The U.S. government is really, really pissed off about Edward Snowden’s NSA surveillance leaks.  They are coming after him with every weapon in their arsenal, and will not rest until he is prosecuted by some secret court and thrown into some secluded dungeon for the remainder of his life – a la Bradley Manning.  Why?  Because he had the temerity to inform the world about the existence of government surveillance operations which should have already been made known to the public?  No, it isn’t that simple.  What has aroused their fury is much more complex, but it can be whittled-down to the fact that established power doesn’t like its authority challenged.

Before examining the deeper issues of the political establishment, let’s review the latest reactions to Snowden and the NSA leaks.

From:  Secrets, Non-Secrets and Leaks

Sometimes you can understand why the government keeps secrets –because those secrets could endanger lives or derail military operations, or simply because they might be embarrassing. No one should have been shocked when the Obama administration was outraged at Edward Snowden’s leaks of documents describing massive surveillance of Americans by the National Security Agency.

But sometimes it seems like the government chooses secrecy for the sake of secrecy. Take the two new documents in the Guardian yesterday, which set out the rules the N.S.A. follows in pursuit of “foreign intelligence information” to determine whether a target is a U.S. person (a citizen or legal resident of this country) and therefore exempt from surveillance without a specific warrant. The other lays out the rules for “mitigating” information about Americans that might be swept up inadvertently while spying on a non-U.S. person (which happens all the time).

The documents should have been made public many years ago. And they should be reassuring, but they are not, entirely.

From:  On the Espionage Act charges against Edward Snowden

The US government has charged Edward Snowden with three felonies, including two under the Espionage Act, the 1917 statute enacted to criminalize dissent against World War I. My priority at the moment is working on our next set of stories, so I just want to briefly note a few points about this.

Prior to Barack Obama’s inauguration, there were a grand total of three prosecutions of leakers under the Espionage Act (including the prosecution of Dan Ellsberg by the Nixon DOJ). That’s because the statute is so broad that even the US government has largely refrained from using it. But during the Obama presidency, there are now seven such prosecutions: more than double the number under all prior US presidents combined. How can anyone justify that?

From:  Edward Snowden’s Retail Psychoanalysts in the Media

As soon as the Edward Snowden story broke, retail psychoanalysts in the media began to psychologize the whistle-blower, finding in his actions a tangled pathology of motives.

* * * * *

In the same way that journalists call high-level leakers in the executive branch “White House officials” and low-level guys like Snowden “narcissists” or “losers,” so do they dole out accolades like “Secretary of State” to mass murderers like Henry Kissinger while holding the Snowden-like epithets in reserve for Al Qaeda, Communists, the Militia Movement, and the Weather Underground.

So where does that leave us? I’m not sure. As Jim Naureckas put it on my FB page: “Is the problem treating the retailers of violence as if they were psychotic or regarding violence wholesalers as though they were sane?

Now, let’s review the reactions to the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011.

From:  The shocking truth about the crackdown on Occupy

US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.

But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that “New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers” covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding. Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that “It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk.”

From:  DHS Turns Over Occupy Wall Street Documents to Truthout

DHS’s early monitoring of OWS also included the preparation and distribution of an intelligence report on the movement. The report was cited in an email distributed internally by the Domestic Security Alliance Council (DSAC), an intelligence sharing partnership between the FBI, DHS and the private sector. That report advised DHS officials to pay close attention to any threats associated with the growth of the Occupy movement. But the document, referred to as an intelligence “product,” was apparently unauthorized and quickly scrubbed from the agency’s internal intelligence sharing database because of concerns that it rose to the level of unconstitutional surveillance, according to internal emails.  [emphasis added]

From:  Agent provocateur discovered in Occupy Wallstreet movement

According to Rawstory an American Spectator Editor is admitting that he infiltrated the Occupy Wallstreet movement with the intention of discrediting it. The evidence has since been taken down from the site as the editor has attempted to remove all traces of it after sites like firedoglake have reported on the incident:

“It is highly likely that the events that occurred would not have taken the turn they did if it were not for Howley’s admitted adventure in an effort to discredit the Occupy movement. So before the public, the media, and officials turn their attention negatively towards the protests and the protesters there needs to be a critical eye turned on the role of the American Spectator and the role played in these events by its editorial staff.”

