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Greenwald writes: "Just as the Bush administration and the U.S. media re-labelled 'torture' with the Orwellian euphemism 'enhanced interrogation techniques' to make it more palatable, the governments and media of the Five Eyes surveillance alliance are now attempting to re-brand 'mass surveillance' as 'bulk collection' in order to make it less menacing (and less illegal)."

Edward Snowden. (photo: NBC News)
Edward Snowden. (photo: NBC News)

The Orwellian Re-Branding of "Mass Surveillance" as Merely "Bulk Collection"

By Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept

15 March 15


ust as the Bush administration and the U.S. media re-labelled “torture” with the Orwellian euphemism “enhanced interrogation techniques” to make it more palatable, the governments and media of the Five Eyes surveillance alliance are now attempting to re-brand “mass surveillance” as “bulk collection” in order to make it less menacing (and less illegal). In the past several weeks, this is the clearly coordinated theme that has arisen in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand as the last defense against the Snowden revelations, as those governments seek to further enhance their surveillance and detention powers under the guise of terrorism.

This manipulative language distortion can be seen perfectly in yesterday’s white-washing report of GCHQ mass surveillance from the servile rubber-stamp calling itself “The Intelligence and Security Committee of the UK Parliament (ISC)”(see this great Guardian editorial this morning on what a “slumbering” joke that “oversight” body is). As Committee Member MP Hazel Blears explained yesterday (photo above), the Parliamentary Committee officially invoked this euphemism to justify the collection of billions of electronic communications events every day.

The Committee actually acknowledged for the first time (which Snowden documents long ago proved) that GCHQ maintains what it calls “Bulk Personal Datasets” that contain “millions of records,” and even said about pro-privacy witnesses who testified before it: “we recognise their concerns as to the intrusive nature of bulk collection.” That is the very definition of “mass surveillance,” yet the Committee simply re-labelled it “bulk collection,” purported to distinguish it from “mass surveillance,” and thus insist that it was all perfectly legal.

This re-definition game goes as follows: yes, we vacuum up and store literally as much of the internet as we possibly can. Then we analyze all the data about what you’re doing, with whom you’re speaking, and who your network of associates is. Based on that analysis of all of you and your activities, we then read the communications that we want (with virtually no checks and concealing from you what percentage of it we’re reading), and store as much of the rest of it as technology permits for future trolling. But don’t worry: we’re only reading the Bad People’s emails. So run along then: no mass surveillance here. Just bulk collection! It’s not mass surveillance, but “enhanced collection techniques.”

One of the many facts that made the re-defining of “torture” so corrupt and indisputably invalid was that there was long-standing law making clear that exactly these interrogation techniques used by the U.S. government were torture and thus illegal. The same is true of this obscene attempt to re-define “mass surveillance” as nothing more than mere innocent “bulk collection.”

As Caspar Bowden points out, EU law is crystal clear that exactly what these agencies are doing constitutes illegal mass surveillance. From the 2000 decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Amann v. Switzerland, which found a violation of the right to privacy guaranteed by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and rejected the defense from the government that no privacy violation occurs if the data is not reviewed or exploited:

The Court reiterates that the storing of data relating to the “private life” of an individual falls within the application of Article 8 § 1 . . . . The Court reiterates that the storing by a public authority of information relating to an individual’s private life amounts to an interference within the meaning of Article 8. The subsequent use of the stored information has no bearing on that finding (emphasis added).

A separate 2000 ruling found a violation of privacy rights even when the government is merely storing records regarding one’s activities undertaken in public (such as attending demonstrations), because “public information can fall within the scope of private life where it is systematically collected and stored in files held by the authorities.”

That’s why an EU Parliamentary Inquiry into the Snowden revelations condemned NSA and GCHQ spying in the “strongest possible terms,” pointing out that it was classic “mass surveillance” and thus illegal. That’s the same rationale that led a U.S. federal court to conclude that mass metatdata collection was very likely an unconstitutional violation of the privacy rights in the Fourth Amendment.

By itself, common sense should prevent any of these governments from claiming that sweeping up, storing and analyzing much of the Internet — literally examining billions of communications activities every week of entire populations — is something other than “mass surveillance.” Yet this has now become the coordinated defense from the governments in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, New Zealand and Australia. It’s nothing short of astonishing to watch them try to get away with this kind of propagnadistic sophistry. (In the wake of our reports with journalist Nicky Hager on GCSB, watch the leader of New Zealand’s Green Party interrogate the country’s flailing Prime Minister this week in Parliament about this completely artificial distinction.)

But — just as it was stunning to watch media outlets refuse to use the term “torture” because the U.S. government demanded that it be called something else — this Orwellian switch in surveillance language is now predictably (and mindlessly) being adopted by those nations’ most state-loyal media outlets.

Last night, I was on the BBC program Newsnight to discuss the new report. As usual, they decided to interview me first, and then interview a security services official after me, so that I could not respond to what the official said. In this case, the interviewee after me was former GCHQ director David Omand (last seen refusing to answer a difficult question about surveillance from the U.K.’s often-excellent Channel 4 by literally walking away from the interview, insisting he had to catch a train).

