Now that the U.S. President Obama has publicly acknowledged the existence of PRISM, it is interesting to see executives from America’s Internet giants such as Google’s Larry Page saying he has no knowledge of it. It is mind-boggling that he could say that while in 2012 alone, 1856 electronic surveillance and physical searches were approved with NONE denied by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
As I have written in the past, it is Google’s business interest to align with the current U.S. strategy on “Internet freedom.” The idea there is simple: make sure every citizen in every county have unfettered access to Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other U.S.-based Internet services. It’s great for business. It’s also great for NSA to freely tap into foreign national’s private emails and everything else.
Perhaps all those 1856 instances in 2012 were of U.S. national security interest, but for each not, it is tantamount to the U.S. government hacking into private stuff of foreign nationals – with Google, Facebook, etc assisting. With knowledge about Prism, governments around the planet will likely be discouraging their citizens from using foreign Internet services.
So, here again, for some who espouse a “free” Internet, the intent is not truly free. The Chinese government by blocking some of these services has proven once again they are prescient.
This is an important development – a development I am sure we will discuss more in the coming years. Here I want to bring up a few points:
1. The links below describe the recent leak of U.S.’s PRISM program. Obama is going to pains that U.S. only curtails civil liberty in a limited fashion. It is a reasonable “balance” to keep America “safe” according to Obama.
Note interestingly that despite Obama’s past criticism of Bush for stepping on civil liberty, he is for the most part continuing the same policy, expanding it in some ways, making it more prevalent and legally more tolerated in other ways.
So just as Obama draws the boundary a certain way for America, doesn’t it mean China can draws its own balance for China?
2. According to Google’s own so-called “transparency report,” Google routinely removes items from search results due to government demands – be them “court” requests or executive and police and other requests. First note this artificial division. There seems to be a sense that that things are done more properly this division – with more oversight. But as we are finding out, so-called court requests – when it comes to national security type “investigations” are shrouded in mystery anyways. Sort the report that we take on good faith by requests made” or items removed, you see that it is the big “free” nations that top the chart – U.S., India, Turkey, Brasil, Germany, UK. Sure – some of these requests are for so-called IP reasons (e.g. copyright), but do you know? Why doesnt’ Google say? Given that twitter submit to political based requests to remove things, I’m sure a lot of these a political based. In any case, copyright exertions can be abused to chill free speech just as normal legitimate government censorship. Routine for-profit copyright exertions in general can also chill speech (this reminds me of how slavery was justified in the past, by ownership rights; ownership rights can be important, but being blind to “owenership” might be blinding also). Whatever the case, these can’t just be simple commercial cases. If someone loses a court order for infringing copyright, I can’t imagine Google or Facebook resisting a court order to not take down certain materials. Yet Google sometimes denies up to 1/2 of court requests? Is Google a supreme court of sort? Should they? No … we are mostly talking about soft cases here in these reports… that have to with policy, politics…and people as consumers seem to want to trust – be ok with trusting – them. Weird…
3. But now we are finding out that Google and others may be doing much more collaborating with the U.S. government. If so – what do they say about these Internet cornerstones / pillars of the free world? It says only that they agents of the governments of the so-called free world. If they are, is it such a shock that governments that the “freeworld” governments antagonistically
deems “unfree” – governments whose sovereignty and interests the “freeworld” government routinely flout and disparage – block these companies in the name of sovereignty?
4. To the extent that stewart internet companies are government agents, the same can be said of stewart mass media companies such as New York Times and BBC. They parrot and support the government narrative in a way that so many find repulsive.
5. If the above is correct, then whenever we argue for “freedom” this and “freedom that” – i.e. China’s blocking of this and that from the West – what are we really talking about? A lot of times foreign companies and Americans complain how their “freedom” is abridged when they run into problem – when they did not follow or know the rules and laws (did you apply for a license, a permit, are you following local laws?). They think they have a “freedom” to do whatever they want their way – backed by their own private reasoning that Chinese laws are unjust…
I know this is terse, but next time people want to talk about “freedom” – think for a minute what they are really talking about. “Freedom” is a powerful notion (“empowerment” to me is even more powerful though) – but it may also has been hijacked to push certain agenda and perspectives. Such is the power of framing – and today “freedom” has been politicized, hijacked by the powerful and privileged.
