The Chilling Effect

Yesterday we learned that the government is “eavesdropping” on our conversations and e-mails. Meanwhile, in a post titled One Nation Under Surveillance: ‘The Little Red Book’ can still get you in trouble, Plutonium Page writes about a student who gets questioned by Federal agents, because he asked at the library to see Mao’s “Little Red Book.”
I want to write about the chilling effect this will have on people.


I have a “Little Red Book” that I’ve had since the 60’s. I thought hard about writing that here.
The first comment in the DailyKos post is “Boy, we all who post here regularly better watch our back..Here comes the Brother.” A couple of comments later, “I’m sure there are people monitoring all of the left of center and peace oriented blogs and web sites.” Many, many more comments along these lines. These are the first things that come into people’s minds, “This means I am being watched.”
A comment yesterday at a Slashdot, a post about the news of government spying on our communications. Someone says something bad about Bush, someone replies, “Pray NSA is not monitoring the network between your machine and slashdot 🙂
I’m watching an episode of Special Victims Unit as I write this. On the screen they just this second said, “Since the Patriot Act, they can do anything.
Has it crossed your mind that you’d better be careful because the government will know what you said?
9/11 changed everything. Watch your backs.
Update – After posting this, I see that a friend Instand Messaged me earlier, with a message that said “I’m watching you, signed NSA.”

4 thoughts on “The Chilling Effect

  1. I think the real purpose of all this is intimidation. Seriously, there’s really no way the NSA or anyone else can successfully monitor all those millions of messages. Even though those doing the monitoring are seriously looney, out of touch with reality, and paranoid, like the bunch of FBI and police goons who descended on the daughter of a friend of mine during the Republican convention because she was photographing the Brooklyn Bridge for her photography assignment and questioned her for hours, the purpose is really to intimidate everyone, using these individual cases as examples to the “rest of us.” The problem is, it works.
    I just DARED to refer to “FBI and police goons” instead of showing the “proper” respect, because I believe, in these cases, “goons” is exactly what they are. Obviously, if they’re spending their time doing things like harassing blond 18 yr. old girls nobody’s watching the shop and we’re utterly at the mercy of any genuine terrorists who might really be about to blow up said bridge. Photographing it is not a threat. Millions of photos of it are available. Fastening explosives to it would be a threat. Stalling a truck filled with explosives on it would be a threat. Terrorizing a cute girl photographing it is an exercise in intimidation and sadism for the fun of it. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Watch your backs.

  2. Unfortunately there is a way to monitor everyone, and it looks like that is what they are doing. You use speech recognition to digitize all phone calls. Emails are already digitized. Computers scan the streams looking for words and phrases. The conversations that pop out of that process are looked over by humans.
    FYI the NSA is the largest agency in the entire government — bercause or the number of people they employ to do this and the budget for the equipment to do it.

  3. Dave, I completely agree with you! Damned right they’re monitoring everyone and everything. My point is, what are they going to be able to do with all this information? That’s millions and millions of messages, and ultimately humans will have to scan it. This can’t possibly be just a quest for “terrorists” at least unless everybody’s considered a potential terrorist.

  4. Facsim in America

    In the 1970’s the FBI under Hoover compiled a database of Nixon’s political enemies including protesters and engaged in disruptive activities designed to harass, intimidate, and undermine the effectiveness of anti-war groups, regardless of the peaceful…

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