Noam Chomsky Vs. Obama In NSA Spying Debate

by
Owen Poindexter
Noam Chomsky, the prominent linguist, anthropologist and political critic spoke out harshly against the NSA surveillance program conducted by the Obama Administration.
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Noam Chomsky spoke harshly about Obama and the NSA spying program. PHOTO: Kelly Maeshiro, CC License
 
Noam Chomsky, the prominent linguist, anthropologist and political critic spoke out harshly against the NSA surveillance program conducted by the Obama Administration.

"Governments should not have this capacity. But governments will use whatever technology is available to them to combat their primary enemy – which is their own population," Chomsky told the Guardian.
 
Framing the relationship between government and citizen is a familiar move for Chomsky, and one that it can be hard to argue with sometimes. It's debatable, of course, how true that is as a blanket statement, but it's one way to see the world, and a viewpoint that it is easy enough to back up with evidence. Chomsky nuances his viewpoint a little more in another quote: it's not that governments don't work for their populations, they just mostly work for its richest members:

"They [governments and corporations] take whatever is available, and in no time it is being used against us, the population. Governments are not representative. They have their own power, serving segments of the population that are dominant and rich."
 
So the internet and the surveillance abilities it affords almost inevitably lead to something like the NSA spying program. The question, however, is if we would have an NSA spying program if there were no real threat of terrorism. That's a hypothetical we won't ever see, but it's one to bring up, because Obama and his defenders repeatedly defend the NSA program in terms of lives saved. According to Obama, over 50 threats have been stopped by the NSA spying program.
 
Poll America on if they tolerate surveillance to stop terrorist threats, and the majority will say yes they would. The one problem is that the NSA has no legal obligation to stop there. The government, perhaps with an assist from the FISA court, which authorizes specific queries done by the NSA (in secret), could start to compile registries of say, people with radical political views, people who go to protests, conspiracy theorists, pot smokers, people who use violent language when they speak. Those are the sorts of programs that make people conform to a perceived normal and acceptable, and, while we're a far cry from places like North Korea with its socially enforced mourning period when the ruler dies, we would be one step closer.

What we need are bright lines for when and how surveillance can be used with terrorism on one side and suspicious behavior and petty crime on the other.

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