Posted by Brad @ 3:00 pm on November 4th 2013

A Disturbing Cross Current on the NSA Stuff

As mentioned, Keith Alexander and David Cameron have both expressed their equation of journalism which reveals the scope of our surveillance state with terrorism or something like it. That can get silly, as with the NSA taking action against a parody coffee mug maker, or it can begin to get dead serious, as with the British government’s legal assertion today that what David Miranda was doing – presumably ferrying some copies of Snowden-leaked documents between the Guardian and Glenn Greenwald – was, in their words, “terrorism“.

Now, that might sound like courtroom defensive bluster – and of course it is – but let’s not kid ourselves either. The government – the UK in this case and certainly the US – have already proven that when they call something “terrorism”, it means that said thing is no longer subject to the judicial process. Words, in this case, matter a helluva lot, because by merely INTERNALLY APPENDING the word or concept to a sort of action, that suddenly means the government can treat it essentially however it wants – merely internally considering someone a terrorist or involved in terroristic activity means you go from having to be prosecuted to giving the government the carte blanche right to murder you without charge or trial, for instance. That’s not alaramist – that is the mere fact of the legal paradigm the governments now operate in. Once something is defined into the “terrorist” camp, the government essentially believes that no legal protections apply any longer and whatever actions can or can’t be taken against the subject or activity is from then on a matter purely of internal discretion. In this case, the government is signaling – whether they intend to be or not – that merely applying the normal detention and judicial review process at all in Miranda’s case is a courtesy – not an obligation on their part and certainly not a right on Miranda’s. And, if they get any judge to agree with them, that will be absolutely true and solidified in legal opinion (and even then, if a judge rules against them it remains to be seen how binding they view the decision).

Think of all the things that are true of a subjects rights or lack of them when the “terrorism” word cloud comes into play. Think of the free reign that the mere presence of that word cloud gives our surveillance and national security states in casting offing the yoke of legal process or review or transparency. Now imagine that coming into play in cases of reporting on the surveillance and national security states. Imagine the power of a government agency that not only has total free reign over its mandate, powers and authority, but that same reign over what the outside world is allowed to know about its mandate, powers, authority, and activities. That is what the UK and US have long believed should be true as it pertains to our national security state. And they are increasingly and unashamedly taking steps towards making it so – relatively light steps right now, but ones that can become iron-booted very quickly (as was the progression in its terrorism powers, which went from dodgy internal test cases to enterprise-wide institutionalization and new standard operating paradigm in the span of less than a decade).

And bear in mind that Snowden, Greenwald and the Guardian already represent the fringes of journalism at this point in relation to these stories. For the most part, the media is as “in the bag” as lawmakers and judges in terms of rubber-stamp “trust them because terrorism!” when it comes to national security. And even they, along with Wikileaks and Anonymous and a random grab-bag of weirdos and un-well-behaved men and women, represent the only meaningful pushback left. Oh we’ll get some kind of reform from Congress – but, of course, be careful what you wish for there. But the truth of it is the sky has already fallen, as it were. And while things like the UK government deeming Miranda’s activity to be terrorism may seem like a far overreach or a frightening but self-contained outlier, they are in fact quite the opposite. These are not pushes towards some new paradigm – rather, they are the final cinching-offs of the old one.

It is not

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