The Washington Post [on Monday] has a long profile of Gen. Keith Alexander, director the NSA, and it highlights the crux - the heart and soul - of the NSA stories, the reason Edward Snowden sacrificed his liberty to come forward, and the obvious focal point for any responsible or half-way serious journalists covering this story. It helpfully includes that crux right in the headline, in a single phrase:
For NSA chief, terrorist threat drives passion to "collect it all," observers say.What does "collect it all" mean? Exactly what it says; the Post explains how Alexander took a "collect it all" surveillance approach originally directed at Iraqis in the middle of a war, and thereafter transferred it so that it is now directed at the US domestic population as well as the global one:
"At the time, more than 100 teams of US analysts were scouring Iraq for snippets of electronic data that might lead to the bomb-makers and their hidden factories. But the NSA director, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, wanted more than mere snippets. He wanted everything: Every Iraqi text message, phone call and e-mail that could be vacuumed up by the agency's powerful computers.Aside from how obviously menacing and even creepy it is to have a state collect all forms of human communication - to have the explicit policy that literally no electronic communication can ever be free of US collection and monitoring - there's no legal authority for the NSA to do this.
"'Rather than look for a single needle in the haystack, his approach was, 'Let's collect the whole haystack,' said one former senior US intelligence official who tracked the plan's implementation. 'Collect it all, tag it, store it. . . . And whatever it is you want, you go searching for it. . . . .
"It also encapsulated Alexander's controversial approach to safeguarding Americans from what he sees as a host of imminent threats, from terrorism to devastating cyberattacks.
"In his eight years at the helm of the country's electronic surveillance agency, Alexander, 61, has quietly presided over a revolution in the government's ability to scoop up information in the name of national security. And, as he did in Iraq, Alexander has pushed hard for everything he can get: tools, resources and the legal authority to collect and store vast quantities of raw information on American and foreign communications."
~ from The Crux of the NSA Story in One Phrase: 'Collect It All' by Glenn Greenwald ~
If nothing else, this doctrine of "All Inclusive" underscores the unhealthy marriage of an out-of-control Executive Branch with the sliminess of corporate capitalism. Whether we're talking about government-backed spooks or the typical manner in which big business operates, both entities want to enjoy unfettered domination with little oversight and almost no inherent responsibilities.
The Executive Branch -- through its designee, the NSA -- claims to hold the unilateral power to abrogate the 4th and 5th Amendments of the US Constitution as well as any law or regulation that seeks to constrain it. In this new world, the privacy of citizens no longer exists, but almost everything the Executive Branch does is private by its very nature. And so, every shred of data or communication that originates from us is seizable, but almost anything the Executive Branch does is shrouded in secrecy.
It is bad enough that the Executive Branch under the tutelage of Dubya and Obama has become the enemy of freedom and democracy, but all they have done is to take a page from the playbook of Corporate America. This is the way the titans of capital have behaved for a long time.
In a recent case heard before the US Supreme Court, a particular company sought the ability to patent human DNA! From their standpoint, every minute piece of our bodies was open game for their private profits. This company was not asking to patent merely a specific strand or two of DNA, but sought the ability to patent all of it!
Fortunately for us -- at least in the short-term -- the often conservative court threw up a major roadblock. As explained at Wikipedia, the court held that
Naturally occurring DNA sequences, even when isolated from the body, cannot be patented, but artificially created DNA is patent eligible because it is not naturally occurring.
Take a look at what Monsanto is trying to do -- rather successfully, I might add -- where it concerns seeds used in agriculture. This agricultural giant wants to corner the market on seeds. If you plant a crop, then they want you to be forced to buy seeds from them. And since they are tinkering with the genetic makeup of seeds, they stand a good chance of wiping out all non-patented seeds by the end of the century.
You see, this is THE overarching goal of capitalism: monopoly. In the perfect capitalistic world, the financial titans are able to wipe out all competition, so that one behemoth per industry or sector is left standing. This behemoth becomes the master and the rest of us its slaves. We must live on THEIR terms. If we try to stand against them, they have the capability to squash us like bugs.
While both the Executive Branch and the capitalist class mouth the words democracy and freedom, they don't favor either in terms of anyone but themselves. They want unfettered freedom to do whatever they want without the constraints of even a modicum of responsibility. For the rest of us -- the unwashed masses -- the formula is just the opposite. Our freedoms are constrained, while our responsibilities are myriad.
Is the kind of world you signed up for?