NSA's mammoth Bluffdale, Utah Data Center (under construction) will include a million square foot
storehouse permitting the electronic spy agency to analyze all global communications.
Hats Off to Edward Snowden for Revealing U.S./UK Imperialists’ Dirty Secrets
JUNE 25 – We all knew it, or suspected it, but no one could prove it. Now there is proof: the United States government’s gargantuan intelligence apparatus is spying on everyone. On June 6, the U.S. online edition of the British Guardian newspaper published a blockbuster revelation, a ruling by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to turn over to the National Security Agency (NSA) records of all phone calls carried by Verizon Business Network. In short order, it was confirmed that this had been routinely authorized for the last seven years, and similar orders were issued to AT&T, Sprint, Bell South and other telephone companies. Altogether, records (“metadata”) for some 99% of U.S. phone traffic end up in the vaults of the NSA.
The next day the Guardian published slides showing that the NSA had obtained direct access to private electronic data from U.S. Internet giants Microsoft (Hotmail), Yahoo, Google, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, AOL, Apple and others in a secret program codenamed PRISM. This includes e-mail, chats, videos, photos, stored data, Internet phone, video conferencing, file transfers, logins as well as all sorts of social networking details. Under 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the USA PATRIOT Act, the NSA no longer would have to get a warrant to spy on anyone as long as analysts had a “reasonable belief” that one of the parties was out of the U.S. In reality, they vacuum up all electronic communications.
Following that the Guardian (11 June) released documents about an NSA data mining tool, Boundless Informant, showing the vast scope of its collecting of e-mails and instant messages: over 3 billion items from U.S. computers in the month of March 2013, and 97 billion items from computer networks worldwide in the same period. These revelations, and more to come, were all thanks to Edward Snowden, a former computer systems administrator for the CIA and NSA contractors. Snowden had the notion that the public should know what the government was doing in its name, and how it was trampling on their rights using secret powers. For defending civil liberties and exposing their dirty tricks, U.S. rulers labeled Snowden a “traitor.”
contractor Edward Snowden released
documents to the London Guardian
exposing blanket U.S. government
surveillance of phone calls and
The fact is that over the last decade, the U.S. government has put the entire country – and indeed the entire world – on a “terrorism watch list,” granting itself the right to pry into every aspect of your life. To be sure, this is only a further development of the longstanding drive by the rulers of the dominant imperialist power to nail down its global hegemony. And it is only one component of the capitalists’ agenda, ranging from perpetual war (the “Global War on Terror”) abroad to racist repression (“Stop and Frisk”), deportations, privatization and union-busting “at home.” But Snowden’s revelations have caused an uproar because they expose the lies told by the government, from the Obama White House on down, and because they affect everyone.
The information on the massive government snooping is so incontrovertible that even the mainstream press has begun nervously referring to the “surveillance state.” And no wonder: reporters are among its first targets. Forget about “invasion of privacy,” the secret government has eliminated it with a few keystrokes. The more liberal media talk of an “architecture of oppression.” What the recent revelations show is not only the architecture of a police state, but that the capabilities for all-pervading control by an oppressive state apparatus obeying the dictates of capital are present and fully operational. And once the capabilities exist, you can be sure that they will be used, no matter what supposed legal “safeguards” are said to exist.
So now that the existence of this massive domestic and international spying on the general population has been confirmed, the question is what will be done about it. The partner parties of American capitalism, Democrats and Republicans, have made it clear that they support the secret police apparatus to the hilt. Snowden blew the whistle on the surreptitious surveillance machine hoping to provoke a public debate, but after the initial shock over the revelations, all there has been in official Washington is howls of indignation against the whistleblower. Congressional hearings are cover-ups – like the June 18 one on “How Disclosed N.S.A. Programs Protect Americans, and Why Disclosure Aids Our Adversaries.” It’s doubtful that there will even be cosmetic reforms like after the Church Committee investigated the CIA in the 1970s.
The bottom line on the NSA surveillance regime is that this is not about some foam-flecked neoconservatives running amok, a Dick Cheney illegally ordering wiretaps or a Richard Nixon unleashing hit teams of “plumbers” to break into offices. It’s about U.S. imperialism making up for its declining economic and military strength by using its dominance of cyber communications to shore up its world domination. And as the marauding U.S./NATO imperialists keep provoking wars – Afghanistan, Iraq, yesterday Libya, today Syria – the ruling classes see the need to build up an apparatus for internal war. The stark reality is, it will take nothing less than international socialist revolution to stop the global capitalist drive toward police state rule.
