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Judith Coburn: Can We be Forgotten Anymore?
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If I had to pick a single moment when I grasped that we were on a new surveillance planet, it would have been the release of the stunning revelations of Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor now in exile in Vladimir Putin’s Russia (and if there isn’t irony in that, please tell me what your definition of irony is). Those revelations seemed to fit all too well with the then-developing picture of twenty-first-century America. You know, the country with those black sites spread around the planet; whose top government officials had “enhanced interrogation techniques” (aka torture) demonstrated to them in the White House (and then authorized their use on actual human beings across that same planet); a country running a series of global kidnapping operations, placing its trust in secret courts, and thoroughly committed not just to the large-scale surveillance of populations, its own included, but to pursuing any whistleblower like Snowden who might want to tell us what was going on.

Back in 2013, when it came to Snowden, I began a piece I called “How to Be a Rogue Superpower” this way: “It’s hard even to know how to take it in. I mean, what’s really happening? An employee of a private contractor working for the National Security Agency makes off with unknown numbers of files about America’s developing global security state on a thumb drive and four laptop computers, and jumps the nearest plane to Hong Kong. His goal: to expose a vast surveillance structure built in the shadows in the post-9/11 years and significantly aimed at Americans. He leaks some of the documents to a columnist at the British Guardian and to the Washington Post. The response is unprecedented: an ‘international manhunt’ (or more politely but less accurately, ‘a diplomatic full court press’) conducted not by Interpol or the United Nations but by the planet’s sole superpower, the very government whose practices the leaker was so intent on exposing.”

In describing a government that was heading into “the shadows” in a way that would have left the founding fathers — those ancient checks-and-balances guys — horrified, I concluded: “It’s eerie that some aspects of the totalitarian governments that went down for the count in the twentieth century are now being recreated in those shadows. There, an increasingly ‘totalistic’ if not yet totalitarian beast, its hour come round at last, is slouching toward Washington to be born, while those who cared to shine a little light on the birth process are in jail or being hounded across this planet.”


And keep in mind that this was years before Donald Trump entered the Oval Office or any of us quite realized that what TomDispatch regular and private investigator Judith Coburn calls “surveillance capitalism,” as well as a planet of hackers, would join that government in creating an unprecedented surveillance culture, one that leaves all of us exposed. Honestly, I’d like to see the novel that George Orwell would write 34 years after 1984. In the meantime, I’ll settle for the vision of our world offered by one private investigator working in the San Francisco Bay area.

  • Goodbye to All That
    A Private Investigator on Living in a Surveillance Culture
    Judith Coburn • August 26, 2018 • 2,700 Words
(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
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  1. It isn’t merely the Snooping State, that’s merely one of their tools. It’s the Soviet-Style media and intelligentsia that controls minds and speech from academia to your very employment that is the actual power. Why, it gets you sent to “sensitivity training”, another word for the old Soviet-Style re-education camps. Straighten out your thinking, or your speech, or you’ll find yourself ruined, maybe even with an insanity label on your back. That’s why everything is hate speech. Hate Speech is the new, Soviet Style crime against the state by which you go to the gulag for your very thoughts, as determined by a judge, appointed and controlled by the State itself, of course.

    From sexual and gender and racial politics to anything that smacks of less than complete and utter fealty to Israel (the biggest racism of all), Americans have to live and work and study under this jackboot. The old Soviets would have been appalled at how complete is the current state of totalitarian domination over us all. It is SO complete, their power so tyrannical, the instruments arrayed against the American people so perfectly aligned and synchronized from above they don’t even bother stopping us from noticing and talking about it.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    , @Ace
  2. Anonymous[142] • Disclaimer says:
    @Jim Christian

    It is SO complete, their power so tyrannical, the instruments arrayed against the American people so perfectly aligned and synchronized from above they don’t even bother stopping us from noticing and talking about it.

    They watch for potential sub-critical mass. When you connect to Unz, a record is kept of the IP address and geographical origin. The timing of posts is monitored, so that within a few weeks they know (or, more correctly, there are records that show) where you sit, and more often than not, a real identifier (such as your in-house email address) of who you are. Name, age, background, affiliations are trivial to obtain from that point.

