Heidi Boghosian on Mass Surveillance

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Mike Lofgren’s exceptional essay, “Anatomy of the Deep State,” delivers the roadmap that bewildered Americans need to navigate the past year’s glut of news about mass surveillance. The term “Deep State” aptly conveys how the private security industry has melded with government. It is soldered by plutocracy, perpetual war, reduction of industrial capacity, US exceptionalism and political malfunction. Lofgren is a credible and welcome interpreter of how these factors combine to exert control over us.

In addition to the Deep State’s obvious guardians — law enforcement agencies, Wall Street and Silicon Valley — the federal courts also sustain the state. The civil division of the southern district of New York, for example, handles cases defending the government’s ability to gather intelligence or protect state secrets and other information from disclosure. Importantly, Lofgren acknowledges that the social fluxes shaping history can be channeled or reversed not only by circumstance, but also by human agency.

To answer his rhetorical question of whether the “visible, constitutional state, the one envisaged by Madison and the other Founders” has at long last begun to reestablish itself, we need only look to examples of actively resisting Americans to say “Yes!” One New Yorker, artist and privacy advocate Adam Harvey, designed and is marketing “privacy protection” devices and garments (raising over $40,000 in a Kickstarter campaign), including a metallized fabric case to shield cellular phones from monitoring. Countless others are taking bold and courageous stances to challenge the Deep State in the streets, in courts and online.

Understanding the Deep State as laid forth by Lofgren is a necessary first step in questioning the power system. Mobilizing resistance, with creativity and persistence, comes next.