Culture & Criticism Since 2003
At first glance, this book appears like it was written in response to former CIA staff member Edward Snowden ratting out the U.S. government about National Security Agency surveillance operations, decrying the actions of a government that now feels that it has an inalienable right to spy on the private lives of the citizenry.
But no! The seed for Heidi Boghosian’s Spying On America actually precedes Snowden’s revelations by many many months, a fact which should serve as a sharp slap in the face to apathetic Americans who now have first-hand documentation on just how wide-spread these national surveillance tactics have become.
So, you really think this can’t happen to you? Well, think again. According to Boghosian’s treatise, that’s just what is happening: Ordinary Americans living ordinary middle-of-the-road lives are now being watched and tracked on a regular basis. The what is known. But the why remains a mystery.
In Spying On America, Boghosian (National Lawyers Guild Executive Director) writes that the government has turned the breadth and convenience of technology against us, with the mighty powers of the internet and the cellular phone used as monitoring devices to catalog who’s buying what and who’s talking to who – used to chart political beliefs and patterns of movement.
In addition, Boghosian informs us that the government is now in the data-mining business, compiling information from sources as diverse as surveillance cameras and medical records, deciphering our phone, email and social-media meanderings in order to draw portraits of a collection of people who appear to be doing little more than getting up and going to work in the morning.
Personal note to self: Today – repeat goal. Figure out how to budget for the milk, bread and gasoline that just went up 10 bucks this week.
In between jobs and appointments, this mixed-up assortment of half-lost faces stops to play on their electronic toys, sending texts and playing the fool on YouTube; in sum, this is all they’ve got left – it’s their only pitiful refuge from a world that has all but forsaken its promise of a better tomorrow.
Truly, there’s not a lot of hiding going on in the world anymore. More than ever, people are naked and in plain sight trying to be seen. So, really, what is this spy-fest really about?
Again, the why remains a mystery.
Nonetheless, the most disturbing aspect of Spying On America is born in the revelations that the government has spied on National Guild lawyers and wire-tapped journalists. Once the government sets out to obliterate the ideals of a free press and interrupt the sanctity of attorney-client privilege, you’ve removed the country from Democracy and sparked its recession into radical fascism. By my recollection of under-grad World History, this is how the tyranny of Hitler began.
So, what next? Does 90-something poet Larry Ferlinghetti and City Lights come under attack for publishing this book? Does Boghosian warrant the microscope or the gallows for conceiving it? And have I put my ass on the butcher-block by writing this review and saying that Spying On America is the most important book in circulation right now and an absolute must-read for every American?