As Americans rest on this Fourth of July weekend, blitzed out on beer and barbeque, the rest of the world seethes with anger at revelations of yet more excessive U.S. government spying. This time, the Guardian is reporting that “the NSA has, for years, systematically tapped into the Brazilian telecommunication network and indiscriminately intercepted, collected and stored the email and telephone records of millions of Brazilians.”
The typical Democratic Party response to the news has been that it’s no big deal, because the U.S. government is supposed to be spying on other nations, just to make sure that their governments aren’t preparing to attack Americans. The idea that the country of Brazil is a great enemy doesn’t seem plausible, though. Brazil isn’t known for virulent anti-American activities.
The Democratic Party excuses ignore that surveillance is an aggressive act that, when discovered, harms international relations and makes friends into enemies. What makes the recently revealed American programs of electronic surveillance even worse is that they aren’t aimed against the governments of foreign governments, but against the citizens of these nations, seeking to accumulate huge databases of cross-referenced records of their private, personal communications. These foreign citizens, from Europe, from China or from Brazil, aren’t suspected of terrorism. They’re being spied upon merely because the U.S. government wants as much information about as many people as it can grab.
The revelation of anti-Brazilian spying should remind us that, both within the United States and across the larger world, the U.S. government is using the concept of a great terrorist threat to create a gigantic surveillance system that is almost always targeted against people that are not related to terrorism at all. The global electronic surveillance dragnet has little to do with terrorism, and very much to do with the creation of a totalitarian network of power.
Or, am I wrong? Is there a Brazilian terrorist menace? When you dance the Bossa Nova, do you dance with Osama Bin Laden’s ghost?