Big brother is watching you

Dave Carr

When Tory Foreign Secretary William Hague says law abiding citizens have nothing to fear from government intelligence gathering, then be very afraid!

Hague’s less than reassuring comments were prompted by revelations that information on individuals, including British citizens, using a secretive US electronic data gathering system called ‘Prism’ – operated by the Obama government’s National Security Agency (NSA) – has been shared by UK government spooks at the GCHQ spy centre in Cheltenham. In the 1980s the Thatcher government banned trade unionists – who she described as the “enemy within” – from working at GCHQ.

The NSA has, for several years now, been gathering detailed information from people’s emails and other digital data, acquired from internet companies, on an industrial scale. It makes Home Secretary Theresa May’s recently announced intention to enact a ‘snooper’s charter’ seem prosaic.

Electronic eavesdropping and surveillance on millions of Americans and others was ramped up by the Bush administration after 9/11 using the scope of the Patriot Act.

However, when the warmongering, scheming and skulduggery of US imperialism was revealed in 2010 after WikiLeaks released 250,000 classified diplomatic emails, state retribution quickly followed. Some US politicians demanded the prosecution (and even assassination!) of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as a ‘terrorist’ and ‘enemy combatant’. And Bradley Manning, the US serviceman accused of forwarding the emails, is now undergoing a court martial. If found guilty, he faces a life in prison.

Secretive gathering of intelligence on citizens by governments is not new. Nonetheless, the vast scale and sophistication of Prism and its offshoots must serve as a warning to socialists, trade unionists and community campaigners that within every capitalist democracy there lurks a ‘big brother’.