Miranda case shows, anti-terrorism laws used against us, not terrorists

Journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, was held on August 19 for nine hours of questioning at London’s Heathrow Airport under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act. Although it was clear that Miranda posed no terrorist threat, his cell phone, laptop, game consoles and camera were confiscated. Under the UK’s controversial Terrorism Act, anyone can be detained for up to nine hours of questioning before they clear customs.

A spokesperson for the Guardian said, “We were dismayed that the partner of a Guardian journalist who has been writing about the security services was detained for nearly nine hours while passing through Heathrow airport. We are urgently seeking clarification from the British authorities.”

According to the UK’s Home Office, “The government and police have a duty to protect the public and our national security.”

Translation: “Protect the public,” “national security” and variation “keep you safe” is doublespeak for “we’re watching you.”

International Big Brother is usually more discreet, but the Snowden revelations have driven him out of the shadows. The security services of the US and our allies are driving us inexorably towards the dystopian society predicted in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

The rationale for anti-terrorism laws is public safety, a trade-off between protection and rights. Yet the anti-terrorism laws which empower security authorities are being abused. The NSA often violates even the secret regime of law established by the FISA Court. GCHQ used the Terrorism Act as a pretense to detain David Miranda at Heathrow. Glenn Greenwald calls it “a failed attempt at intimidation.”

Disregard for the law is not only a betrayal of trust and principle, it nullifies hundreds of years of struggle to secure our civil rights. And what’s more, it’s not keeping us safe either.

In reality, protection and surveillance have little to do with each other. In the military, we learned that there is a difference between guarding and surveilling. Guarding is providing that no harm will come to who or whatever you’re protecting. Surveilling is watching, observing and recording.

The NSA and GCHQ maintain that surveillance is a tool to protect the people from terrorists, when in fact they watch the people like we are the enemy. The laws that our government has put into place serve more to shield itself from public scrutiny than to protect the public.

The question is, when will we recognize that laws disguised as protection from terrorists are actually being used to surveil, gather unlimited information and track us? Lost rights can’t be regained when those in power believe no one is willing to fight for them.

Freedom makes me anxious and the NSA beats Xanax

At Sheremetyevo Airport Edward Snowden reportedly passed the time reading Russian literature, including Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. To my knowledge he hasn’t read Brothers Karamazov, but this quote from a famous section called “The Grand Inquisitor” seems appropriate:

Man is tormented by no greater anxiety than to find someone quickly to whom he can hand over that great gift of freedom with which the ill-fated creature is born.

What else can explain the wholesale embrace of the “keep you safe” NSA surveillance industry among a significant part of the population?

Perhaps party loyalty can as well. New polling numbers from Pew show that major shifts in opinion against NSA surveillance programs and for civil liberties are occurring, except among one group:

The largest changes toward demanding civil liberties protections have occurred among liberal Democrats, Tea Party Republicans, independents and liberal/moderate Republicans. Only self-identified “moderate/conservative Democrats” – the Obama base – remains steadfast and steady in defense of NSA surveillance. The least divided, most-pro-NSA caucus in the House for last week’s vote was the corporatist Blue Dog Democrat caucus, which overwhelmingly voted to protect the NSA’s bulk spying on Americans.

Unwavering devotion to Obama and the Democratic Party leads to a blind, childlike faith capable of rationalizing almost anything.

All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory.  -George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Edward Snowden, Obama’s Great White Waldo–I Mean, Whale

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In the wake of Edward Snowden’s meeting with reps from human rights organizations at Sheremetyevo Airport, the White House and State Department contend that he is not a human rights activist nor a whistle blower. The State Department is reportedly putting the squeeze on Latin America countries which have offered Snowden asylum. Last week the U.S. pressured allies to force the Bolivian president’s plane to land in Austria, a serious breach of international law causing uproar at the U.N. and the removal of South American ambassadors from European embassies. Obama looks increasingly desperate to harpoon the elusive “hacker”.

(h/t @moongoloid)

Photo of the Day: Cold War continues

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Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin both looking a little cranky at the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland on June 17, 2013.

One week later, Putin takes no action when Edward Snowden arrives at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. Snowden’s current whereabouts are unknown.

No leader looked particularly happy after the G8 Summit in this ominous photo:

Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images