Monday, 26 August 2013

Growth of the secret state a global problem

It appears that US authorities were given a heads-up about the UK's planned detention of David Miranda as he was passing through Britain's Heathrow Airport last week. Now, European media have complained to the UK's prime minister, David Cameron, about this unreasonable use of anti-terrorism legislation, being to target journalists. In related news from the Guardian, it appears that the police watchdog has been trying to get information from UK police about its use of the legal instrument in question, schedule 7 of the UK's 2000 anti-terrorism law.

Legal means remain an avenue for the IPCC to take as the police continue to procrastinate and refuse to hand over the relevant information.

The story also mentions measures being considered by the Internet Engineering Task Force, a body that makes internet standards, to use encryption on internet transactions, thus making it harder for entities such as the National Security Agency to snoop on people's internet use. Whistleblower Edward Snowden, who has passed information to Miranda's partner, Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, used to work for the NSA.

Elsewhere, it turns out that the NSA is the US's second-largest employer, with 850,000 on its payroll, placing it just behind retailer Walmart in importance nationally. It's hard to see how the NSA can continue to operate given the size of its workforce, which must function as an inbuilt weak-spot in its system of information control, given that individuals with a conscience, such as Snowden, are likely to continue to emerge in its ranks.

US president Barack Obama has disappointed many supporters because of his record of working against the interests of whistleblowers, a group of people who continue to perform an essential function in democracies worldwide, and also, no doubt, in countries where due to historical precedent or due to adverse contingencies, democracy does not exist. Many have rightly criticised the US president for failing to acknowledge the importance of the actions of individuals who possess a conscience in the effective operation of democracy, given the increase in covert government activity since 9/11.

In Russia, the secret state has already taken over operation of many parts of the state apparatus, giving rise to egregious abuses of power by state actors, corruption on a wide scale, and unreasonable targeting of individuals who show an unwillingness to cooperate with the secret state. The secret state continues to grow in other jurisdictions. Operating partly as the NSA in the US, the secret state has emerged as a severe burden that actively works against the interests of individuals, and that is working to subvert traditional systems for the check of authoritarian power, such as the media.

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