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We Aren't Puppets of the Government
Note: This is a hypothetical speech delivered by Edward Snowden to the citizens of America. It may not accurately reflect Snowden’s actual philosophy; it is my personal interpretation of his motivations. Mr. Snowden did not actually deliver this speech, but its contents are drawn from facts.
Good morning, proud citizens of the United States of America. I stand before all of you today to remind you of one of the biggest issues of the twenty first century.
I have become a man assuming three different identities. Some of you know me as the whistleblower who leaked confidential information about the NSA for the sake of public fame. Some of you know me as a man with the high moral purpose of informing American citizens of the dangers of mass surveillance. Some of you know me as an ordinary man who was sick of hiding the nefarious truth from everybody. Yes, I am Edward Snowden.
Regardless of who you think I am, the facts that I let loose remain true: the NSA was collecting information from the phone calls of thousands of unsuspecting US citizens, and they are continuing to do so today, just using a different process. Under the guise of reform, the government has clothed its surveillance in a different suit. Just because these global violations of privacy aren’t overt doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
So you ask, what exactly is going on, Snowden? Didn’t President Obama change something? He did - but the change is as inconsequential to the ultimate result as changing the colour of a pencil is to the tool’s capability of leaving lead marks on paper. The huge databases full of private information from America’s entire population have simply been relocated from the NSA’s base to the clutches of multiple third parties. The government accesses these bulk records “only after a judicial finding or in the case of a true emergency.”
Unfortunately, the legal definition of a “true emergency” is vague and highly subjective. It is a roundabout way of saying that the government can access private information when it wants to. Our government, although not too great at governing, has a talent for polishing its true intent with fancy words.
Last year, President Obama, currently serving his second term as our official Bystander-in-Chief, delivered a long anticipated speech regarding NSA surveillance. Unsurprisingly, he justified the mass surveillance and protected those actively involved in the collection of data. According to Mr. Big Brother, “…nothing that I have learned since, indicated that our intelligence community has sought to violate the law or is cavalier about the civil liberties of their fellow citizens.” I never knew that the NSA was a collection of saints. I figured that the fact that a federal judge declared the NSA phone program unconstitutional was enough proof to prove the exact contrary.
Our beloved president continued his assertions, adding that “the folks at NSA and other intelligence agencies are our neighbours. They’re our friends and family.” Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think it’s particularly normal for “neighbours” and “friends and family” to send consistent death threats. During the past couple of years I spent undercover, I assure you, there was no shortage in promises to bury me underground and shut my whistle-blowing lips forever. Fortunately, none of those vows were successfully undertaken, or else I wouldn’t be here to deliver this speech to all of you today.
Shortly after I leaked some confidential information about the NSA, the entire nation was interested in mass surveillance. Seeing people ranging from high school students to middle aged salarymen clamour for the proper enforcement of the Fourth Amendment was absolutely exhilarating. It was, and I hope continues to be, strikingly obvious to everyone that collecting the telephone data of countless ordinary citizens with the excuse of addressing hypothetical terrorism is an outright violation of “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”
To my dismay, with the government’s ubiquitous use of meaningless but romantic words like “reform” and “change”, the topic died out of public interest within a handful of months. Top headlines about global surveillance were replaced with superficial ramblings about the next performance on MTV, a topic that apparently piques more interest than the prospect of having personal data insidiously mined by the government. Such phenomena are a sad reflection of our skewed values.
Have we become so inured to the lack of privacy, that this blatant breach of human rights does not bother us anymore? Does it not appall you that, against the wishes of its citizens, the US government insists on indefinitely collecting information from everybody about everything? Why are the news outlets remaining silent about this imminent threat?
Alas! It seems like George Orwell’s prediction for 1984 will be coming true after all, albeit a couple decades late. At this rate, the entire American population will be under complete control within the next decade or two. You think that’s an exaggeration? Well, let’s draw some connections between Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece and modern society. Telescreens? They are the equivalent of CCTVs, albeit more widespread. However, it's only a matter of time before CCTVs are installed in more private areas. Thoughtcrime and the Thought Police? There are already departments specialising in removing “inappropriate” content from the Internet. Too many citizens have been thrown into jail for voicing their thoughts on social media. These incidents have been dismissed far too quickly. I’m not denying that the man who posted a crass post on Facebook about the Boston Marathon is terrible, but should it be so easy to label him a criminal and instantly lower the quality of his career? If posting the wrong thing on your Twitter or Facebook account as a teenager can ruin your future, imagine the potential mass surveillance has for ruining all kinds of lives. How is such censorship different from the job of the Thought Police, which disposes of individuals expressing “subversive” or “inappropriate” thoughts that aren't perfectly align with Big Brother’s doctrine?
Don’t delude yourself, US citizens! Big Brother’s dictatorship is not ludicrous. In fact, America is heading in that exact direction right now. Denying the correlation at this point is refusing to acknowledge reality.
American journalists and authors! Those who take pride in America’s freedom of press! Anybody who even remotely cares about the next generation or your future! Stop caring about Taylor Swift’s new boyfriend for a moment and look around. A basic human entitlement - basic privacy - is being eroded by the day. Do you not think that it is a matter deserving more attention?
I remember, during an interview with the Guardian, I said, “I’m willing to sacrifice…because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”
I still remain true to that statement. We may be fallible, gullible, and ignorant. However, I still hold faith in humanity. Together, we can prove George Orwell wrong. No, we must prove George Orwell wrong. Let’s show the entire world that citizens aren’t weak puppets that allow the government to pull the strings.