Six persons living abroad, one of them a “US person,” were targeted by the National Security Agency for discrediting, according to information leaked by Edward Snowden and reported on by Glenn Greenwald and two colleagues at HuffPo.
The NSA branded the six Muslims “radicalizers” even though it did not tie them to terrorist activity. Their crimes were apparently thought crimes. Their conversations at dating sites and visits to explicit web sites were seen by the NSA as hypocritical and of potential use in discrediting them with their puritanical followers.
That one of the six is a US citizen or resident is especially troubling.
The problem with the NSA scooping up the web history of millions of people indiscriminately is that it becomes judge, jury and executioner. It decides what is radical, and punishes persons who have been charged with no crime. It punishes them by smearing their reputations based on warrantless monitoring of their activities online.
What happens if a member of Greenpeace (viewed by many in the US government as a conspiratorial organization willing to break the law) goes to London for a couple of weeks? While abroad, can that activist be intensively monitored, their emails read, their web history recorded and stored? What about Occupy Wall Street members? Who are the “radicalizers” in the eyes of the government and are they only Muslims? Was a warrant obtained to monitor a “US person”?
Allowing any arm of the government this kind of unchecked power to stifle dissent is a big step toward tyranny. Indeed, with massive surveillance, the government could make itself an unchallengeable tyrant.
This spying on free persons not charged with a crime as they pursued private activities–and this interest in destroying the reputations of people whose views the USG despises is deeply troubling. If the six persons targeted were dangerous, that would be one thing. Apparently, they weren’t violent, only vehement.
It is only a matter of time before the dissent of Americans on American soil is curbed in a major way, if these NSA procedures are allowed to stand.