald interview with Edward Snowden

Snowden, in his interview with Greenwald, discussed that people are under constant danger of governmental interference due to the possibility of NSA agents being able to search long-lost Internet files in order to theoretically incriminate anyone.

The Internet has come a long way since the ARPANET and the beginning of the WELL and Usenet. The earliest versions of the Internet were used by major research universities and government entities to perform scientific and technological research and report the findings rapidly to each other.

The concept of an unseen entity spying on the masses brings to mind lyrics from the musical “Footloose“- “somebody’s eyes are watching,” as well as The Alan Parsons Project’s “I am the Eye in the Sky, looking at you. I can read your mind.” The idea of unauthorized surveillance has long been a threat to humanity and a tool for dictators, often using secret police agencies such as the Gestapo, KGB, or Stasi. The United States uses the NSA as an agency with the open mission to seek potential terrorists and bring them to justice, invoking images of Big Brother seeking “thought criminals” who have not yet performed misdeeds, but only have thought of them and committed their plans to words. Edward Snowden seems like an ordinary man on the surface, but is contempt on his mission to warn the American population of the dangers it faces from its own government in the guise of the government protecting the people from terrorists. In creating a fear state, the American government is able to will its people to stand in favor of its highly questionable security tactics, many of which are likely illegal but carried on in secret.

Somebody’s Eyes from the musical Footloose

Somebody’s Eyes from the musical Footloose




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Rosatelli said...

Thanks for the cultural references, Sarah! I always think of the film “The Lives of Others”, which you should see if you have not! It’s a wonderful depiction of the Stasi during the Cold War, and, after watching that film, we can comfortably say that we are not dealing with the Stasi here. This sort of data collection is different, and it’s being used differently, but what makes it feel strange, is that we don’t really know what that “differently” is. The people in East Germany knew they were being watched, so those who were working against the government were wildly careful to cover their tracks and meet in secret. As we create more and more complexity around this issue, are we simply burying deeper that which we hope to find?

// 05/27/2015 at 8:42 pm