Aside from the tactical similarities, what’s the connection between the reactions to the NSA leaks and the Occupy Wall Street protests?  Both incidents were populist challenges to the ruling establishment which is a close association, or de facto merger, between state and corporate power (i.e. corporatism).  Even in the earliest days of its history, America has been a battleground between the forces of economic populism and capitalistic authoritarianism:

The American Revolution was as much about the unfair advantage given to the British East India Company as it was about colonial “taxation without representation.”

The Progressive Movement and Labor Movement arose in response to the inequalities and injustices of the Gilded Age.

The rise of left-wing politics triggered the infamous Red Scares of the 20th century that culminated in McCarthyism.

The modern Conservative Movement, which remains embedded into the current political infrastructure, resulted from a rather perverse aristocratic revulsion to the half century of egalitarianism that followed the calamitous Wall Street Crash of 1929.

Capitalism is in practice, although not in design, extremely paranoid of economic populism and a loss of control.  Its most ardent proponents fully understand the negative aspects of free-markets, and how it can generate widespread social unrest.  That is why they have been so determined to align the functions of government with their interests.  Today, the line between public and private institutions is but an illusion.

Although President Barack Obama likes to portray himself in a different light, much of his policies have been tailored to mollify this paranoia within capitalism.  His signature achievement – the Affordable Care Act (i.e. Obamacare) – was a plan conceived by a conservative think tank and implemented in coordination with the health care industry.  His administration has refused to prosecute the egregious crimes committed by Wall Street executives during the financial crisis, refused to engage in the blatant state-level GOP assault on collective bargaining, refused to release the details of secret global trade negotiations (e.g. the Trans-Pacific Partnership), and is even now involving the nation in yet another foreign war being pushed by international interests (i.e. Syria).

Some have asserted that a “shadow government” dictates the affairs of the United States and much of the world.  Considering the heavy-handed reactions to the NSA leaks, Bradley Manning, the Associated Press, journalistic sources, and other whistle-blowers, it’s easy to see why they’ve arrived at that conclusion.

7 thoughts on “U.S. Government reaction to NSA Leaks reveals the Paranoia of Capitalism

  1. Just one point on your excellent article. I don’t see the problem with capitalism as such – the problem is with monopoly capitalism a la mafia. (From a Brit perspective). We used to have a Monopolies Commission, a sensible arrangement which recognised that there was a point where intervention was needed to prevent unfair competition – the big boys destroying the small shoots and exploiting the customer. That was quietly abandoned somewhere along the way despite all the blather about the virtues of a free competitive market. The balance in UK between capitalism and socialist labour and customer protecting values was a good working compromise despite inevitable tensions. Since the capitalists won the tug-of-war it has been downhill ever since – for everyone but the elite.


  2. “The Economics of Business Strategy – Page 282 – Google Books Result
    John Lipczynski, ‎John Wilson – 2004 – ‎Business planning
    power to regulate prices charged and to break up monopolies.”
    – In the fifties/sixties there was very strong customer awareness and the potential for unfairness of large companies arriving at monopoly type situations was well understood. The term monopoly was on everyone’s lips and the government had multiple concerns about the damage that monopolies could do – charging what they liked and giving bad service along with unfair competition. The Monopolies Commission has changed its name several times since then, abandoning the word “monopoly” several changes ago and becoming more toothless with every change. The concern back in the sixties that corporate interests would over-ride all others has been quietly acquiesced in by recent governments.
    The page above gives an idea of the sea change in political attitude.


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