Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A New Urban Dictionary

Trey Smith

The term "urban dictionary" refers to slang words and phrases that people use that are not part of a more standard dictionary. For example, there is a really good chance that you wouldn't find the word decafate in Webster's Dictionary! (To find out what it means, go here.)

Tom Engelhardt of TomDispatch has put together a modern urban dictionary of sorts that he calls the Dictionary of the Global War on You (GWOY).  Here are a few sample entries.
Secret: Anything of yours the government takes possession of and classifies.

Classification: The process of declaring just about any document produced by any branch of the U.S. government -- 92 million of them in 2011 -- unfit for unclassified eyes. (This term may, in the near future, be retired once no documents produced within, or captured by, the government and its intelligence agencies can be seen or read by anyone not given special clearance.)

Leak: Information homegrown terrorists slip to journalists to undermine the American way of life and aid and abet the enemy. A recent example would be the National Security Agency (NSA) documents Booz Allen employee Edward Snowden leaked to the media. According to two unnamed U.S. intelligence officials speaking to the Associated Press, “[M]embers of virtually every terrorist group, including core al-Qaida, are attempting to change how they communicate, based on what they are reading in the media [of Snowden’s revelations], to hide from U.S. surveillance.” A clarification: two anonymous intelligence officials communicating obviously secret material to AP reporter Kimberly Dozier does not qualify as a “leak,” but as necessary information for Americans to absorb. In addition, those officials undoubtedly had further secret intelligence indicating that their information, unlike Snowden’s, would be read only by Americans and ignored by al-Qaeda-style terrorists who will not change their actions based on it. As a result, this cannot qualify as aiding or abetting the enemy.

Insider Threat Program: The name of an Obama administration initiative to promote patriotism inside the government. Its goal is to encourage federal employees to become more patriotic by picking up on clues that potentially traitorous co-workers might consider leaking classified information to the enemy (see “journalist”). Government managers, again to promote love of country, are encouraged to crack down on any employees who are found not to have been patriotic enough to report their suspicions about said co-workers. (Words never to be associated with this program: informer, rat, or fink.)

Espionage Act: A draconian World War I law focused on aiding and abetting the enemy in wartime that has been used more than twice as often by the Obama administration as by all previous administrations combined. Since 9/11, the United States has, of course, been eternally “at war,” which makes the Act handy indeed. Whistleblowers automatically violate the Act when they bring to public's attention information Americans really shouldn’t bother their pretty little heads about. It may be what an investigative reporter (call him “Glenn Greenwald”) violates when he writes stories based on classified information from the national security state not leaked by the White House.

Trust: What you should have in the national security state and the president to do the right thing, no matter how much power they accrue, how many secrets of yours or anybody else’s they gather, or what other temptations might exist. Americans can make mistakes, but by their nature (see “patriots”), with the exception of whistleblowers, they can never mean to do wrong (unlike the Chinese, the Russians, etc.). As the president has pointed out, "Every member of Congress has been briefed on [NSA’s] telephone program and the intelligence committees have been briefed on the Internet program, with both approved and reauthorized by bipartisan committees since 2006... If people don't trust Congress and the judiciary then I think we are going to have some problems here.”

U.S. Constitution: A revered piece of paper that no one pays much actual attention to any more, especially if it interferes with American safety from terrorism.

Checks and balances: No longer applicable, except to your bank statement.

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