If you’re a good little citizen who doesn’t make waves and loyally supports whatever the federal government does, always deferring to its authority and trusting its officials, and if you maintain this mindset for the rest of your life, the probability is that you don’t have anything to worry about with respect to the government’s keeping records of your telephone calls, your emails, and other aspects of your private life.
But if you’re the type who has an independent mindset, one that might come to recognize that the warfare state is one great big racket by which power-lusters use federal power to plunder and loot your wealth and income, and if you’re the type of person who might begin objecting to this racket and calling for a restoration of American freedom, then it’s entirely possible that the files that the government is keeping on your private life might come back to haunt you.
Recall what they did to Daniel Ellsberg, the man who disclosed the Pentagon Papers, which revealed that national-security state officials were knowingly lying to the American people about the progress of the Vietnam War. They went after him with everything they could. For revealing their lies, they considered Ellsberg to be a super bad guy, a traitor. He certainly wasn’t a good little citizen who deferred to authority.
So, what did they do?
For one, they had him indicted and tried to send him to jail for a long time.
But that’s not all. They also illegally broke into his psychiatrist’s office with the aim of retrieving his files.
Of course, one might ask, “But Jacob, they wanted Ellsberg’s information in his psychiatrist’s office in order to keep us safe, right?”
Well, actually no. What they wanted those files for was to embarrass, humiliate, and discredit Ellsberg so that people wouldn’t focus on the official lies that he had disclosed. By securing personal and confidential information that Ellsberg had revealed to his psychiatrist and then leaking it to one of their favorite toadies in the press, they planned to say, “Look at the nature of his personal problems. Nothing he says or reveals is worth looking at.”
Equally important, they send a message to all other people who might contemplate blowing the whistle or objecting to government wrongdoing: “Do it, and this is what we will do to you too.”
Recall what happened to Joseph Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame after Wilson publicly revealed that President Bush and his associates were lying about Saddam Hussein’s nuclear capabilities. They dug up Wilson’s and Plame’s deepest secret—that she was a CIA agent. So what did they do? They outed her, thereby destroying her career.
It was a way to punish Wilson for not being a good little citizen, one who defers to authority, one who doesn’t reveal or object to government lies.
Equally important, it was a message to others who might object to the WMD scam that was being used to garner support for the national-security state’s war of aggression against Iraq: “Do this, and we’ll do the same to you that we did to Wilson. We will dig up your secrets and reveal them to the world.”
Obviously, with people’s deepest secrets being vacuumed up and stored in a massive database, they don’t have to do a whole lot of digging. When the time comes that such information is necessary to use, all they have to do is just type in the person’s name into the search field. Voila! Telephone records, emails, telephone recordings, medical records, and lots more.
Let’s say a married CEO of a major corporation has been having an affair with his assistant, one that they have been able to keep secret with secret email accounts. What are the chances that that CEO is going to publicly object to the government’s “request” (read: demand) for his customers’ records? What are the chances that he will join up with libertarians and publicly call for a dismantling of the entire warfare-state racket?
Slim chance indeed, especially when he knows that the government has copies of all his emails and recordings of his telephone calls in its files and knows that the government will not hesitate to furnish such information to one of its toadies in the mainstream press.
That’s the reason that the Cuban communist regime maintains surveillance over all its citizenry. It’s the same for the communist regimes in Vietnam, China, and North Korea. Oh sure, they say that it’s necessary to keep their people safe, just like U.S. national-security state officials do. But what it’s really designed to do is to maintain their tax-and-control racket over the citizenry and to ensure that everyone continues behaving like a good little citizen, one who always defers to authority and never makes waves.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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