The President’s own task force concluded that NSA spying in the US hadn’t prevented a single act of terrorism (e.g.,Washington Post, 12/23/13).
The spying is really about gathering information on everybody. Innocent citizens.
But if citizens didn’t know the NSA was engaged in such a gargantuan program of snooping…they would, in blithe ignorance, just go about their business and live their lives.
The point is this: the most effective means of curtailing dissent and creating a cautious conforming population isn’t the spying itself. It’s letting people know the spying is happening all the time.
And since curtailing dissent and creating conformity are strategic aims of the Surveillance State, citizens need to know they’re being watched.
And now they do know. In spades.
Have you seen any major cutbacks in NSA spying? No.
The major effect, so far, of all the NSA revelations of the past year is: people everywhere know they’re being spied on. They knew it before, to a degree—but not like they know it now.
A rough analogy: Under certain circumstances, people can be forced into psych wards and held against their will. The mechanism of social control inherent in that program is really, however, about people knowing they can be detained.
Social control is really about the threat, the possibility of being caught.
Now (since last June) everybody knows the NSA is deploying vast resources all the time to spy, spy, spy.
In that sense, things are working out quite well for NSA.
Those technicians and executives who are merely carrying water for the Surveillance State may be out of sorts these days. They may be wondering whether an ax is going to fall on them. But the real social planners, who occupy a much higher position, are pouring champagne.