    The surveillance is not done because you, as an individual, are suspect. It’s done because there is an enormous process- and record-keeping storage system available. They do it just to be thorough. There are telltales for key words and phrases, sure. No big deal, just part of classifying minuscule chunks of data.

    Only a vanishingly-small subset of US (and global) individuals are worth the record-keeping and analysis. But, so what? It’s there and it can be of use.

  3. one question judith!

    if you are actually correct in the omnipotence of the deep state for surveilling and controlling the population how is it that hillary clinton is not president?

    the truth is much simpler, the infamous “THEY” are not onmipotent and might even be actually incompetent.

    look at how the elites have so misjudged russian economic and military power the past dozen years washington now finds itself so far behind russia in missile and ew technonoly and actual latest generation weapons deployed the pentagon dare not pick a fight with moscow lets it go nuclear because its the ONLY way they can now win…. just before dying from the return strike

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  4. Anonymous[262] • Disclaimer says:

    if you are actually correct in the omnipotence of the deep state for surveilling and controlling the population how is it that hillary clinton is not president?

    Easy answer … Trump promised the deep state more than Hillary did. Hill has a thing about personal power and prestige. She thought she had it locked up, and control of the country for the next 50 years through nepotistic political selection. Glorious name going down in history, etc. etc.

    Look at Trump. He has delivered a tax “reform” that mostly enrichens members of the deep state. That is all. Illegal aliens now pour across the border at unprecedented rates. Foreign wars loom ripe for the picking. What the deep state wants, it will get.

    • Replies: @paraglider
  5. @Anonymous

    i have no way if verifying this statement.

    imo there are 2 factions of the deep state in competition. the globalist interventionist faction which off shores jobs and uses the us military as the muscleman to intimidate nations into submission for the benefit of the 1/2 of 1%. the hillary crowd and the ones trying to overthrow trump NOW.

    trumps deep state crowd are america first people who understand we have reached the point where we can have america or an empire but no longer BOTH.

    the trump voter understands this in their guts which is why he was elected.

    its a fight to the death. one side or the other will prevail.

    if the hillary crowd wins america will be destroyed as a viable nation within a 20 years if not less.

    we will be become irretrievably 3rd world with no coming back.

  6. Ace says:
    @Jim Christian

    The House on the Embankment in Moscow in Soviet times was for privileged people but it allowed for human surveillance of the residents and nighttime arrests took place there. Arrests occurred elsewhere based on the work of informants and police, a system perfected later in the GDR.

    It was labor intensive and paper records were the norm. Compare and contrast that with what I found on Google on my “account” when I clicked on “What data we collect” OWTTE. On one day I chose at random I found a map showing the motel I’d stayed at, my automobile route to another city, my detailed movements there, and my destination. All this obviously from my phone. Google didn’t justify its data collection; it just informed me of it. Just one day in my life.

    Around the time of Snowden’s bursting onto the scene, an NSA fellow told of employees being able to listen to stored recordings of phone calls, such as a call between a deployed soldier and his wife with entertaining intimate content. (“There’s a good one at….”)

    All data just there because of astonishing technology routinely employed, and light years from the labor-intensive methods described earlier involving actual human prioritization and limited resources.

    Letter correspondence involves privacy once considered the norm though now the destination and originating addresses for every letter are recorded for posterity (soon to be supplemented by other government license plate readers, high-def surveillance photography, and facial recognition software). Now I understand one has no expectation of privacy in one’s email correspondence because one “knows” that emails are stored at or readable at various transmission without any protective envelope. (I think police must do more than call internet and phone companies and say hand it over but I’m vague on that just now.)

    Let us not forget the enforcement role of government auxiliaries such as Antifa and the JDL who can apply educational muscle and gasoline when needed. Charlottesville was ALL about the Alt Right. And local and state police complicity in Antifa violence was as obvious as it was ignored.

    • Agree: Jim Christian
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