Commentary

The Snowden blizzard

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Edward Snowden, a former employee of a contractor for the US National Security Agency (NSA), has whipped up a blizzard with his leak of the secret surveillance programs being enforced in the United States as an antiterrorist effort.

As we sit in subzero darkness cloaked in blankets and trying to weather the Snowden blizzard, terrorists are basking in the sun and having a tan. They are celebrating the fact that the very “threat” of terrorist acts is destroying America. They do not have to make a move; they can take a vacation from terrorist acts for now. They feel that after Snowden, America will self-destruct.

Daniel Ellsberg, famous for leaking in 1971 the Pentagon Papers on US shenanigans during the Vietnam War, described the Snowden leak as the most significant in American history. The White House is embarrassed and confused on how to respond. Congress is split. Supporters of Snowden are marshaling force to challenge US President Barack Obama’s approval of the secret programs. (In its time, the antiwar movement forced then President Richard Nixon to end the Vietnam War.) Obama says the programs are critical to national security, but protestors argue that programs that affect the public cannot be kept secret from the public. That was Obama’s mistake—the secrecy.

Prism, one of the two surveillance programs leaked to The Washington Post and Britain’s The Guardian, has a shocking timeline on how the US government has been accessing data on a massive scale from giant providers since 2007. It has been extracting millions per day of audio and video posts, photos, and e-mails, and building a cosmic database. The providers include Microsoft, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL, and Apple. They have denied cooperating with the government, implying that either the government “steals” the data without their knowledge, or they just look away. (http://uk.news.yahoo.com/photos/looking-prism-photo-013354834.html)

In truth, the surveillance programs are like using a sledge hammer to tack a note on a bulletin board—say to isolate one terrorist phone call from a billion calls in the last two weeks. The more the terrorist call is delayed, the more the database balloons exponentially, with no results.

But is surveillance of citizens the solution to terrorism? Why is Obama so determined on the programs, about which he criticized his predecessor George W. Bush? Analysts say Obama is in panic because of the possibility of nuclear terrorism, in which homemade nuclear bombs are detonated in populated areas. Are there secret data on this? Is he just guessing and suspecting, or is he not telling? Either way, there is a dilemma.

Observers predict that, after the Snowden leak, surveillance of citizens as an antiterrorist solution will die a natural death, because privacy is nonnegotiable to the general public and secrecy is anathema.

If surveillance fails as a solution to terrorism because of public protest, what is the solution then? Geopolitical experts suggest to the United States an impossible solution: Get out of the Middle East, stop invasions for oil, stop assassinations of anti-US rulers, stop using drones that kill five terrorists along with 50 civilians, stop advanced weapons research which produce more weapons of mass destruction, especially biological weapons that remain secret to this day. And stop the “High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program,” which can supposedly manipulate weather and whip up hurricanes as WMDs.

Antiterrorism is actually a dilemma because it produces more terrorism. How many more Osama bin Ladens were produced when the Navy Seals assassinated him? Torturing terrorists illegally in an offshore place triggers more resilient terrorists. It’s a vicious circle. If Prism dies, are we to sit in darkness waiting for the next terrorist assault? Or are we willing to sacrifice our privacy? The word is “we.” It is not just the American public that is affected, but each person on the planet.

What Snowden leaked is actually the tip of the iceberg. The NSA is said to be planning to buy a million or so drones for surveillance on the street level. There are now “insect drones” for sale in the Internet. The potentials are limitless. They can hover with a camera over home kitchens and gardens. They can implant cameras in conference halls, possibly extract DNA from unsuspecting victims, carry out assassinations with lethal injections. If an NSA agent is unscrupulous, he/she can spy on secret corporate meetings and sell the data for big bucks to a rival. Heaven forbid if terrorists get hold of this technology. They can upgrade their suicide bombs into drone bombs and strike anywhere at will. Will technological milestones build or destroy humankind?

Antiterrorism is in such a mess that many feel there is no solution, that we are stuck with it for the sins of some people in the past, sins that cannot be retracted, hatred that cannot be turned into forgiveness.

Bernie V. Lopez (eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com) is a radio-TV broadcaster and has been writing political commentaries for the last 20 years.

