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Empire: Secrets

The Brief: The Empire of Secrets

With more than 1,300 government surveillance facilities in the US, why are so many government programmes top secret?

Last Modified: 20 Aug 2013 15:23
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In 2013, Edward Snowden revealed that America's National Security Agency was listening in - on everybody. This sent shockwaves around the world but in reality it was just the latest expose in what has become a long and embarrassing history of the abuse of power from White House administrations.

The saddest part to me is that there is not more outrage, here we have this massive surveillance programme on every one of us living in America and many people overseas and we have senators and congress people and others trying to justify this programme.

Michael Ratner, Center for Constitutional Rights

Fast forward to a post-9/11 America, the Bush administration took many liberties and decided that it did not need court orders that previously governed how and when the government could surveil its citizens. But that protection it seemed to offer had a more sinister side.

Eventually the spying programme was said to have been shut down in 2007, but that was not the case and the winds of change seemed to have blown in with the election of Barack Obama - but that was a fallacy. 

Obama promised transparency and open government, yet his administration is one of the most closed governments in US history, one that rivals the notoriety   of the Nixon administration and its Watergate scandal.

As recent as 2012,  Wiliam  Binney,  a former employee of the NSA and specialist in traffic analysis, revealed that the NSA had indeed been spying on Americans and that all the telecommunication companies were cooperating with them.

But while Washington says the subject of the surveillance are foreign targets, that has not always been the case.

"The targets of the spying tended to be organisations that dissented from public policy in various ways, in so that civil rights organisations were the targets of spying," says Aryeh Neier, the former director of the American Civil Liberties Union. 

Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone says the real reason for this behaviour was a fear of reform. "Teachers, labour alliances, land alliances, they became our enemies".

With more than 1,300 government surveillance and monitoring facilities in the United States,  Empire  looks to understand why so many government programmes are top secret.

Why is secrecy and surveillance becoming such big business?

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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