Only then will the Edward Snowdens and Bradley Mannings receive the honor and recognition they deserve for their courageous actions against the “surveillance state,” which is intent on “disappearing” them forever. Meanwhile, Manning, after being held in inhuman conditions amounting to torture, faces life imprisonment (and potentially execution) on grotesque charges of “aiding the enemy.” Snowden, too, has now been charged with violating the 1917 Espionage Act, making the seventh such prosecution of a leaker by the Obama regime. So after being holed up in Hong Kong for several weeks as he released one blockbuster revelation after another, Snowden has flown to Moscow presumably on his way to points south or west.
“Big Brother” NSA
Is Watching You
Electronic surveillance of the general population is part of broader drive toward police-state repression. Above: SWAT team patrolling in Watertown, Massachusetts. April 15 Boston Marathon bombing gave the government the opportunity to place an entire metropolitan area under martial law. (Photo: Charles Krupa/AP)
After delivering the first two installments revealing the extent of U.S. government spying on the general population, Edward Snowden announced that he was the “leaker,” in full knowledge that in doing so he was putting his life in danger. He gave up a comfortable existence because “I can’t in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.” Of the NSA’s aims he said, “they are intent on making every conversation and every form of behaviour in the world known to them” (London Guardian, 8 June). The description recalled George Orwell’s portrayal of a totalitarian state in his novel 1984.
During the anti-Soviet Cold War, 1984 – with its enforced adulation of the Party and Leader, “Big Brother,” the Ministry of Truth where photos are doctored, etc. – was a staple of anti-Communist indoctrination in U.S. high schools. Yet these days the NSA-U.S.A. and its UK ally are looking more and more Orwellian. Closed-circuit TV cameras everywhere (10,000 in central London alone), ubiquitous police pens for demonstrations, police lockdown of rebellious ghettos and entire cities (Boston), and total surveillance of Internet and phones. “They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type,” Snowden told the Washington Post (7 June). One pundit questioned this, but had to admit that Google Search already does that, keystroke by keystroke.
slide showing when different
Internet providers joined
PRISM program enabling NSA
Special Source Operations unit
to gather complete user data
Can the NSA read your correspondence before it is received? Under PRISM, or its official name US-984XN, you bet. Gmail and other e-mail programs do that, looking for clues to place “content-linked” advertisements. On social media, people are providing the government with all sorts of intimate details about their lives. And for all the talk by Google et al. of concern for your privacy, they’re in bed with the government. Thus the chief security officer of Yahoo recently resigned to go to work for the NSA, and Skype voluntarily set up a channel for the government to view its communications several years ago. On the other side, this “private-public partnership” has got some spy agency defenders nervous about all this outsourcing of their info.
On the FISA court orders to turn over phone records, NSA defenders say “it’s only metadata, not the actual content of the call.” But with data about the phone numbers, Internet addresses and other details, the government can build up quite a profile on you. “Nobody is listening to your phone calls,” Obama keeps repeating. Not unless they want to. On top of PRISM, the NSA has other programs tracking communications. In addition to MAINWAY and MARINA, which pick up phone and Internet metadata respectively, NUCLEON intercepts the content of the calls (Washington Post, 15 June). According to former NSA top analyst William Binney, the agency records between 500,000 and 1 million people on their target list (Daily Caller, 10 June).
But the phone and Internet surveillance is only in order to “prevent terrorist attacks,” says Obama. Actually, not so. The latest documents released by Snowden (Guardian, 21 June) – of NSA “procedures” for “targeting non-United States persons” and on “acquisition” of “non-publicly available information concerning unconsenting United States persons” – show that the analysts decide what category the people they are surveiling fall into, and that they and the agency can use and disseminate such communications if they have any intelligence value, relevance to criminal activity or possibility of violence, are encrypted or have to do with cybersecurity. In other words, if it isn’t totally worthless they can keep it and use it.
