Last week, the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald helped uncover one of the United States government’s top secrets- the monitoring of telephone and internet communications on a national and international level.
Verizon was the first reported communications company to have been compliant to secret government orders to disclose this information, however a day later Greenwald reported, “The National Security Agency (NSA) has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian. The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called PRISM, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, the document says.”
The phrase "Just google it" immediately took on another meaning. What do I do the next time I watch Master Chef and I see someone use a pressure cooker to make a lentil and split pea soup? Sure, I could "just google" the recipe, but would that also trigger an investigation by the NSA? Will I be apprehended by federal agents for thinking about a pressure cooker? Will I ever eat soup again!?
The Bill of Rights was created to protect us from our government; not the other way around. But when laws are created and interpreted in secrecy, how can we insist on the protection of our rights?
Perhaps most ironic about last week's revelation by the Guardian, was its timing; days before the anniversary of George Orwell's "1984" which was published on June 8, 1949. “1984” showed us a world with “Big Brother” where the government monitored everything everyone did, and where the only thing safe to you was your thoughts. But only the thoughts kept in your head; not the ones you share in a google keyword search. Expressing these thoughts through speech was the biggest crime.
This NSA bombshell leads us to believe our government has taken away our liberty to express our thoughts. We can no longer think to "google" anything without being aware that the NSA will document it. Who would have imagined that the cute search box in my web browser or on my phone was nothing more than a modern day front for the government to monitor us? And to think that we could have never known!
That is until Green Greenwald, our very own superhero, revealed the secret court order in his report:
"The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.”
For this revelation Greenwald has been attacked, and as soon as the source of the leak for Greenwald's story, Edward Snowden was revealed, he too has been attacked.
In a surreal paradox of Orwell's novel, today the people have embraced 'Big Brother' while marginalizing this story's true heroes.
Immediately after Greenwald's story, Congress held a hearing to determine the extent of the government surveillance. When asked if the data of Americans was being collected, the director of national intelligence answered "no sir." When asked the same question as a follow-up, the same director, in the same hearing, within the same minute answered "there are cases where they could inadvertently...perhaps."