Have Snowden’s Revelations Strengthened the NSA?

By Gary North: It has been a year since Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA.

I appreciate what Snowden did. His decision to leak the stolen documents has done the conservative movement an enormous favor. It has blown to smithereens the greatest single myth of conservatism: “If the American people knew about this, there would be an uprising.”

No, there wouldn’t.

Here is a variation: “If the voters knew what is being done to them by the Conspiracy, they would throw out the conspirators at the next election.”

No, they wouldn’t.

I have heard variants of these arguments for 50 years. Conservatives don’t learn. They think that by exposing the Bad Guys, they will defeat the Bad Guys. They’re wrong.

Snowden has proven, as no one in my era has better proved, that exposure of the Bad Guys in government has no negative effect on them.

If exposure does come, and the public does nothing to thwart the hidden Bad Guys, then the Bad Guys no longer have to worry about further exposure. It will be old news. At this point, they can do even more to secure their position of power. The pressure blows over. There may be a time of bad publicity, but this does not change anything fundamental.

Before Snowden, the best examples were the big bankers, who were bailed out a taxpayers’ expense in 2009. They got richer. The public knows. The public groused a little. Did this hurt the bankers? No. They got bonuses for their failures. Congress bailed out the big banks, and there were no negative public sanctions on either Congress or the big banks. It’s business as usual.

The voters know. The voters have done nothing. It’s old news.

But Snowden’s revelations have gone far beyond the big bank bailouts of 2009. They have thrown light on a power grab by the government that is perpetual. It was generally hidden. James Bamford’s book, The Puzzle Palace (1983), did good work. It had no negative effect on the NSA. But he did not have incontrovertible evidence. Snowden did, and he released it. He got worldwide publicity.

The NSA is more powerful than ever. From now on, any further exposure is old news. No harm, no foul.


Glenn Greenwald is the reporter who blew the NSA’s cover by reporting on the revelations of Edward Snowden in June 2013. Today, about a year after his first story appeared in the Guardian, he has written a book about the event.

Has the NSA’s budget been reined back from $50 billion a year to, say, $25 billion a year? No. It is nice that we learned that the NSA’s budget is $50 billion a year, but it is completely irrelevant in terms of doing anything about it. Congress is still paying the money, and the NSA is still spending it.

Has the spying center in Utah been shut down? No. It is going to come online as promised. It has all kinds of snafus associated with it, as any government bureaucracy does. But Congress has in no way reined it in. The public has not demanded that Congress rein it in.

Is there any indication of a mass political movement inside either of the two political parties to bring the NSA under control, let alone abolish it? No. The public doesn’t care one way or the other. All the public needs to know is that the NSA is stopping terrorism, and the rest of it is irrelevant. The public says A-OK. No problem.

Has the public adopted encryption systems for e-mail? No. Greenwald talks about the fact that, when Snowden first contacted him, he refused to encrypt his own e-mail. That was what Snowden required. Greenwald admits he didn’t know anything about encrypting e-mail. He makes the obvious point that almost no reporters ever encrypt their e-mail.

Here’s the reality: (largley…) nobody cares. The NSA now knows this. It can issue its denials. Nobody in Congress is going to call the NSA’s bluff. The only way to stop a bureaucracy is to cut its funding, and there is no attempt in Congress to cut the NSA’s funding. I don’t think this is simply because Congressmen know that they can be blackmailed forever by the NSA. I’m sure they can be. But I think the basic reason is this: the voters back home don’t care. If the voters don’t care, and Congress is dealing with a massive bureaucracy that defends itself in terms of protecting the public against terrorism, then why take the political risk? There is no positive political payoff, and there is potentially a serious series of negative political payoffs.

Around the world, it is getting cheaper and cheaper to monitor people’s movements. In major cities, but especially London, there are surveillance cameras everywhere. Nobody cares.

The longer the procedures go on, the less likely there is any possibility of reversing them. The tradition is accepted. The practices become customary. They become part of our basic acceptance.

That which we do not think about is immune from reform, let alone abolition. If we don’t think about it, the bureaucrats have free rein.