Obama says the NSA’s electronic eavesdropping is governed by safeguards. Nonsense. Last year, the FISA court approved 1,856 applications from the NSA and denied none. For that matter, from 1993 to 2011, FBI internally investigated 150 shootings by its agents, including killing 70 “subjects,” and its supposedly “effective, time-tested process” found every one of them to be justified (New York Times, 19 June). “Self-policing” by the police is always a fraud, and in the case of spy agencies, “oversight” by Congressional panels and supervision by secret courts, following secret rules and issuing secret decisions is no different. Even if they were inclined to contest the agencies, which they aren’t, they only know the “facts” they are fed.
Moreover, as circumstances change, so can the policies. Note that the NSA procedures don’t mention “terrorism.” Nor does the FISA court order authorizing phone record dumps. The NSA data sweeps pick up absolutely everything – the reference to terrorist attacks is just the excuse for doing it. And it can be used for whatever purpose. Suppose an NSA analyst or FBI agent decided to use “metadata” to track e-mail messages from someone bothering a friend? The information is there waiting to be accessed. Can’t happen? This is exactly how a nosy FBI agent dug up evidence that Gen. David Petraeus was having an affair with his enamored biographer, leading to his resignation as head of the CIA (Wall Street Journal, 15 June).
So even the high and mighty can run afoul of the surveillance state. But more importantly, these gigantic databases – “the largest program of suspicionless surveillance in human history,” Snowden termed it – can be used to go after anyone on the rulers’ “enemies list.” In his videotaped interview with journalists from the Guardian and Washington Post, the former NSA systems manager worried: “a new leader will be elected, they’ll flip the switch, say that because of the crisis, because of the dangers that we face in the world, you know, some new and unpredicted threat, we need more authority, we need more power, and there will be nothing the people can do at that point to oppose it” (Democracy Now, 10 June).
Various commentators have speculated about what a Vice President Dick Cheney would do with this material at their fingertips. (Snowden remarked that “Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American.”) That is certainly scary, but only reveals continuing illusions about the present Democratic Obama administration. The MAINWAY phone record dumps and PRISM Internet surveillance merely continue what the Republican Bush administration was doing in blatant violation of the law. Since the 2008 law which legalized this generalized surveillance, Obama (who voted against it) has implemented it with a vengeance, going after more whistleblowers than all previous U.S. governments combined.
To hide its stealth attack on civil liberties, Big Brother NSA, its bosses in the White House and Pentagon, and its corporate “intercept partners” have spewed out so many putrid lies that, like Big Daddy said in Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, you can smell the mendacity. The Internet companies, who pretend to protect users’ privacy while making billions by selling their information to marketers and the government alike, all claimed to know nothing about PRISM. “The U.S. government does not have direct access or a ‘back door’ to the information stored in our data centers,” declared a Google executive. More like a front door in reality, as Google just handed over the data.
of National Intelligence
General James Clapper lied
outright to Congress,
denying that NSA collected
data on millions of
Under “Tricky Dick” Nixon, government officials perfected the art of the “non-denial denial,” but these days they just lie. Last year, NSA chief General Keith Alexander testified in Congress that the NSA did not have the “technical insights” or “equipment in the United States” to capture people’s e-mails. In March, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was asked by Senator Ron Wyden in a Congressional hearing, “Does the N.S.A. collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” To which the DNI replied, “No, sir.” An incredulous Wyden insisted, “It does not?” Clapper responded, “Not wittingly.” Lying to Congress is supposedly a felony, but not, it seems, when the secrets of the realm are involved.
In fact it has been known for some time that U.S. spy agencies have been eavesdropping on the population at large. The story was broken in December 2005 by the New York Times (after sitting on it for a year at the request of the Bush administration). Hard evidence was provided in April 2006 when a courageous former AT&T technician, Mark Klein, provided documents showing how the entire data stream from the company’s cables in San Francisco were fed to the NSA. James Bamford, who first exposed the NSA’s sinister operations in Puzzle Palace (1983), detailed the dragnet in another book, The Shadow Factory: The NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America (2009), and an article, “Inside the Matrix,” in Wired (April 2012).
Moreover, the latest programs to be exposed are hardly the only ways in which U.S. spy agencies engage in warrantless surveillance. The FBI used CARNIVORE and NARUS programs to track domestic Internet and phone traffic. Since the 1980s the NSA and the GCHQ in Britain had their ECHELON program sweeping signals intelligence with satellite dishes around the world. STELLAR WIND, set up after 9/11, was Bush’s “rogue” predecessor to Obama’s “legal” PRISM. The Defense Department’s TIA (Total Information Awareness) project monitoring e-mails, phone calls, social networks, credit card and medial records was defunded by Congress after an outcry, but various of its projects continued under different names (The Atlantic, 6 June). Several RAGTIME programs analyze the data provided to the NSA by 50 or so companies.
