Friday, June 7, 2013

In the Near Future, A POTUS Makes a Strange and Surprising Speech Against The Advice of His Advisors Concerning Universal Surveillance

My fellow Americans.

It has come to your attention recently that government agents are tracking every single phone call you make. We chose not to reveal this to you, but the information's leaked, and we can't plausibly deny it. So there you have it. Your calls are on record. And look, you're going to find out about this anyway, so I may as well go ahead and publically reveal this: We're also tracking your internet usage. Any kind of electronic communication you engage in, we now know about it.

I recognize that this sounds frightening. I could talk down to you. I could tell you that if you're not doing anything illegal, you have nothing to worry about. I could promise that we have rules in place, in-house, designed to avoid abuses of this system. In fact, we do have such rules in place. And I have signed several super-secret executive orders—I promise!—disallowing use of this information for any purpose other than lawful intelligence gathering about current known enemies of the American people.

So yes, I could give you these platitudes. They're even true! But you know, and I know you know, that they don't get to the heart of the matter. They don't address what you're actually worried about—and right to be worried about. The concern isn't that we might catch you doing something illegal. The concern is that we might use information about your purely legal activities against you. Maybe this would be done by a few "bad actors" at first, but you're worried—and you're right to be!—that, if not now, then eventually, this kind of corruption would become so endemic to the system that it would start to become normal. Would become part of the system. Maybe even would end up codified. Perfectly legal. And you're right to see this as a problem.

You all see a certain basic modicum of privacy as a fundamental requirement for a working Democracy. And the surveillance program I've described is incompatible with that kind of privacy. That's a fact I can't deny. So you might be tempted to conclude, then, that we do not have a working Democracy. That the appearance of Democracy belies an underlying reality in which people, moved by fear and paranoia, allow themselves to be cowed by political and police forces over which they have no similar power of surveillance. Sure you'll all continue to "vote." But you'll all be afraid to attempt any truly radical change should the major political powers in this nation choose to disallow it. Because they'll be able to use the information they have about you to manipulate you, to make you believe lies, to cow you into submission. By now you must be thinking that Democracy—real Democracy—surely couldn't survive this!

But I am standing here before you to reassure you. Yes these powers are vast and could have the kinds of effects I've just described. But please rest assured. Democracy is alive and well in the United States of America, and always will be. It may be a kind of Democracy you don't find described in your high school textbooks. But I want to argue that it's real Democracy—rule by the people, for the people. But it requires viigilance. For the new Democracy doesn't live in the houses of Congress, or in presidential elections. The new Democracy lives much closer to home than that. Through this surveillance program, we've brought the possibility of a New Tyranny right into your very homes. So the new Democracy lives like this: It lives when you continue to ask the hard questions, the ones that make you uncomfortable and unsure of your own security. It lives when you do everything in your power to find ways to hide your activities from us. That's where the new Democracy lives: In the struggle. The struggle between us, the new Tyranny, and you, the ones with the will towards independence and the power of free-flowing information to make it work even in the face of what we're trying to do to you.

Let me not mislead you. As President of the United States, I will continue to use every kind of power I have available to me to ensure that those working to keep our nation stable and strong and safe from its enemies will have access to every bit of information they can realistically handle. This includes every bit of information that exists about you, your communications, your whereabouts. I must do this. We must do this. The United States has enemies that are quick, have access to immense power, work in the shadows, and simply can't be fought in any traditional way. The existence of these enemies—and they will never go away, as soon as one is destroyed, two more will take its place—absolutely requires that we use all means available to us to be sure we've seen not just what they're up to at any given moment, but what they could be up to. In fact, our enemies are learning how to use you, the American people, against yourselves. They are learning how to extract patterns from your movements, and how to nudge you in just the right ways to bring about disaster on a whim. To prevent this, we need to know more than they know. We need to know everything. Universal surveillance is a necessary part of this. We cannot give it up. To do so would be to invite destruction on our nation. Our technologies have developed immensely over the past few decades, such that we can gather all this information, and with computer programs able to detect patterns no human would ever notice, we can use this information. And we will. To do anything less would be utterly irresponsible.

We're doing it for your own good today. But you're right to worry that some future administration, or actors within this administration, or heck, even me, might be too tempted to use it for their own good in the future. And that, my fellow Americans, is why you must fight what I am doing. I will not lie and tell you I'll stop this surveillance. Anyone in my position who tells you they've stopped gathering every bit of information they can is either lying or foolish. I like to think I'm not foolish. In the past, we've simply lied to you, hoping enough of you would believe us to make the problem go away. But I believe this is information you can handle. Or anyway, it's information you must handle. Because the very same information technology that lets me get all this information about you makes it almost impossible to stop a continual stream of leaks from revealing the scope of this operation to you anyway. If it's not common knowledge now, it will be in short order. My advisors have urged me not to make these points, but they can't be denied. We're watching you, and you know we're watching you. And this makes you part of the program.

I am not asking you to cooperate. Your cooperation in this surveillance would destroy the country just as surely as our failure to surveil. It would mean the death of the ideals this nation was founded on. No, whatever you do, do not cooperate with this surveillance program. Fight it. Find ways to hide from us. Pull together all your know-how and find ways to get under our radar. And fight it politically. Not by voting—the politicians will always promise to end surveillance, and they will always fail to do so. No, fight it in the courts. Fight it in the media. Strive by every means you can against this surveillance program.

Because we need to know where our weaknesses are. If our enemies find our weaknesses, we die. We need you—you who we are sworn to protect, whose will we are sworn to uphold—we need you to find our weaknesses. And in so doing, you will make us stronger. And you will make yourselves stronger. Through this struggle against the new Tyranny, you will maintain that modicum of privacy, that freedom you are right to thirst for, that is your birthright. We'll try to take it away from you every step of the way. But you will use your proven resourcefulness to find more and more subtle ways to keep it. And together we'll build a system that is truly Democratic, moved by the struggle of its people for freedom and self-determination. That's the new Democracy. It is how you will rule yourselves, in that struggle between Tyranny and Freedom. And unlike the old Democracy, the new Democracy will be strong. It will withstand these attacks from outside, from those who hate our freedom.

Thank you for your time. Now let's begin.


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