How could the case of Edward Snowden have anything to do with global warming? By now I probably don’t have to mention that Edward Snowden is the intelligence analyst who blew the whistle on the NSA’s previously top secret PRISM program which has, among other things, monitored all our phone calls, emails and texts.
Despite what the mainstream media apparently thinks, this case is not primarily about Snowden’s salary, his pole-dancing girlfriend, his whereabouts or what country is most likely to grant him asylum. The real story is that we now know that big brother, aka the Executive Branch of the government of the United States, is recording all our words, whether spoken or written, and that the penalty for letting us in on this secret is being branded a traitor and threatened with prosecution under the Espionage Act.
It shocks, but does not surprise me - that this - the most massive secret surveillance program ever undertaken in the history of the world is being pursued by an administration that loudly proclaims itself to be open and transparent. This towering hypocrisy echoes Heinrich Himmler’s claim that big lies are best.
But what does this have to do with global warming? We’ve been told the primary purpose of this program is to keep us safe from terrorist attacks. In fact, those in charge of the program have told us that it has already prevented many attacks. (Of course, given the secret nature of the program we have to trust that they are telling the truth about this.) Moreover, administration officials, senators, members of congress and many more, are wailing that Snowden has damaged our national security, and now that terrorists know about this program we are more vulnerable.
I don’t doubt that counter-terrorism is one of the reasons the NSA originated the PRISM program during George W. Bush’s second term in office in 2007. But I think the reason the Obama administration has maintained it is more complex. I think it has as much to do with this administration’s understanding of the impact of fast approaching ecological crises on domestic tranquility. Most of us will suffer in one way or another, and not all of us will take it lying down.
Unlike the Bush administration, the Obama administration takes these looming disasters seriously. President Obama’s June 25th speech provides ample proof of that. The President said: “[S]cience, accumulated and reviewed over decades, tells us that our planet is changing in ways that will have profound impacts on all of humankind.”
I am virtually certain that the White House has a group of experts reviewing the most sophisticated, up-to-date, climate projections and analyzing the likely global impact on people of all the changes we’ve already set in motion. The White House knows that even if we immediately eliminate all emissions entirely (an impossibility), we will endure the growing consequences of our actions to date, for several more decades. Thus, the White House understands that ecological disruptions will increase dramatically over the coming years, and they want to be prepared to handle people’s reactions to the coming catastrophes. It is no secret that the U.S. military is already taking climate change into account as it plans to maintain as much control over the world as possible. I believe the White House is doing the same when it comes to the potential for domestic disturbances.
That is where Edward Snowden’s case intersects with global warming. The FBI claims that “environmental extremists,” not Al Qaeda or related groups, pose the greatest domestic terrorist threat. Displaced populations and starving people become more difficult to control. The Bush era PATRIOT Act and complementary surveillance programs provide an excellent blueprint for developing the tighter control mechanisms that I am sure the Obama administration and any that succeeds it will see as essential to maintaining order as the situation deteriorates.
Global warming will cause the extinction of many plants and animals, but civil liberties and human rights may be among its first casualties.
To receive a notification whenever there is a new post to Out on a Limb Together, subscribe now.