Run to the corner and hide, there is no hope we are all in grave danger. Trust the news!
Go ahead huddle in the corner, bite your fingernails, turn pale and shiver. Make sure you are curled into a fetal position. You’ll be less exposed to the elements, and therefore, safer.
Actually, no, recent information has come to light that the NSA has been snooping on American citizens in the interest of keeping us safe. This being the case there is no need for the fetal position. It’s okay, you can come out now! The government has got you covered! There is certainly no way they are taking advantage of the fact that they have such access. I mean they have oversight… right?
There is fortunately an outcry over what has been revealed and a conversation created which is excellent. A conversation unfortunately then turned into the dead-end argument of “Do we want to be kept safe or not?” and then turned into a hide-and-seek report-back of “Where is Edward Snowden now?” The proper discussion to have is actually “How much oversight do those with surveillance access have as they carry out their duties?” No matter what, the conversation of our approach and handling of the “threat of terrorism” is an important one to have. The country doesn’t always react in such a productive manner though. Our reaction to the Boston Bombing was one such example.
Maybe two months ago I was on the train in New York and it had to stop for about 10 minutes in the station because of a “suspicious package.” I know the train was stopped for this reason because the conductor walked through the car 5 minutes into the stop and asked “Has anyone seen a bag that does not belong to them?”
I’ll guess and say this probably happened to a few other people who might have not thought anything of it at all. They also evacuated the Port Authority bus terminal because of a “suspicious package” that apparently looked like a “box of grenades.” I feel like we are drastically overreacting to the potential for terrorism.
While I do not aim to dismiss what happened there at all; we need to reevaluate our reaction to the Boston bombing. It was horrible, and having connection with the Boston marathon I was shaken by the news on a personal level. Understand I do not think we live in a utopian society where there is never any legitimate threat of terrorism. What I do think is we were scared by the news, at first, and then by the following hype. (This hype includes the mainstream media’s sensationalized coverage of the bombing’s aftermath; but also of the people trying to explain exactly what happened that day despite their never having been to Boston once.) News coverage, the inevitable conspiracy theories, and the heightened security state pumped down our throats all fit into the category of “hype surrounding the Boston Marathon.”
To build the hype were many comparisons between the Boston bombing and 9/11.
Anyone who compares the two without any sense of humor really needs to step back a bit. How many people died or were injured on 9/11 and its aftermath? How many died or were injured in the Boston bombings? There is no point in even referencing figures in this case because we all know the casualties from 9/11 were exponentially worse. People are still facing respiratory problems, depression, insomnia, and many other things just for having worked in the area or for helping with rescue efforts after 9/11. I still see ads about this 12 years later on the subway. How many people present at the Boston bombing can claim those same ailments?
Our reaction to the Boston Bombing was exacerbated by the war on terror. Case and point: the below photos of the scene in Times Square maybe 2 hours after the Bombing had occurred:
Let’s remind ourselves of the location of the bombing that day: Boston
Let’s recognize exactly where the police and news crews are in the above photos: Times Square, New York.
Why did they need to assemble so many officers in Times Square, the most heavily fortified and surveyed place in New York, for something that happened in Boston? Why did there need to be a news crew present? (FYI I did ask the news crew if they were there for the Boston Bombing and they replied “yes.”). Doesn’t the news have better things to do than cover the Boston Bombing from Times Square, in New York? (Keep that question rhetorical )
There were also helicopters hovering above New York for the rest of the day into the night.
New York essentially went to Code Red terror alert for something drastically smaller than the attacks on 9/11, in a location 200 miles away. Considering New York’s exposure and experiences with terrorist attacks 12 years prior on 9/11 it seems to me we overreacted just a bit. The country didn’t suddenly become vulnerable over night to the forces of terror, and evil, plotting to destroy “the very principles of freedom and democracy we cherish.”
It was a great opportunity for media sensationalism though.
The NYPD discussed the need to ramp up security as well. In fact, this article from The Daily News was entitled “‘We’re going to have more visibility and less privacy’: Mayor Bloomberg admits soon NYPD surveillance cameras will be on nearly every corner and in the air.” By the way, that article and the Mayor are saying they will be adding more surveillance to what is already in place.
