Fallout Continues in the Wake of Snowden Leak:

More NSA Spy Crimes, More U.S. Lies

August 25, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


In June 2013, the UK Guardian newspaper revealed shocking information about U.S. government surveillance. Edward Snowden, a former CIA contractor, courageously leaked documents about the National Security Agency (NSA), exposing that the U.S. is carrying out the biggest, most invasive surveillance program in the world.

"The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism. What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism."

BAsics 1:3

The fallout from this has been huge and has continued to grow, causing MAJOR problems for the United States. In the face of millions outraged at this spying, the rulers of the U.S. have been engaged in high-stakes damage control and been put on the defensive. And the more that has been revealed about this spying, what stands out is: 1) How massive and in many cases how illegal this surveillance is; 2) How Obama and other representatives of the U.S. ruling class have and continue to LIE and LIE about all this;


3) The U.S. government has no plans whatsoever to curtail these massive spy operations—either internationally or domestically. The U.S. is going after Snowden with the vengeance of an imperialist hitman set on protecting its empire—its message to those who have given him or considered giving him asylum has been, "Give us Snowden, or else." Meanwhile, the U.S. is plowing full-steam ahead with further plans for even more colossal spying. For example, the NSA is scheduled to open a $1.5 billion facility in Utah that will house a 100,000 sq. ft. "mission-critical data center."

Why This System Needs Massive Surveillance

The first reports in June exposed how the FBI and the NSA had obtained a secret warrant ordering Verizon—one of the nation's largest phone networks—to turn over data on every single call that went through its system. There was every reason to believe that information had been collected about all phone calls made by U.S. citizens except for the actual words exchanged. According to the Guardian, a hundred-billion pieces of intelligence were collected from U.S. computer networks in one 30-day period ending in March 2013, from people in other countries around the world. (Glenn Greenwald, Guardian, June 11, 2013)

Now people are being told this spying is to "keep America safe"—that to get the "bad guys" in the "war on terror," you have to target the whole haystack to get to the needle hidden inside. But this massive spying is NOT just aimed at potential "terrorists," the "needles in the haystack."

This capitalist-imperialist system oppresses and exploits people here and all over the globe; carries out unjust wars, kills innocent people with drones, destroys the environment, backs dictatorial regimes, incarcerates more than 2.3 million people in the U.S. Its morality and culture have produced an epidemic of rape... and more. THIS is why the U.S. rulers sees the vast majority of people on the planet—including those right within its own borders—as potential threats.

And so, this spying is aimed at billions of people in the U.S. and all around the world who the rulers of this system consider potential enemies. Some of those people are reactionary Islamic fundamentalist forces. Some of this spying is aimed at rival global or regional powers with whom the U.S. is contending for domination. Some is aimed at allies, who the U.S. "trusts" the way a big time mob boss trusts his underlings.

This is why the U.S. maintains such intense and broad surveillance. And this spying is not just about monitoring everyone's thoughts and actions (which is bad enough), it is also about CONTROLLING everyone's activity, communications, and thinking. It is about being able to bring the full power of the state down on people at a moment's notice.

This is why Obama and others in the U.S. ruling class are so desperate to cover up what Snowden has exposed—because of what it reveals about the nature of this system.

More Lies and Denials

The day of the first Guardian exposure, Obama said: "With respect to the internet and emails, this doesn't apply to U.S. citizens and it doesn't apply to people living in the United States." At a Congressional hearing, also in June, when NSA Deputy Director John Inglis was asked if the NSA listened to phone calls or read the emails of U.S. citizens, he said, "We do not target the content of U.S. person communications without a specific warrant anywhere on the earth." And later, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Diane Feinstein, sent a letter to constituents saying: "[T]he government cannot listen to an American's telephone calls or read their emails without a court warrant issued upon a showing of probable cause."

More recently, on August 6, Obama appeared on the Tonight Show and told Jay Leno, "We don't have a domestic spying program..."

These were all unabashed LIES, told with the utter arrogance of rulers of an empire used to carrying out all kinds of crimes, all over the world, and getting away with them all the time—but also with the annoyance of being caught.

August 8, two days after Obama appeared on the Tonight Show, the New York Times reported, based on documents leaked by Snowden, that "The National Security Agency is searching the contents of vast amounts of Americans' e-mail and text communications into and out of the country, hunting for people who mention information about foreigners under surveillance, according to intelligence officials." And the Guardian explained how a "glossary document" is issued to operatives in the NSA's Special Operations Division, which runs the PRISM program that authorizes searches of email and text of "both American citizens and foreigners located in the U.S."