Up to now, Republican and Democratic administrations alike have sought to brush off the accusations and Congress dutifully played deaf and dumb about this massive assault on civil liberties and the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (against unreasonable search and seizure). But now by providing comprehensive and detailed documentary evidence Edward Snowden has blown the lid off this can of worms and provoked a “discussion” of sorts. The response of the government, of course, has been to try to shut up the truth teller. And for all the talk of extradition and asylum, the blood-drenched imperialist warmongers are bent on retribution and revenge and will not let legal niceties stand in their way.
Edward Snowden knew from the start what he was up against. He could be “rendered by the CIA,” which bundles its targets off to secret prisons to be tortured and killed, which is “a concern I will live with for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be.” Exaggeration? Not hardly. An editor of The Atlantic tweeted that he overheard intelligence officials at Dulles airport saying “leaker & reporter [Glenn Greenwald] on #NSA stuff should be disappeared” (Daily Mail [London], 10 June). And three NSA whistleblowers – Thomas Drake, William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe – in a roundtable held by USA Today (16 June) said they “salute” him and “thank him for taking such a huge personal risk” and “possibly facing the loss of his life.”
In an interview with the London Guardian (8 June), asked what he thought would happen to him next, Snowden frankly replied: “Nothing good.” Still, in an online Q&A chat hosted by Greenwald, the former NSA systems manager added: “All I can say right now is the U.S. Government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped” (Guardian.co.uk, 17 June). But that won’t stop the U.S. government (with frothing Democratic senator Diane Feinstein, a/k/a the wicked witch of the west, as chief witch-hunter) from trying to silence Snowden, just as it continues to relentlessly go after Wikileaks’ Julian Assange.
“Bipartisan” Imperialist War and Racist Repression
Coming out of a secret, sanitized NSA briefing for members of Congress, Representative Loretta Sanchez (D., California) said that the revelations so far about the clandestine national surveillance programs are only “the tip of the iceberg.” That is certainly true. In addition to downloading everyone’s phone and Internet records and subjecting them to automated packet analysis to detect certain words, subjects, addresses, etc., there are more directly repressive measures such as the “terrorism watch list,” which as of 2011 reportedly had 400,000 names, or the FBI’s “no-fly” list of between 10,000 and 20,000 names tagged for extra inspection or refused boarding. Interestingly, Loretta Sanchez herself has been subjected to this screening.
The hysteria against “terrorism” following the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon is typical of how the imperialist warmongers whip up public opinion and step up repression to support their wanton slaughter. In World War I you had mass arrests of pacifists and syndicalists, followed by the postwar anti-communist “red scare.” During World War II there was the jailing of Japanese Americans in concentration camps, and then the postwar McCarthyite witchhunting accompanying the anti-Soviet Cold War. And while that was named after the rabid right-wing Republican senator from Wisconsin, liberal Democrats played a key part, eagerly or reluctantly “naming names” and avidly purging “reds” from the unions.
Today, and for the last dozen years, it’s the anti-terrorist hysteria. To justify the blanket surveillance and wholesale theft of personal data picked up in the government dragnet, NSA chief Alexander told Congress that the domestic spying helped stop “at least ten ‘homeland-based’ threats” (New York Times, 19 June). Like hell. For the most part what those “threats” were is classified. In the few known cases, they were largely imaginary or were not discovered by the NSA’s Internet and phone surveillance.
In contrast to the cynical scaremongering by the advocates of government surveillance of the entire U.S. population and much of the world, Snowden pointed out, in the Guardian online chat, “Bathtub falls and police officers kill more Americans than terrorism, yet we've been asked to sacrifice our most sacred rights for fear of falling victim to it.” Challenging the rationale for this secret operation affecting millions of innocent people, he asks: “And for what? So we can have secret access to a computer in a country we're not even fighting? So we can potentially reveal a potential terrorist with the potential to kill fewer Americans than our own police?” No doubt contemplating what the NSA-USA has in store for him helps Snowden pose the issues clearly.