What is in place already? Have a look!
This is a CBS news report on the largest surveillance center in the nation already in operation in New York (a news report from before the Boston bombing). If you watch until the end of the news report you find the reason for the report is to ask for more funding to get more surveillance equipment. Do they really need that much surveillance as it is? Do we really have such a deep-seated mistrust of our neighbors, and the world, that we need to have a Panopticon in New York City for the police to watch over the very citizens paying taxes to keep the system running (in the off-chance they find something worth chasing after)? Can we really afford to put so much effort into surveillance and the war on terror (to “keep us safe”) when doing so has prevented the proper resources from being put towards prosecuting the financial crimes which led to the 2008 crash?
And just to throw it out there can we really put all this money into surveillance and the War on Terror at the expense of other things such as “the inevitable” closing of 20 public schools two years in a row in New York? Or 50 public schools in one year in Chicago?
Realize, the state has no problem asking for money to watch its people and “keep them safe;” but balks at the idea of using the money for better education and complains about the deficit, or poor student performance as an excuse. It also balks at the idea of prosecuting the financial crimes of bankers who very likely are profiting in some way from the War on Terror. Had more money gone towards education it’s very likely student performance would improve. A more educated population would likely know what is necessary to “keep themselves safe” without spending millions (?) to watch themselves. Finally, if we prosecuted financial crimes which led to the 2008 crash we would have seen repercussions for the bankers. So far there has been no accountability for the bankers and they actually became more powerful. Furthermore, they are still giving out bad loans. I, for one, am expecting some deja vu sooner or later…
We’ve been at war now for 12 years.
Even after 9/11 we were never up against an enemy with even near the same military capacity as the United States. Nevertheless we leveled two very small countries: One of which for essentially no reason (besides assuring oil wasn’t traded in Euros), the other because there were some terrorist cells there (nothing though with even close to the pervasiveness portrayed by the media). That was the first 8 years under President George W. Bush. Then came the Obama Presidency and the (expanded upon) drone program which has killed countless civilians overseas. See this article from Scientific American for information on US drone strikes in Pakistan alone. In the article is a link to an infographic on the extents of the drone program (roughly 3100 non-high profile targets killed and the number may have risen since then).
The above article and infographic, though accurate, were nonetheless cold, statistical and not terribly insightful as far as anything past an illustration that the United States is killing people needlessly. Not particularly moving. How about viewing this from another perspective? That of a Yemeni man, who had the benefit of an American education, speaking on the horrors of drone strikes against his village and the seething anger towards America which these strikes are cultivating…
The village the man came from actually had a decent opinion of America because of that man’s sharing his positive experiences of America with them. One drone strike and now the village hates us…
Based on that man’s testimony, and the stats on casualties in Pakistan alone, we have an idea of how much danger the country is in from the forces of terror and evil. There is certainly anger towards the United States in the world; some of which we may have created ourselves. Are we in as much danger as the media and government officials have described? My opinion: no. Well, at least nothing we’re not harvesting ourselves, ironically.
Watch this clip from The Real News as they discuss how former government officials say the US’s foreign policy is making US less safe:
There has been a great deal of propaganda to justify the above mentioned foreign efforts to “keep us safe” or to misdirect our attention from them. As a result there was little reaction to the procedural response of the authorities to the Boston Bombing. It’s worth asking why (after the bombing) the FBI got a chance to flex their muscles in, and shut down, Watertown in search of the bomber on the run. Yes, let’s repeat that. Actually, why not just quote wikipedia: “On the scene were the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Guard, the Boston and Watertown Police departments and the Massachusetts State Police. The show of force was the first major field test of the interagency task forces created in the wake of the September 11 attacks.” All this to search for one person.