In other words, the NSA is taking a guideline about foreign targets, who must be non-U.S. citizens and outside the U.S.—and saying that U.S. citizens who are communicating with such "targets" are also fair game for being targeted for surveillance. And in the course of that, the NSA can also gather all kinds of other communications between that person and other people in the United States. So, while NSA analysts are not supposed to "target" U.S. citizens, they do this "through the back door." And they do so without any warrant. The NSA regularly and systematically seizes people's emails and examines their contents if they contain any one of an unknown number of "target" words. And a person doesn't even have to be in contact with someone who the NSA is targeting for surveillance to have his communications read. If the person just mentions the name of the targeted group or any word associated with that group, this is enough for them to have their email surveilled.

Why do Obama and all the other major representatives of the U.S. ruling class keep lying about all this spying? Because the massive nature of their spying discredits their stated reasons for doing it—that this is just carefully focused surveillance on a few people actively preparing to carry out terrorist acts.

The fact that Edward Snowden's revelations have exposed so much of what is going on seriously undercuts the credibility of a foundational, cohering myth about the USA: that the U.S. is a "democracy with liberty and justice for all." And the revelations of massive global spying expose the self-righteous claims that the U.S. stands apart from and above its rivals (like Russia and China) as a champion of free speech, unfettered discourse on the Internet, and an opponent of Big Brother repression.

In a time of great global turmoil, this is not tolerable to those who sit atop a world of sweatshops and slums, ghettos and prisons. That is why Obama and the rest of the ruling class are so desperate to lie about, cover up, and shut down exposures of their massive spying, even as—by the nature of their system—they are driven to spy on everyone.

Big Contradictions, Big Stakes

The U.S. has been caught and exposed red-handed by the actions of Snowden and this has set in motion a train of events that no one could have predicted. These revelations have had and are having a huge effect on public opinion in the United States and internationally.

At a press conference on August 9, Obama addressed NSA surveillance, saying, "I'm also mindful of how these issues are viewed overseas because American leadership around the world depends upon the example of American democracy and American openness. In other words, it's not enough for me, as president, to have confidence in these programs. The American people need to have confidence in them, as well."

Obama had to speak to the tremendous outrage at the extent of the U.S. government's intrusions into people's privacy, both here and around the world. He basically acknowledged that what has been revealed—the massive and illegal surveillance the U.S. is carrying out against billions of people around the world—is making the U.S. look bad and eroding the "confidence" people have in America. And in spite of the very real power the U.S. has, including their ability to basically dictate to other countries, they do NOT have everything under control. And in fact the U.S. rulers are responding to the Snowden leaks with some real necessity to protect the needs of their system.

What the NSA is doing IS criminal. Millions of people are now learning that "their government" routinely spies on them. And some sections of people are being alarmed, jolted, and outraged about this system in a new way.

Obama's statement also acknowledged that NSA spying has now become a major international issue—with all kinds of collateral effects. In this same press conference, Obama announced how he was canceling his meeting with Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, a decision that was clearly influenced by Russia's decision to grant Snowden temporary asylum. The leaked documents have had fallout with regard to rivalry between the U.S. and China as well—Snowden first went to Hong Kong. Exposure of U.S. spying on governments in Western Europe has caused new strains, even as revelations about spying by those governments have also come out. And the Chinese and Russian ruling classes are seeking to gain advantage—accusing the U.S. of hypocrisy with respect to upholding citizens' rights to privacy and condemned the U.S. for spying with regard to international diplomacy.

For years the U.S. imperialists have prattled on about the "empowering" and "democratic" essence of the Internet and how great it is that U.S. citizens have access to it—while people in China are subjected to Big Brother. But now, we find that the U.S. has been conducting the largest illegal electronic surveillance and eavesdropping in modern history. And guess what? Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple, etc. are all "enablers."

Snowden has found temporary asylum in Russia—another country the U.S. has branded as "enemies" of open and protected speech. And U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was compelled to promise "no torture" and "no death penalty" if he came back. What an exposure of the U.S.!

The Obama administration is in a tight spot. On the one hand, the NSA spying revelations have had damaging consequences. They have caused a great public outcry and these revelations are playing into great power rivalry. On the other hand, the U.S. imperialists have big plans to expand the scope of the NSA operations. This is critical to their whole strategy for maintaining U.S. dominance in the world—including their ability to control and repress people within the U.S.—and waging "their endless wars" under the banner of the "war against terror."


The U.S. imperialist system needs to spy on the people it exploits and oppresses all around the world and here in the United States. And now, because of the heroic actions of Edward Snowden, people are learning just how pervasive, illegal, and illegitimate this surveillance actually is.

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