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Creating Chilling Effects On Speech Is A Feature, Not A Bug, Of The Surveillance State

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | August 23, 2013

We’ve discussed a few times how the pervasive surveillance efforts of the NSA and others have tremendous chilling effects on how people communicate and how they act. We’ve discussed how this is a “cost” to the program that not many, especially those who are backing these programs, seem interested in measuring or even thinking about. Of course, implicit in our assumption is that these “costs” are things that are negatives of the program. Others would point out that for those in power, that’s not so much a cost as a benefit. It’s not a bug or an unintended consequence, but a feature. Chilling speech and clamping down on communications? Why that’s a good thing for those in power.

Josh Levy, from Free Press, has a great guest post over at Boing Boing where he discusses how the NSA’s surveillance regime is a huge attack on free speech, and how this is both inevitable, and for some, the intent of the program:

The chilling of free speech isn’t just a consequence of surveillance. It’s also a motive. We adopt the art of self-censorship, closing down blogs, watching what we say on Facebook, forgoing “private” email for fear that any errant word may come back to haunt us in one, five or fifteen 15 years. “The mind’s tendency to still feel observed when alone… can be inhibiting,” writes Janna Malamud Smith. Indeed.

Peggy Noonan, describing a conversation with longtime civil liberties advocate Nat Hentoff, writes that “the inevitable end of surveillance is self-censorship.”

Hentoff stressed that privacy invasions of this magnitude are “attempts to try to change who we are as Americans.” In fact, they are attempts to define who we are as human beings.

Meanwhile, over at the Atlantic, Bruce Schneier has a post discussing the detainment of David Miranda, where he comes to similar conclusions, that these authoritarian police states clearly have no practical benefit, except to enable a powerful government to show off its power to invade your lives:

This leaves one last possible explanation — those in power were angry and impulsively acted on that anger. They’re lashing out: sending a message and demonstrating that they’re not to be messed with — that the normal rules of polite conduct don’t apply to people who screw with them. That’s probably the scariest explanation of all. Both the U.S. and U.K. intelligence apparatuses have enormous money and power, and they have already demonstrated that they are willing to ignore their own laws. Once they start wielding that power unthinkingly, it could get really bad for everyone.

Of course, Schneier sees some upside to this in the long run — which is that such blatantly ridiculous activity seems to only embolden others to push back on this trampling of our rights. Hopefully, that pushback works, because the alternative is horrifying to those who believe in a free and open society.

August 24, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Detroit police arrest news photographer, lock her up with suspect

RT | July 16, 2013

Police in Detroit, Michigan have launched an internal investigation after a Detroit Free Press photographer was detained for filming a group of officers as they arrested a suspect on a public street on Thursday, July 11.

wright_mandiMandi Wright was traveling to an assignment with a newspaper reporter when the pair came upon eight officers making an arrest. The video, since posted online, shows Wright capturing a pat-down before she is approached by an officer, who orders Wright to “back up” before covering the camera lens and demanding she “turn it off.”

Wright identifies herself as a photographer for the Free Press, to which the officer responds with “I don’t care who you are.” He then reaches for the camera and Wright can be heard asking “Are you touching me?” before the images cut off. Witnesses say the two tussled before uniformed officers put Wright in handcuffs for interfering with an arrest.

Wright, 47, has accused the police of wrongfully confiscating her iPhone and briefly leaving her locked up alone with the suspect she filmed being arrested. She has also asserted that the memory card from her newspaper-issued cell phone camera went missing after an officer wrestled the device away from her, according to the Free Press.

“I was just surprised at how quickly it escalated,” Kathleen Gray, the reporter traveling with Wright, told the Free Press. “There was no effort to try to figure out who we were or what we were doing. It was just immediately going for the phone.”

The photographer was held in police custody for over six hours. Wright has said that at least part of that time was spent alone in an interrogation room with the original suspect. Deputy Chief James Tolbert said, if the latter claim is verifiable, “that could be a serious breach of department policy.”

Missing – along with a satisfactory explanation – was Wright’s SIM card, which stores files on a cell phone. The video was preserved on Wright’s iPhone’s internal memory.

Tolbert, speaking to the Free Press, refused to name the officer who first accosted Wright but said the internal investigation will examine “the whole incident, from start to end. What we did, what she did, the whole nine.”

The deputy chief told editors of the Free Press the incident had already become a point of embarrassment for the department and he reminded officers they are not authorized to impede an individual from filming.

While putting the onus on police, Free Press Editor Paul Anger was conciliatory about the incident.

“First, our photographer was doing what any journalist – or any citizen – has a right to do in a public place,” he said. “All she knew was that someone had grabbed her and her phone. We understand the difficult job that police officers do and we understand how tensions can rise. Yet some of the police actions all through this incident need scrutiny – not the actions of our photographer.”

image by @DetroitMandi

July 17, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Comments Off on Detroit police arrest news photographer, lock her up with suspect