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  • tadasolo

    A lot of people are being melodramatic on this issue and have overblown its impact on regular and law abiding citizen like you and me. The fact that we are in the Internet age and we used electronic system and signatures to communicate and conduct our business leaves so much information in public hands and you not need big brother NSA to do it. Think about Googlle, Apple, Yahoo, the Chinese and Russian Government, and Amazon with their massive data farms around the world collecting private information. The NSA program is specifically targeting suspected groups and network capable of doing a 9-11 type destruction. They will not prevent free lancers like the Boston bombing. It is idiotic that NSA will collect information on all the 6 billion plus people on earth. Our penchant for big brother snooping on our affairs is a privacy concern gone amok and is a reflection of watching too many movies. The fact that we do not have a 9-11 type of incident since then is a testament to the success of the program. What prism is looking is a network signature pattern and disrupt their plans. Snowden revelation is nothing new for those familiar with the program and this has bern approved by congress and suprevise by the courts. There is a fine line between security and civil liberties and this issue wil die down after the emotional response and Snowden wil be exposed as nothing more than a low level traitor and a hero for some who are against the function and established authoritt

  • farmerpo

    As said by a very respected Theoretical Physicist, it is not Big Brother who to be feared with our current technology, it is the Little Brother who is ubiquituosly using the Web to spy on individuals in the form of data mining. But, is the threat of loss of privacy merits the scrapping of the Internet, for instance? Not quite. Cars are still being used despite of thousands of deaths each year. The same psychological mindset will be true in this case . It is given that anything invented for the military can be used for peace and vice versa. The internet was deployed as a secret weapon of the US and is now a vehicle for world wide communication. It will be so for a long while. People are working to break into your private files (virus) and at the same time people are also working to keep your privacy (encryption). It boils down to how you would like to react.
    Want absolute privacy, keep off the net. But that is doubtful.

  • riza888

    Edward Snowden is a traitor and needs to be thrown him in jail.

    How do you expect the security agencies to keep terrorists at bay? Do you expect them to use clairvoyants to gather information? In a technology-driven world with terrorism becoming increasingly high-tech, it is only logical to adopt such measures. After 9/11 there have been NO major terrorist incidents of the same magnitude, and for that – Homeland Security, the NSA, CIA and FBI deserve to be lauded. As far as the surveillance program goes, it is vital to national security. All it needs are a few checks and balances to be in place to ensure that it does not stray from its primary objective.

  • kayanatwo

    13jun2013

    nobody asked me, but….if mr.b. lopez would provide me his residential address, i can actually use google satellite to locate exactly where his house on their street, and even see what kind of car is park on his driveway.

    overt and covert spying was the name of the game since the “mata-hari and the enigma machine” of yore.

    every individual privacy was lost after the parents registered their newborn kid. since then, records are kept bearing the name of that newborn kid for reasons. personal informations are collected and kept by the govt.and private entities for all good and bad reasons.

    today, the use of modern technologies make it more faster, sophisticated and (yes) more intrusive to collect and mine datas that could help to prevent, to interdict, to prosecute, to combat or stop “criminal activity” by a person or persons, foreign and domestic before he/she can execute the perpetration of the planned crime..

    so please……stop being so dramatic??????????

    • WeAry_Bat

      Uh, have you tried Fort Bonifacio? For some reason, the sat pic is quite dated. Huge swathes of land are still being terraformed.

      I think I read what you wrote on some US article about privacy. About how an executive of Google was profiled from his driveway home and to work. But that was the US, where perhaps they keep pictures more up to date.

      • Mamang Pulis

        hindi ka paid subcriber ng google earth ata

      • WeAry_Bat

        live feed ba yun :)

  • Crazy_horse101010

    blizzard. ive been in blizzards this a snow flake

  • joe_rizal

    The solution is simple….that is for the US to stop meddling with other countries. To stop acting as if they own the universe. To treat us all fairly and squarely….kaso lang talga nila masikmura…

    • Crazy_horse101010

      you mean the 197 million dollars america is giving the philippines isnt fair. look at all the houses that will buy in america. and the solution is simple fly to washington dc and tell them they will listen to you. as for treating fair i remember how the people here made them grovel and say im sorry over and over again with the minesweeper. where are your friends now when the chinese ship did worse damage. its a two way street

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