The day that the American public accepted the income tax was the day that they surrendered their financial liberty. Whether they knew this at the time is irrelevant today. The fact is, the federal government says it has the right to monitor every single financial transaction that we make, and nobody objects. This is true virtually all over the world. The public accepts the idea of the income tax, and the income tax is inherently a grant of privilege to the state to investigate every aspect of our lives.

We have to prove, in an IRS court, that we did not make the amount of money that the IRS says that we made. The only reason we are allowed to submit our IRS tax forms is to assert a claim that the IRS has to challenge in court when it assesses our taxes. The IRS goes along with us most of the time. It figures we’re scared to death, and will not lie too much. It figures correctly. The IRS can confiscate our bank accounts at any time, and we have to prove that the IRS has made a mistake. The burden of proof is on us. Common law does not govern the IRS.

When the IRS can do this, why should we worry about the NSA? When we have surrendered this much authority to the IRS, why should we care that the NSA monitors our e-mails? Compared to monitoring all of our financial transactions, the monitoring of our e-mails is nickel and dime stuff. Nobody cares.

The public surrendered its liberty on the issue of privacy when it accepted the government’s official statement in 1913 the 16th amendment had been passed. It had not been legally passed, but this was irrelevant, because the federal government wanted it to be passed. The United States government announced that it had been passed. From that point on, privacy in principle disappeared in the United States.

This is why the NSA is not going to be in any way hampered by Edward Snowdon, except in terms of bad publicity. But bad publicity does not lead to a change of congressional policy, especially with respect to the budget of the NSA. So, the NSA is going to get away with it, just as it has always gotten away with it.

If anything, Snowden has helped the NSA. Why is that? Because now it is clear that the public really doesn’t care. The NSA has been able to weather the storm with no problem in terms of its budget, which means that the NSA now has carte blanche, and Congress knows it. The public knows it to the extent that the public cares, but really the public doesn’t care.

The NSA now has full rein over every aspect of our privacy. A year has gone by, and nothing has changed. This is a grant of legitimacy to the NSA that it did not have before Snowden’s revelations. Before, the NSA worked in secrecy from the public. Now the NSA knows that the worst possible light can be thrown on the NSA’s activities, and nothing is done to roll back the NSA. It has survived Snowdon’s revelations, and now it can continue without any major threat to its operations.

I’m glad that Snowden did what he did, because I wanted to hear evidence that backed up what James Bamford wrote about the NSA over two decades ago. It was nice to see that Bamford’s warning was validated by Snowden’s relations. But nobody cared about Bamford’s book, and nobody really cares about Snowden’s revelations — not enough to cut the NSA’s budget.

Snowden’s revelations serve as a mirror. We looked into the mirror, and we saw what manner of people we are. We just don’t care. We didn’t care in 1913, so why should we care today?

Once the voters concluded that they could force the rich to pay more in taxes than they did, privacy ended. Envy was basic to the grant of power to the IRS. Envy is alive and well. Privacy isn’t.

As long as there is an IRS, there will be an NSA.


Until the voters’ minds change regarding big government, exposure of major infringements on our liberties has no effect in rolling back the state.

If voters accept the interventionist state, they are glad to hear about the Bad Guys. “They are making us safer.” “They are protecting us from terrorists.” “We need them.” “The loss of our privacy is the price of liberty. It’s worth paying.”

The variant regarding the NSA: “If you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear.”

“Your papers, please. You have nothing to fear if you have not done anything wrong.”

This assumes that the state is benign. It assumes that the state only goes after bad guys.

There has been no uprising of the American people to defend their privacy.

If you think I am exaggerating, I have two words for you: Lindsey Graham.

Now, the NSA can really get busy. “No more Mr. Nice Guy.”

The only thing that can roll this back is a budget crisis. To think that anything else can roll it back is naïve. Budget cuts can do it; nothing else can. It is going to take the fiscal crisis of the federal government to roll the system back. Nothing else will.
SOURCE: http://deadlinelive.info/2014/05/14/have-snowdens-revelations-strengthen...