Obama is a 2 bit snake oil salesman thug wearing a suit. Promising to be anti-bush in his election (and even got nobel prizes for it) but instead he is worse than Bush. He promised to close gitmo, but instead of closing it, he didn’t even bother to try to capture these potential terrorists, he just kills them (along with innocent people) using drone strikes. He promised to stop surveillance of Americans, but instead bullied more companies into compliance to their demands. He promised peace in the Middle East, but instead caused more conflict in the Middle east. He promised peace in the pacific, but instead there is more conflict in the pacific since the Vietnam war. I find it ironic that this former Constitution law professor in Chicago Law school tramples on the Constitution several times over. I recall that the other day he shouted down a heckler in National Defense University and said “This is free speech, me talking and you listening.” The pictures of ‘George W Obama’ this week is just an understatement.
Black Pheonix says
What’s funny and ironic is all the outrage and surprise in the West upon hearing this news. Even Bill O’Reilly of Fox News was surprised. He didn’t think that they would apply the Patriot Act so broadly to cover all US citizens. (By that, he means that he thought the government would ONLY go after a FEW US citizens, foreigners, immigrants, etc., i.e. people who he didn’t care about or who he didn’t consider as REAL Americans).
What’s also ironic: The HUGE perception gap of what Westerners thought their Governments are like, vs. what their Governments ACTUALLY does. (Given that they actually “voted” for their Governments, via Democracy, Freedom, all the other good stuff).
Harry Reid, Majority Senate leader, summarized the situation by say, none of this (PRISM) should have been a surprise.
Obama said it was necessary.
The Courts signed off on the Secret Order.
OK, there you have it, all 3 branches of US government (with bi-partisan support) all KNEW about the program.
And yet, the public was surprised/outraged?? How did they not see it coming??!
(Also, many legal experts have warned early on about this possibility).
*Conclusion: Most of the Western public (and their media) are simply out of touch with reality, even in their own countries.
They have been fooling themselves with their own propaganda messages, and surprise, meet the real “democracy”.
*I personally have no opinion on the PRISM program. As a Chinese in US, I have no doubt that if the US government wanted to, they would try to get all the information about me, and they would not tell me about it. (So, I’m not surprised).
Just like I also don’t carry any “electronic media” any more on international flights, (See Bo Jiang’s case). If they really want to get me, they can make up just about any BS as excuses. Again, NOT surprised.
This was always my expectation of a government, any government.
You can call me cynical, but it seems PRISM proved me right, and proved most Americans (and their media) wrong.
And that also came as no surprise to me. (and I don’t know why it would be such a surprise to Americans that they would end up in the same boat as me, subjected to the threat of same surveillance and excuses).
Black Pheonix says
US spy agencies demand investigation (and probably prosecution) of “leakers” of PRISM program.
Again, entirely legal, not surprising.
Mister Unknown says
Given what’s been happening in the US in the last decade, I don’t think any of this comes as a surprise. Furthermore, regardless of what kind of public outrage exists regarding privacy, freedom, and all those other things associated with western dogma, US citizens (‘real’ or ‘fake’) won’t do a damn thing to shut down programs like PRISM, just like they (again, THEY being the US citizenry) didn’t do a damn thing to limit the powers of the Patriot Act.
Again, this just reconfirms what many of us already knows – democracy does NOT work as advertised by the US, & elections are not the cure-all solution to social & political problems.
The fact that Obama can nonchalantly state that it’s ok because they only spy on foreigner is enough of a wakeup call for any country that allows American companies to operate freely without holding them responsible.
These companies don’t want to be help accountable to every country only America. Google in particularly is probably more “patriotic” than most.
Eric Schmidt for example is basically the government stooge. And than you Jared Cohen who is basically a closet zionist masquerading as a liberal. All these people are key figures at google, it’s not a co-incidence they also have extremely close relationships with the US government and toe state approved liberal mantra.