chapter  37
10 Pages

(Liberal) democracy means surveillance: on security, control and the surveillance techno-fetish

ByDawn L. Rothe, Travis Linnemann

Between June 5 and June 13, 2013 the headlines of the Guardian newspaper read, “NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily,” “NSA Prism program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others,” “UK gathering secret intelligence via covert NSA operation,” “Boundless Informant: the NSA’s secret tool to track global surveillance data,” “NSA surveillance: anger mounts in Congress at ‘spying on Americans’.” In the United States, these stories appeared as front-page headlines and the topic of news panelists’ discussions on major networks such as MSNBC and Fox. The framing of these newly realized programs took different shapes, depending on the particular network’s corporate master. For instance, while on the right hand, conservative news groups justified the projects with the unverified and unverifiable assertion that this sort of electronic “Surveillance helped thwart more than 50 terror plots” (Fox News 2013; Sullivan 2013), on the left, news groups reported, “Progressives’ fears stoked in Obama era surveillance,” suggesting a degree of disbelief among his liberal supporters that a Democratic president would engage in such sweeping and intrusive tactics (Resnikoff 2013). More than a year later, Edward Snowden, the former CIA and NSA contract employee responsible for revealing the programs, remains at the center of the controversy. Again, the framing of Snowden was rather predictable, ranging from that of outraged conservatives who labeled him a traitor, to the rather impotent shock, dismay, and horror of liberals at the realization of intelligence programs that aimed at foreign and domestic threats, everyday citizens, and government offices of United States allies.