The excellent news program Democracy Now! had a discussion with three people about the increasingly police state nature of the US. One guest was William Binney, a whistleblower who used to work for the National Security Agency for nearly 40 years and revealed their covert and illegal invasion of American’s communications. He was unsuccessfully prosecuted by president Obama’s administration for whistleblowing. The second was Laura Poitras, an Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker who made films about Iraq and Yemen and is currently working on one about increasing domestic surveillance and the attacks on whistleblowers. The third was internet security expert and hacker Jacob Appelbaum who has been a spokesperson for WikiLeaks and has tried to create portals of anonymity for web users. Listen to them describe their experiences.
This was followed by a general discussion of the degree of government intrusion into our lives:
When I listened to their stories of their homes being invaded by heavily armed government agents, being detained at airports and questioned and their phones and computers taken away, being denied basic rights such as to even take notes let alone have access to a lawyer, threatened with harsh treatment, all communications monitored, and the like, I am reminded of the stories we used to be regaled with during the Cold War about how dissidents and critics used to be treated in the former Soviet Union by the secret police the KGB. Those stories were widely publicized in the West in order to show how superior the West was to communism.
During that period, a Soviet émigré comedian named Yakov Smirnoff made an entire career out of comparing the harsh treatment that was meted out to Soviet dissidents with the greater freedom he said he experienced here. Here is a sample of the kinds of jokes he would tell:
In America, you assassinate presidents.
In Soviet Russia, presidents assassinate you!
In America, you watch Big Brother.
In Soviet Russia, Big Brother watches you!
He was not very funny even then but his act would make no sense now unless he switches his target to the US government and its secret police and their intimidation tactics.