So what’s actually going on here? The claim that this is all for “fighting terrorism” is a patent pretext. Why would the U.S.’ largest intelligence agency spend millions of dollars and build multi-billion-dollar data storage and analysis sites on a program that it claims only “helped” derail less than a dozen “‘homeland-based’ threats” of dubious scope and relevance. If we don’t assume U.S. rulers are stupid, or that PRISM and the other blanket surveillance programs are a giant boondoggle, there are two main explanations. One is they serve U.S.’ cyberwarfare plans, and its constant drive for imperialist world domination. And two, that the supposed “incidental” and “unintentional” collection of data on “U.S. persons” will serve domestic repression.
The cyberwarfare, already used against Iran (including unleashing the Stuxnet malware) but also aimed at Russia and China in particular, is a big deal. NSA chronicler James Bamford notes (“The Secret War,” Wired, July 2013) that General Keith Alexander not only commands the National Security Agency, with an estimated 60,000+ employees and a big chunk of the almost 500,000 contract employees with top secret security clearance; he is also head of the U.S. Cyber Command which includes 14,000 troops in a secret armed force consisting of the Navy’s Tenth Fleet, the Second Army and the 24th Air Force. To effectively wage defensive and offensive cyberwar, a seamless control of all electronic communications content is vital.
As for its internal usefulness, the NSA’s daily tracking of everyone’s telephone calls and Internet data is intentional. NSA whistleblower William Binney, who largely designed the NSA’s worldwide eavesdropping program, noted that it could have tapped cable landing sites on the U.S.’ borders, which would mean that they would get international traffic. Instead it set up intercept stations at junction points throughout the country. Senator Frank Church noted in the mid-1970s, “The NSA’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left.” We are now there. As Binney put it (Wired, April 2012), and Snowden echoed, the U.S. is on the verge of being “a turnkey totalitarian state.”
Far-fetched? Not at all. The U.S. has been gearing up for internal war for some time. That is what the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act (passed in October 2001) is all about, beefing up police powers across the board. And this is the primary mission of the Pentagon’s Northern Command (set up in April 2002), which since last December now includes a Special Operations Command-North. And they’re itching to try out their plans. During the 2009 swine flu outbreak in Mexico, the Obama administration seriously debated closing the Mexican border. A Homeland Security “National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza” (2007) envisages “layered border measures,” as well as using the National Guard and federal troops to put down “rioting” and “civil disturbances.”
law in Boston: dress rehearsal
for internal war. More than
one million people confined to
their homes after April
bombing that killed three.
This past April 15, the U.S. police and internal security authorities got a chance to do a dry run in response to the Boston Marathon bombing. Supposedly to search for a single wounded suspect, federal forces flooded into the area, the streets were patrolled by humvees and armored vehicles, people were rousted out of their homes at gunpoint, and the entire metropolitan area was placed under martial law with the population of over 1 million confined to their homes. The extreme measure was useless: Dzhokar Tsarnaev was found, after the order was lifted, hiding near where he was last seen in the town of Watertown. But it let the feds practice a large-scale lockdown. Moreover, the prisoner was not read his Miranda rights (to remain silent during interrogation) until a week later, something proponents of intensified police repression had long advocated. And the population applauded.
In order to justify waging war abroad, the capitalist rulers always need to have an “enemy within.” House committee chairman Mike Rogers (R., Michigan) said at the June 18 hearing, “It is at times like these where our enemies within become almost as damaging as our enemies on the outside” (New York Times, 19 June). And who are those supposed “enemies within”? Since 11 September 2001, the government and media have targeted immigrants and Muslims. After the Boston bombing, in which three died there was a wave of accusations against Muslims. But when a white supremacist killed six Sikhs at their place of worship in Milwaukee in August 2012, the government did not consider it a terrorist attack, and the incident was soon forgotten.
The United States is already a police state for undocumented immigrants. Barack Obama has deported more than one million people, tens of thousands of parents have been forcibly separated from their U.S.-born children. Now the House of Representatives is debating an immigration “reform” that would make being in the U.S. without required papers a crime (it is presently only a civil infraction). The “bipartisan” immigration reform bill is being sold as a police measure, requiring those seeking documents to turn in detailed personal data to Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) police. And it will require that all employers check all employees against the notoriously flawed E-Verify work authorization data base. This is one step away from a national ID card for everyone.
