Glenn Greenwald writes today that there is “sweet justice” in seeing the stars of America’s national security establishment are being devoured by out-of-control surveillance.

it appears that the FBI not only devoted substantial resources, but also engaged in highly invasive surveillance, for no reason other than to do a personal favor for a friend of one of its agents, to find out who was very mildly harassing her by email…not only did the FBI – again, all without any real evidence of a crime – trace the locations and identity of Broadwell and Petreaus, and read through Broadwell’s emails (and possibly Petraeus’), but they also got their hands on and read through 20,000-30,000 pages of emails between Gen. Allen and Kelley.

This is a surveillance state run amok. It also highlights how any remnants of internet anonymity have been all but obliterated by the union between the state and technology companies.

But, as unwarranted and invasive as this all is, there is some sweet justice in having the stars of America’s national security state destroyed by the very surveillance system which they implemented and over which they preside. As Trevor Timm of the Electronic Frontier Foundation put it this morning: “Who knew the key to stopping the Surveillance State was to just wait until it got so big that it ate itself?”

Now, the serious bit.

…The US operates a sprawling, unaccountable Surveillance State that – in violent breach of the core guarantees of the Fourth Amendment – monitors and records virtually everything even the most law-abiding citizens do. Just to get a flavor for how pervasive it is, recall that the Washington Post, in its 2010 three-part “Top Secret America” series, reported: “Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications.”

… the Obama administration has spent the last four years aggressively seeking to expand that Surveillance State, including by agitating for Congressional action to amend the Patriot Act to include Internet and browsing data among the records obtainable by the FBI without court approval and demanding legislation requiring that all Internet communications contain a government “backdoor” of surveillance.

Based on what is known, what is most disturbing about the whole Petraeus scandal is not the sexual activities that it revealed, but the wildly out-of-control government surveillance powers which enabled these revelations. What requires investigation here is not Petraeus and Allen and their various sexual partners but the FBI and the whole sprawling, unaccountable surveillance system that has been built.

I wonder if the powerful of DC will think “there but for the grace of God go I” and finally act to curb the surveillance state built up under cover of the Great War On Terror. I won’t be holding my breath – sociopaths and narcissists never think they’ll be the ones to get caught.

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Steve Hynd

Most recently I was Editor in Chief of The Agonist from Feb 2012 to Feb 2013. My blogging began at Newshoggers and I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with some great writers there and around the web ever since, including at Crooks & Liars. I'm a late 40′s, Scottish ex-pat, now married to a wonderful Texan, with Honours in Philosophy from Univ. of Stirling, UK 1986. I worked most of life in business insurance industry (fire, accident, liability) including 12 years as a broker/underwriter/correspondent at Lloyd’s of London. Being from the other side of the pond, my political interests tend to focus on how US foreign policy affects the rest of the planet. Other interests include early and dark-ages British history, literature and cognitive philosophy/science.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • There wouldn’t be much, if any, “there bug for the grace of God…” going around in DC… They’re sociopaths, but not necessarily paranoid.

    So far, evidence suggests the arrogant presumption that nobody is watching what they’re doing, or nobody would dare call them out on it

  • No need to “curb” the surveillance state. I suspect this is just an instance where some of the surveilers got out of control and ignored the the immunity implicitly offered to certain actors. Instead of “curbing” surveillance the security state will strengthen the internal safeguards. If/when things die down the investigators who violated the unwritten rules will be punished.

    In the early ’70s I was in the Water Department in Kansas City. For a time I was involved in turning off delinquent accounts. The computers downtown randomly and impartially picked accounts to be turned off from the long list of long-time unpaid bills. Occasionally, someone would make a mistake and give those of us who were to do the actual turnoffs an account with a special account number which indicated immunity. Seeing one of those special account numbers would prompt most of us to race across town to shut the water of a city counsel member or an ex-mayor (Some of these people owed thousands of dollars). We were almost always called off by the dispatcher over the radio. A friend of mine did succeed one time in turning off the house of an ex-mayor. Everyone congratulated him as he was fired within hours.

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