Does that sound excessive to anyone else? I’m no expert on the tactics and procedures involved in, and required for, a manhunt. However, when you are only looking for one person wouldn’t a small team of police officers (not the military) accompanied by a police dog be sufficient to find one person? Even just from speaking in the defense of the Boston PD; one would think their officers are more than capable of finding one dude on the run. One dude on the run mind you, who wasn’t being given safe haven by anyone, anywhere. It would have been very hard to find one Bostonian who didn’t want this person in handcuffs and willing to help the Police in their search. Still… sending in the FBI, the military, a few other agencies and then declaring curfews makes perfect sense? Yes, okay fine, they found the bomber quicker because they didn’t have to navigate pedestrian or vehicle traffic… I suppose I can see how that justifies the tactics and procedures carried out… sarcasm…
May as well also show the video of a home being raided as police hunted for this one person.
About a minute-and-a-half in is when the fun begins. (There have been debates of whether or not this and other instances like it were violations of our 4th Amendment protection from illegal searches.)
Later the bomber on the run was captured and the media showed Boston in celebration from the terror of this one person. Was anyone shaken by the use of federal muscle though? If no one was bothered by the extent federal muscle used, I might say the terrorists won in Boston.
Now we’ve analyzed the state’s response to terrorism, let’s look at a more reasonable approach; courtesy of the Illuminator and some activists in New York:
Two different events were held as bookends to the week following the Boston Bombing. The first event was a projection of slides onto the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York with the word “Love” glowing below the building. This event took place at night on the same day as the Boston Bombing.
The slides read “Brooklyn Loves Boston,” “Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” And a few more choice phrases.
Does it sound idealistic and naive to have shown these slides on the night of such a shocking event? Well this is what one of the organizers had to say about it:
A few days later as Watertown was put on lockdown and the manhunt to catch the single bomber on the run was being carried out the Illuminator shined again. This time it was in Manhattan and in the neighborhood, Chelsea.
Check out some of their projections:
As people came by I asked what they thought of the projections, the message behind them, and the comparison to how the media went about the Boston Bombing.
First were two women from Australia.
Second was a random passerby from the neighborhood.
The message here is to talk about the issues and not rush to conclusions. To think before we draw our guns, and go invading another place on the basis of fighting terrorism (which is like fighting a human emotion) or “spreading democracy” (which we never end up doing).
The war on terror has been going on since the 9/11 attacks, and many of those who supported it at first are probably starting to think that it may be starting to drag on a bit. We’ve pulled out of Iraq, but we’re still at war in other countries, in April we deployed troops to Jordan hinting at involvement in Syria, and many troops (in general) probably want to come home by now. When is it slated to end. Well, not anytime soon… “A spokeswoman, Army Col. Anne Edgecomb, clarified…the conflict is likely to last 10 to 20 more years from today – atop the 12 years that the conflict has already lasted. Welcome to America’s Thirty Years War.”
And where will this “thirty-years war” be fought? Well, at home and abroad; supporting and defending the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic (to quote the United States Uniformed Services oath of office). Except as recent documents have exposed the majority of the threat is now… apparently… at home. At home and amongst the citizenry of the nation as the documents which Edward Snowden leaked have revealed. The defense for this “surveillance for domestic threats” has been that it will stop terrorism or help make connections to find terrorists. However, this article from beforeitsnews.com explains how most US Surveillance is actually not aimed at terrorists.
From the above referenced article, “Websites aimed at attracting traffic do their best to get noticed, paying to tailor their content to the real or perceived requirements of search engines such as Google. Terrorists have no such ambitions. They prefer to lurk in the dark recesses of the Undernet.”
An official from the Netherlands security service commented, “People who radicalise under the influence of jihadist websites often go through a number of stages…Their virtual activities increasingly shift to the invisible Web, their security awareness increases and their activities become more conspiratorial.”
With this in mind it seems important to question the current narrative being supplied by the media. Should our concern be the unanswerable, and loaded, question of: “Should we fight terrorism?” Or rather: “Who is providing the necessary oversight over the NSA as they carry out their surveillance, and is it effective in checking the power of those with access?” Expanding on that “What or who is keeping those with access to this information from using it in a malicious or abusive manner?” “Could those with access to this info be selling it to third parties?” Speaking of third parties why is the government contracting out the data to private companies (Snowden worked for Booze Allen analyzing data)? Shouldn’t they analyze the information themselves? Also, based on the above information in the article from beforeitsnews.com. Is the NSA even looking in the right places to stop terrorism?
