“They’ll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves, an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought,” the whistleblower added. “And that’s a problem, because privacy matters, privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be.”
Privacy does matter, and who do we want to be? We’ve recently learned those choices have become more limited – by government design.
Thanks to the Twitter Files and reporting by The Intercept’s Lee Fang, we now know that if we express certain political opinions, challenge COVID orthodoxy, or are interested in stories about the potentially nefarious business dealings of a first son, among other things, the federal government will not only keep tabs on our private activity, but will now indirectly and even directly censor our public speech on social media.
Facebook and Twitter created special portals for the government to rapidly request takedowns of content. The portals, along with NGO partners used to censor a wide range of content, including obvious parody accounts and content disagreeing w gov pandemic policy. pic.twitter.com/Jth0WUfXAI
— Lee Fang (@lhfang) October 31, 2022
That’s right: We’ve gone from worrying about government spooks peering into our private lives, to the Department of Homeland Security actively taking down Americans’ social media posts they don’t like.
In America. First Amendment who? Constitution what?
Former NSA contractor Snowden sacrificed a great deal to show the world the vast illegal surveillance state the U.S. government had constructed, leading to embarrassed politicians promising reform—even passing legislation that would supposedly do so.
But as the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security co-director Elizabeth Goiten detailed in May (emphasis original), “When Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) had misused foreign intelligence surveillance laws to collect millions of Americans’ phone records, the resulting public outcry eventually led Congress to ban the practice. How would Americans and their lawmakers react if they learned that the government was misusing these powers to access the actual contents of millions of Americans’ communications, without a warrant or even a factual basis to suspect criminal activity?”
“According to a recent government report, that’s exactly what’s happening,” Goiten noted. “The Office of the Director of National Intelligence recently disclosed that in 2021 the FBI conducted up to 3.4 million warrantless searches seeking Americans’ phone calls, emails, and text messages — using a law that, on paper, can only be used to spy on foreigners overseas.”
“The government is conducting warrantless searches of the most sensitive information we generate — our private communications — on a dizzying scale,” she warned. “If anything, that’s an even greater intrusion on Americans’ privacy than the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records.”
Goiten believed that the government report in Spring of 2022 showed even greater abuse than what Snowden had revealed nine years prior.
Do you remember the major blockbuster story last year about this, on par with the Snowden controversy? Yeah, me neither.
It’s as if the political and media establishment have become comfortable with this newly proven reality that our federal government spies, pries, and intervenes in the activities of private citizens at whim all the time. As I noted in a recent BASEDPolitics column, the non-Fox News mainstream media takeaway on the Twitter Files – which clearly showed the Big Tech platform working hand-in-hand with the government to censor users – was that it was no big deal.
The Twitter Files @elonmusk revealed appear to show the FBI, CIA, DHS, the Biden admin and even the Trump admin frequently and aggressively lobbying a major platform to censor speech.
— Hannah Cox (@HannahDCox) December 28, 2022
If the free press doesn’t care to challenge the government, what’s the point of a press? This same useless press seems to have reached the same conclusion about the point of valuing free speech.
Warning about government abuse in 2013, Snowden worried it would worsen and no one would take on this dangerous trend. “I’ve watched, I’ve seen that’s not occurring, and in fact we’re compounding the excesses of prior governments and making it worse and more invasive,” Snowden lamented.
“And no one is really standing to stop it,” he said.
Ten years later, it really is even worse. Edward Snowden’s 2013 leak was worldwide news, but the Big Brother government practices he cast light on back then are even more egregious today. With the federal government now taking an active role in directing Americans’ speech as opposed to just illegally monitoring it. With no big jarring stories about these growing threats to our most basic liberties.
And with no one really standing up to stop it.