Monday, August 19, 2013

The war on us

Over the past month, the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald has worked with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to expose the extent of NSA spying and the fact that the US has built itself a global panopticon. Today, his partner was detained under anti-terrorism legislation while transiting the UK. He was questioned for nine hours, his computer, cellphone and other electronic items were seized, and he apparently only avoided being charged due to the strong intervention of the Brazilian government.

The message is clear: if you are an investigative journalist, looking at the spies, those who seem to exercise real power in western "democracies", don't look too hard, or they will go after your family. The "war on terror" has morphed seamlessly into a war on journalism - and through that change, a war on accountability, a war on democracy, a war on us. "Anti-terror" legislation is no longer about protecting us from terrorist attacks (if it ever was), but about preserving the institutional power of spies and generals. The tools are different, but at its heart this is identical to the governing ideology of the regime currently murdering people in the streets in Egypt.

The existence of vast, unaccountable intelligence agencies is simply incompatible with democracy. And as nominal democracies, we can theoretically vote the spies out - repeal their legislation, cut their budgets, downsize them into agencies which are controllable and serve us (or into oblivion if need be). It is looking like we need to do this. But saying that is probably "terrorism".