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An American Surveillance Story: Congressional Edition

February 6, 2014

Does the NSA spy on Congress?

Probably.”

Is there a more American way to admit it? The surveillance apparatus has become so sprawling, so all-encompassing, that we can’t get a “yes,” but a “we collect so much data, it’s hard to believe we don’t.”

The affirmation might cause the first substantive change in the dragnet-style collection. You aren’t too bothered when your neighbor down the street gets his house searched, but the law quickly becomes abuse when your house gets scrutinized.

What will be more interesting, however, is to hear Congress defend the surveillance. The oppressed and the oppressor will unite in one person. It’s a set-up that Nixon could only fantasize about. Instead of breaking into the Watergate, the victims will personally affirm the break-in so it’s done before the president orders it.

It’s creepy when Target knows a girl is pregnant before her parents do, but when government spies on its own citizens, it’s met with a shrug and a “harumph” (and usually a spotty rendition of the national anthem).

What an absurd reaction! The loss of privacy, due to businesses and governments, is a crucial issue that must be addressed, but I’d much rather a corporation try to sell me miscellaneous junk than a government collect data on my moral and political beliefs, and track me so long as they claim it’s to further “national security.”

We justify abhorrent action by governments with utopian justifications about how “we are the government.”  If your beautiful theories of a polity uniting to further the common good justify absolute spying on the people it purports to protect in the name of freedom, and executes the common good with secret wars, clandestine foreign meddling, and a general violation of rights, why carry any political sense beyond a base pragmatism that justifies the means by the ends? Might as well justify a waffling into a hellish State as it rips society asunder because hey, it could be worse.

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