Likewise, African American ghettos and Latino barrios are already subject to police-state repression. Cops patrol in convoys like in Israeli-occupied Palestine. Poor black and Hispanic youth are stopped and searched solely on the basis of what some police officer “reasonably believes” to be suspicious behavior. Huge numbers of young men are arrested for minor offenses or no reason at all, thus giving them a police record and placing them under the control of the “justice” system. And with PRISM, MAINWAY, MARINA and NUCLEON and other programs of electronic surveillance of the general population, anyone could be targeted by an NSA analyst on the same arbitrary “reasonable belief” standard as the racist “stop and frisk” searches.
Meanwhile, in the Democratic Obama administration, federal authorities have gone after leftist and even liberal populist protests with sledgehammer tactics. It is notorious how the FBI targeted the Occupy movement with infiltration and heavy-handed repression. Grand juries have been impaneled in Chicago and on the West Coast going after socialists and anarchists with their secretive star chamber “investigations.” Courageous lawyers like Lynne Stewart are given effective death sentences for defending unpopular clients. Mumia Abu-Jamal still sits in prison. And now the FBI has stepped up its persecution of Assata Shakur on trumped up charges of “terrorism,” frustrated that the former Black Panther is walking free in Cuba.
For a Revolutionary Internationalist Fight Against Police-State Repression
Obama and most of official Washington hope that by going after Bradley Manning and Ed Snowden with everything they’ve got, they will intimidate future “leakers” and pave the way for an American police state. Yet a lot of people are wary of the government gaining total control over their personal lives, and quite a few youth see Manning and Snowden as heroes and role models. Interestingly, both of the whistleblowers started out believing in their mission. Pfc Manning volunteered for the army hoping to bring freedom to the Iraqi people. Snowden thought the Internet was “the most important invention in all of human history.” Yet once inside the system they discovered that it was being used as a monstrous machine of oppression.
There have been protests against the “national security state” going back to the 1970s. Much of the current liberal opposition to the “surveillance state” is couched in nationalist terms of the “rights of Americans.” But the drive toward a repressive police state is common to all the main capitalist-imperialist countries, particularly during the current economic depression with no end in sight. With its wall-to-wall surveillance, the NSA has effectively erased the distinction between “foreign targets” of espionage and “U.S. persons,” who were supposedly off-limits. To his credit, Edward Snowden wrote that:
“Suspicionless surveillance does not become okay simply because it's only victimizing 95% of the world instead of 100%. Our founders did not write that ‘We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all U.S. Persons are created equal’.”
A real opposition to this ruling-class tyranny must be international in scope and revolutionary internationalist in its politics. As Obama has largely neutralized liberal opposition, there is not likely to be a groundswell of demands to protect individual privacy. In any case, even when in the wake of the mid-’70s Church committee hearings certain limitations were proclaimed, the government soon got around them. Killing foreign political leaders was outsourced to outfits like Operation Condor in South America, subverting leftist governments was left to U.S.-funded death squads and contra armies, a National Endowment for Democracy took up where the CIA left off in funding front groups.
But even those timid measures were not fundamentally due to an outcry over the violation of civil liberties. Instead they were the product of the defeat of U.S. imperialism on the battlefield in Vietnam, the upheavals against racist police brutality in the Northern cities, a wave of strike action by militant workers and other mass struggles. The burgeoning social upheaval frightened the capitalist rulers and led to a moratorium on the death penalty, judicial recognition of women’s right to abortion and other gains. But all of these temporary gains, as well as the basic democratic rights for African Americans from the civil rights movement are being rolled back, and will continue to be until there is a new social upheaval threatens capitalist rule.
Thus in fighting the “surveillance state” and the drive to police-state rule, as in virtually every other area of social, economic and political life, the key to achieving a lasting victory is forging the nucleus of a revolutionary workers party, standing at the head of all the oppressed, to lead the struggle to overthrow the capitalist system which constantly reproduces war, poverty and racism. As Edward Snowden underlined, once the government has the capability, mere policies will not hold them back from using that power. Since the technology can’t be rolled back, the answer is a socialist revolution to bring down a ruling class whose very existence depends on denying the most fundamental rights of those it exploits.
In the meantime we demand: Free Bradley Manning! Free Lynne Stewart! Free Mumia Abu-Jamal and all class-war prisoners! Hands off Assata Shakur! Hands off Julian Assange! And hands off Edward Snowden! To Verax, the courageous truth teller, the fervent hopes and best wishes of all opponents of imperialism go with you. ■