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Back to 2013_11_14_ICS_Snowden y las contradicciones políticas del pseudo liberalismo

Ana Marta González,Alejandro G. Vigo, Researchers of Institute for Culture and Society and professor of Philosophy

Snowden and the political contradictions of pseudo-liberalism

Thu, 14 Nov 2013 10:42:00 +0000 Published in Expansion

In addition to providing an unbeatable scenario for the exercise of collective hypocrisy, according to which the same people who pay for the espionage are scandalized when it comes to light, the Snowden case has brought to the table, with hurtful clarity, a worrying evolution of the "liberal" democracies of the 21st century: more and more intensely, the state powers are controlling the citizens, instead of being controlled by them. Thus it turns out that, precisely in countries that once presented themselves as champions of freedom, the supposedly Leninist maxim of action, according to which true control must always be total, since one control implies, at final, all controls, is coming to fruition.

Speaking of espionage, we move in the dark areas of the rule of law: there where, under the protection of the most important "reason of state" - guaranteeing citizen security - the enemies of the state are combated. It is obvious, however, that only a clear delimitation of what constitutes "citizen security", subject to strict parliamentary control, can prevent the appeal to security from gradually becoming an alibi for violating the most elementary rights, discretionally and in the name of spurious interests, which ignore any presumption of innocence, and open the doors to another class of crimes.

For what final Snowden has discovered is that US government-sponsored spying activities were not aimed exclusively at combating the potential enemies of the American citizenry, but their supposed allies; they were not aimed solely at aborting terrorist plots, but at exploring the activities of financial organizations; They were not aimed at preventing criminal activity, but at monitoring the conversations of ordinary citizens, who, in addition to paying their taxes selflessly under the scrupulous supervision of the Treasury, are now discovering that they have been subjected to surveillance by foreign powers, which, it seems, no one is properly supervising.    

In this vein, Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the world wide web, has order a public discussion on the activities carried out by the American and British security services - NSA and GCHQ - because, by breaking the web's encryption systems, they have also made it more vulnerable to attacks by the criminals they themselves are trying to combat. While acknowledging that security agencies are needed to combat Internet crime, Berners-Lee points to the need for their activities to be subject to control. It should be stressed, however, that such control is necessary not only so that the Web can indeed be a "safe place" for honest citizens, but also to prevent the concept of "security" from becoming so elastic as to blur forever the boundary between "normal state" and "state of exception".

Certainly, from the point of view of rights, it is as if since September 11, 2001, the entire Western world has been in a "state of emergency". But this is precisely what is at issue here. For many it is plausible that citizens, under the effects of fear, want to sacrifice their freedoms and privacy to this class of security. But citizens have not been asked about it. In any case, if this were the citizens' attitude, we would have reason to worry, because the raison d'être of a political system, and to a greater extent the raison d'être of a supposedly liberal system, is not to guarantee any class life, but to guarantee a life in freedom.  

We do not know why Snowden leaked the information about the irregularities of the Prism program to the international press, instead of contacting the committee in charge of intelligence monitoring at congress, which is what Senator Dianne Feinstein says he should have done. However, considering that two members of that committee - Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall - had been pointing out possible irregularities in the Prism program for several years, without any known action, was it not reasonable to assume that the path suggested by the senator was completely useless? Would the case have achieved the public impact it has now? Moreover, would the fundamental goal of alerting the public to the threat to itself have been fulfilled? Seen from the angle of what the protection of citizens' rights demands, and in the absence of any information about other possible motivations, Snowden' s action seems to constitute a case of civil resistance to a power that overreaches, forgetting its original meaning: Snowden would have refused to cooperate with a system that, to all appearances, or at least in his conscience, would have lost sight of its original raison d'être. And he has done so at great risk.

From this perspective, far from being judged an enemy of the homeland, he should be considered an exponent of the liberal values that have traditionally been the pride of the United States. Something similar could be said of Alan Rusbridger, publisher of The Guardian, who has been summoned to appear before the British Parliament in December. Both have stood up to governments in the name of their citizens' freedom. It remains to be seen whether we - and, in general, civil society in other Western countries - pick up the gauntlet, even symbolically, or, on the contrary, continue to be installed in a quiet servitude, sprinkled only with apparent freedoms.