Read this article for a quick synopsis of what Edward Snowden released. A program called PRISM was one thing which Edward Snowden leaked. For a visual representation of what exactly PRISM was check out these slides.
Now to be fair there has been a great deal of hype, as usual, surrounding what was leaked. This hype has led to paranoia, which has also led to some exaggerations (if that’s even possible) with regards to what Snowden revealed.
Read Fact and Fiction in the NSA Surveillance Scandal for more info.
Now remembering I said earlier the US was surveying its own people to keep its own people safe. Well the buck doesn’t stop there. We also like snooping on foreign officials too!
New NSA leaks show how US is bugging its European allies. Well that should help trade negotiations blossom!
That as well as 5 more points are discussed in this article.
As a result of the war on terror surveillance has found a specific target amongst Muslim groups. There is another group though which is not discussed at all though “the proliferation of white supremacist groups. This movement not only openly espouses racist and xenophobic goals, but has also effectively executed the most savage attacks on innocent Americans during this past year.” Is the definition of terrorism specific to acts committed by Muslims only?
Finally it’s time to address the biggest question which should be addressed in the whole NSA scandal. It’s not a question of keeping us safe. Rather it’s a question of the oversight the NSA is getting. Even President Obama has said “We’ve got congressional oversight and judicial oversight,”
Maybe but it doesn’t seem like it: “the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), which was created in 1979 to oversee Department of Justice requests for surveillance warrants against foreign agents suspected of espionage or terrorism in the United States. But the FISC has declined just 11 of the more than 33,900 surveillance requests made by the government in 33 years, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. That’s a rate of .03 percent, which raises questions about just how much judicial oversight is actually being provided.” (See source)
Granted 33 years is a long time but still, when just 11 out of 33,900 requests get declined, I’d love to know what those 11 requests were for.
It’s important for me to stress that I do not think we live on a utopian planet. There are people who want to hurt others and I do want to see those people stopped. Example, the United States in hinting at involvement in the Syrian civil war. Am I happy to know that Syria is dealing with a civil war? No. Would I support United States’ involvement in Syria should we go to help them find peace amidst a civil war, and actually help bring about democracy there? Yes, I certainly would support a humanitarian effort like that. That’s not the intention though. US involvement is based on aiding the lesser of two geopolitical evils there. Our involvement in Iraq under George H. W. Bush which included our initial, more friendly relationship, with Saddam Hussein was the same circumstance. As was our initial support for the Taliban. Therefore, based on our track record, I’m against involvement there and think we should focus on the problems at home instead.
Another scary bit of current events is the recent break out of 500 Al-Quaeda members from Abu-Ghraib. Do I worry about where these Al-Quaeda members may go now? Yes. Am I concerned they may organize to attack us again using the hatred of America that has come as a result of our drone strikes? Yes. Do I think more drone strikes would be the solution to this concern? No. Drone strikes have caused far more damage than good. The concept of “fighting terror” with drone strikes is not working but instead is actually terrorism, in itself, to the innocent civilian victims of the strikes. It’s time for a new solution…
If what has caused so much hatred of America across the world is our foreign policy of intervention with much collateral damage where we are not wanted (something which pre-dates 9/11 by the way) and imperialism; the solution to the problem is not more of the same. I feel some risks need to be taken and maybe we shouldn’t keep sending troops across the globe, combined with an enhanced “security state” at home, and more drone strikes abroad. There must be another way of addressing the hatred the world feels towards us than by using the same tactics which also help to pad the pockets of military contractors like Boeing, General Electric, Lockheed Martin and others.
Ironically, I believe Dwight D. Eisenhower (something of a proponent of the military industrial complex) said it best:
“Preventive war was an invention of Hitler. Frankly, I would not even listen to anyone seriously that came and talked about such a thing.”
The War on Terror, drone strikes, and the NSA surveillance are examples of measures taken to carry out a preventative war which the tax payer is funding.
So the next time you see this, remember:
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