Massive Spying on Everyone: “The Price of Being a Superpower”

September 15, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


An article in the New York Times (September 6, 2013), headlined “N.S.A. Able to Foil Basic Safeguards of Privacy on Web,” contained yet more revelations about how obscenely invasively the United States government spies on the private communications of hundreds of millions of people in the USA and billions around the world.

Material made available by Edward Snowden reveals that on top of its massive budget of billions and billions of dollars, the NSA spent billions of dollars “lobbying” (some Internet companies describe this as bullying) for rules and regulations that make it easier for the NSA to hack into what people assume and have been assured are secure and confidential email communications with their doctor, their bank, or their professional colleagues.

This includes the ability to hack into and access anyone’s confidential medical records in real time, which brings to mind how during the antiwar protests of the 1970s, the government broke into the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist to get information to harm or blackmail him as he was exposing covered-up material about what the United States was doing in Vietnam and its impact on people there. Now the government is doing this to everyone and doesn’t have to worry about being caught in the act.

And the New York Times article notes that much of this was attempted under President Clinton with the so-called “clipper chip.” That was an overt, public attempt to institutionalize government access to private, secure information. It set off widespread outrage. So instead, the government has implemented the same invasive technology, and worse, but covertly, lying to people and keeping secret what they are doing.

If you want to understand what all this government spying is REALLY all about, the “bottom line” in the strategic calculations of those who rule this country, listen to ruling class analysts when they talk to each other. A 2007 NSA document quoted in the Times made this assessment: “In the future, superpowers will be made or broken based on the strength of their cryptanalytic programs.” And, “It is the price of admission for the U.S. to maintain unrestricted access to and use of cyberspace.”

Revolution has continued to argue that the massive spying by the U.S. revealed by Snowden and others has nothing to do with the “tradeoff” between “security and privacy.” OK, there is an incidental aspect to what the ruling class is doing with all this spying that has an element of detecting potential terrorist plots, but even that is only to the extent, and in the context of, a whole array of moves to enforce the USA as a superpower. Come on! Does the government having real-time access to your or anyone else’s confidential medical records make you safer? And for that matter, what does hacking trade secrets from allies (practically every country—Mexico and Brazil are among the latest to protest U.S. government hacking into their diplomatic and trade communications), and rivals like the Chinese, have to do with stopping jihadist terrorists? Just how many jihadist terrorists does the U.S. think there are in the Brazilian and Mexican diplomatic corps? Or among researchers at Chinese technology firms?

And all this spying is not because this is a “national security state” or a power-mad bureaucracy carried away with its technology. Yes, there is a phenomenon of a bureaucracy with access to mind-boggling technology and a vast budget. But again, listen to them, and think about all the things they are doing to maintain their status as the world’s sole superpower—from invoking “credibility issues” if they don’t bomb Syria to maintaining their top dog position in cyberspace.

Recently Revolution wrote:

“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 see 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 NSA Spy Crimes, More U.S. Lies,”

If you can make a case that this is not what the U.S. is enforcing with all this spying, we seriously want to hear your argument for that. But if what we are asserting here is true, then what is called for is resolute struggle in the realm of public opinion, and political protest (as well as legal challenges) that call out the actual terms of this spying, and demand that it STOP, in the context of building a movement for revolution, aimed at bringing about a world without empires, exploiters, oppressors, and “superpowers” that sit atop all that misery and spy on the entire planet to maintain their superpower status.


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