More NSA Spying Fallout: Groklaw Shutting Down

from the the-pain-of-being-watched dept

A few months ago, after the NSA spying stories first broke, we wrote about a bit from This American Life where the host, Ira Glass, was interviewing lawyers for prisoners detained at Guantanamo, about the impact of knowing that the government was listening in on every single phone call you made. The responses were chilling. The people talked about how it stopped them from being emotional with their children or other close friends and relatives. How they had trouble functioning in ways that many people take for granted, just because the mental stress of knowing that you have absolutely no privacy is incredibly burdensome. PJ, the dynamo behind Groklaw, has written a powerful piece explaining the similar feeling she's getting from all the revelations about government surveillance, in particular the shutting down of Lavabit by Ladar Levison, and his suggestion that if people knew what he knew about email, they wouldn't use it.

Because of this, she's shutting down Groklaw.

You really need to read the entire piece, but it clearly lays out the sort of mental anguish that you get with the realization that what you thought was private and personal, might not be any more. She compares it to the feeling of having her apartment robbed, and the creepy feeling you get that some stranger was riffing through all of your personal belongings. And, from there, she riffs on the importance of privacy and intimacy, and how the totalitarian state takes those things away, quoting a powerful passage from Janna Malamud Smith's book Private Matters. You should go read the full quotes, but it notes the psychological impact of not having privacy.

And that's how PJ feels right now. The fact that the NSA is collecting all emails in or out of the US, as well as all encrypted messages, means that it's impossible to have that privacy and intimacy that she feels is necessary to run the site:
There is now no shield from forced exposure. Nothing in that parenthetical thought list is terrorism-related, but no one can feel protected enough from forced exposure any more to say anything the least bit like that to anyone in an email, particularly from the US out or to the US in, but really anywhere. You don't expect a stranger to read your private communications to a friend. And once you know they can, what is there to say? Constricted and distracted. That's it exactly. That's how I feel.

So. There we are. The foundation of Groklaw is over. I can't do Groklaw without your input. I was never exaggerating about that when we won awards. It really was a collaborative effort, and there is now no private way, evidently, to collaborate.

I'm really sorry that it's so. I loved doing Groklaw, and I believe we really made a significant contribution. But even that turns out to be less than we thought, or less than I hoped for, anyway. My hope was always to show you that there is beauty and safety in the rule of law, that civilization actually depends on it. How quaint.
What amazes me in all of these discussions concerning the defenders of such surveillance is that they never even seem able to comprehend the psychological impact of what all of this does. The way people change their behavior when they're being watched constantly, and what that can do to a person.

The fallout from all of this NSA surveillance will take a very, very long time to measure, but it will be profound. The government, again, has put so much emphasis on the "benefit" of preventing an exceptionally low probability event, that it barely even considers the massive costs on everyone else. PJ isn't shutting down Groklaw for the same reasons as Lavabit shut down. But it is the same root cause. The power of a surveillance state to spin out of control has wide-reaching consequences. It's difficult to see how anyone can claim it's worth the costs.
My personal decision is to get off of the Internet to the degree it's possible. I'm just an ordinary person. But I really know, after all my research and some serious thinking things through, that I can't stay online personally without losing my humanness, now that I know that ensuring privacy online is impossible. I find myself unable to write. I've always been a private person. That's why I never wanted to be a celebrity and why I fought hard to maintain both my privacy and yours.

Oddly, if everyone did that, leap off the Internet, the world's economy would collapse, I suppose. I can't really hope for that. But for me, the Internet is over.

So this is the last Groklaw article. I won't turn on comments. Thank you for all you've done. I will never forget you and our work together. I hope you'll remember me too. I'm sorry I can't overcome these feelings, but I yam what I yam, and I tried, but I can't.
I find this deeply upsetting on many levels, not the least of which is that Groklaw is a needless casualty in a stupid power struggle among weak-minded, power hungry government officials who don't even seem to comprehend what a mess they've created.

Filed Under: email, groklaw, intimacy, nsa, nsa surveillance, pj, privacy, stress, surveillance

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  1. icon
    Dwight Neller (profile), 23 Aug 2013 @ 9:20am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: NSA - obama

    "In another thread, a quick calculation (without much benefit of the doubt) yielded 1 error query in every 10,000 by NSA query analysts. This includes typos."

    Each one of those minuscule errors equates to violations of many, possibly thousands (or more) of people's civil rights.
    Those "errors" are crimes against the People.

    "What is your error rate at work? And does the buck stop with you?"

    I never asked for perfection from Barack Obama or Congressional members, just for them to tell the truth and to actually keep their own word and their oaths of office. Which has not in any way happened in regard to National Security and civil rights for 5 years.

    "BTW, what would you do today if you were President? Hope you are willing to take responsibility for terrorist attacks that happen afterward."

    You mean terrorist attacks like the Boston Marathon Bombing? The NSA did not stop that attack, nor did anyone in this government even bother to act on the intelligence passed along to them (for free!) by Russian authorities.

    If I were President, I would not give my word to act on an issue and reverse my position without even discussing it publicly with some meaningful debate. Obama was in France when he signed the latest, expanded and far more draconian version of the PATRIOT Act with the autopen.

    "Weighted against what at this point is mostly the fear of big brother watching are lives."

    You obviously don't value your former civil rights at all. Perhaps you feel more comfortable having someone look over your shoulder and read your private communications with impunity. That's fine. There are many ways to give up your civil rights for a false security state and a tiny paycheck. One way would be to join the US military, or go to any US jail (indefinitely, without charges filed, with no due process, habeas corpus or phone call to your mom, which is all now legal thanks to Barack Obama and his pen). If you're lucky and you fit the "profile", you may get to see some really exotic places, like Guantanamo (yep still open after 5 years). I hear water boarding is awesome fun!

    "Anyway, let me know if you would try to close down these 2 programs (meta data and prism) after you have thought about it hopefully for at least 20 minutes or so to consider the consequences all around you. .. And then we can sit here and blame Obama for 5 years of failures."

    I've been thinking and acting in regard to these illegal, unconstitutional programs for over a decade. If I were President, I would shut them all the way down today, permanently. The NSA has been illegally collecting data on US Citizens for much longer than just since 9/11. They had some of the same capabilities in place prior to 9/11. Where was the NSA for 9/11, or the Anthrax scare that enabled an absentee US Congress to pass the PATRIOT Act without reading it, or the USS Cole, or the WTC Bombing in 1993, countless US Embassy attacks etc etc? All were great opportunities for them to show their might. Didn't happen.

    "Congress intelligence committees have found no willful violation of the law or intent of the law."

    Congressional Intelligence Committees make massive amounts of personal money being "yes men" (or women in the case of Dianne Feinstein or Nancy Pelosi et al.) for the NSA. They essentially offer NSA / Defense Contractor puppet oversight to a puppet, rubber stamp, kangaroo court that has granted 99% plus of requests for queries against the data accumulated by these illegal programs.

    Without the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights intact, there is no "United States" to keep safe. There is no place in a real democracy for a secret police state in any form.

    "But go ahead as President and sabotage the program because you are skeptical of big government."

    I am not skeptical of "big government". It is obvious to many of us, that this gigantic, ridiculous, disjointed, divided, propagandized government doesn't work in any way whatsoever. There is no accountability, integrity, respect, transparency or "hope" to be seen or heard.

    This is my last post on this dead end thread, have a great life and keep on dreaming the impossible dream.

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