The somewhat contentious BBC interview from last night is worth watching, in part because Omand literally demands that there be no more surveillance disclosures or debate because The Committee Has Spoken (also a clearly coordinated message). But it’s worthwhile even more so because this interview illustrates the “bulk collection” language fraud that is now being perpetrated with the eager help of the largest media outlets in these countries: your social media marketing partner


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+35 # Vardoz 2015-03-15 13:29
With all the surviellence our govt was not able to stop ISIL before it took hold which shows how incompetent all this spying is.
+33 # John S. Browne 2015-03-15 13:58

It's not "incompetence" as to why ISIL was not stopped; it is because ISIL was created by the Western "intelligence" apparatus as another "al CIAduh(!)" and/or "Taliban" entity to keep the obscenely-profi table endless war going interminably by having yet another "justification" and "legitimization " for mass-murdering presumed-guilty terrorists without due process of law, and vastly more innocent civilians in the process. These people don't care about human rights and war crimes statutes. (See my main comment below.)

From the war OF terrorism advocate's point of view, the more heinous "al CIAduh(!)"/"Tal iban"/ "ISIL" terrorist groups the better. It's like in the book, "1984", by George Orwell: When war against one group grew old, the government switched to the previous enemy(ies) becoming (a) "friend(s)", and went after another group for awhile as the enemy, that was also previously a "friend", switching back and forth. It goes on and on endlessly in the book as it is doing in real life today. [Or, they create (a) "new" 'enemy(ies)'.]

+4 # ritawalpoleague 2015-03-16 04:59
Yes, Vardoz, with my phone and computer constantly being broken into (as told to me by numerous repair experts), I hope I bore 'em to death.

And yes to you also, John S. Browne....

ISIS IS B.S., B.S., B.S.
+36 # jsluka 2015-03-15 15:02
Personally, I don't believe this mass surveillance is "really" about "fighting terrorism" but rather about controlling us - the people. Its just "dressed up" as being about terrorism.
+25 # John S. Browne 2015-03-15 14:14

Naturally, the real terrorists, the U.S. and other Western governments, and their "intelligence" system, believe they are above international law(s) [those of which were agreed to and signed by the U.S. government, which most of them were, are also U.S. Law(s) under the U.S. Constitution's supremacy clause]. In fact, as far as they're concerned, those laws only apply to those they want to go after, and do a token charging and convicting of a previous U.S. and/or other Western government "friend", in order to bring about regime change, and setup a puppet government more compliant with the wishes of global government enslavement, subjugation, domination and control. Slobodan Milošević of the former Yugoslavia (Serbia and the Balkans) is a prime example of one of those who was destroyed by them, as well as others.

Thus, the countries of the Western imperialism and enslavement regimes [doing away with all True Liberty(ies) and Freedom(s)] can violate the war crimes statutes and other international laws with impunity and immunity; and they're doing so increasingly. All of the previous stops are more and more rapidly being removed, and practices such as torture are being flaunted in our faces, in effect saying, "Just try to stop us if you dare; we don't answer to international law(s). And, if you try too hard to attempt to stop us, we will destroy you, too". Western terrorism is the the rule of the day, and controls all of the terrorism organizations extant today.

+19 # Anonymot 2015-03-15 14:26
It takes bigger people than those running our intelligence agencies to stand up and say "We were wrong." They are small minds with narrow focuses and oversize egos. Unfortunately, we need policemen and spies. What we don't need are those who run amuck with self-righteousn ess, self-importance , and a lack of perspective on what their limitations are. Omand is a fair example of that

More amusingly, for professional reasons I'm reading the sort of book I never read: Ludlum's The Bourne Ultimatum. In 1990 his main character, in association with the CIA, has exactly the same complaints that we have today! I suspect this has gone on forever - which does not reduce or excuse today's problem at all. It merely demonstrates that those who choose to govern are terminally incompetent - with a few exceptions (but we've not seen an exception for numerous decades.)
+31 # James Marcus 2015-03-15 14:36
Layers upon Layers, of Lies, Misrepresentati on, Dis-Representai on (deliberate) and so forth. NOTHING is 'True', anymore. Good Luck all of Us!!
Propaganda has been Perfected
''We have seen 'The Enemy'! and It is US"!
+15 # jsluka 2015-03-15 15:05
I believe the word for "dis-representa tion" is "disinformation ," and it is a big part of propaganda and psychological warfare (psy-ops).
+14 # Khidr 2015-03-15 16:25
I am really surprised with all wikileak's, snowden's & manning's leaks there is no hard evidence about 9/11 and the true organizers. The fairy tale of 19 Arabs with box cutters still dominate our news & our senses. These guys (culprits) must have been really thorough in spite of building no. 7 self destructed without being hit.
In Times or Newsweek Muhammad Ata's father in an interview said that he had talked to his son on the morning of Sept. 12th. and after that complete silence. Muhammad Ata was disapeared after that. I am waiting for Greenwald, Assange, Chompsky, Porter, Parry, Fisk, McGovern or somebody in the CIA, DIA, NSA,to blow the real 9/11 Watergate...... ....I guess it will be a continuous saga of Al Quaida, Al Taliban, Al ISIS a never ending story for the TV & the movie series.
-4 # Phlippinout 2015-03-15 18:17
Yes and the real drama lies with Al Cracka, the evil white man who has tortured the earth since his tail fell off and he set out in search of money and profits. His wrath is deadly....
+2 # Phlippinout 2015-03-15 18:19
BTW " Al cracka" is the genius of Chris Rock.
+7 # futhark 2015-03-15 19:37
I don't know about the others, but Noam Chomsky has fully embraced the neocon-created orthodox narrative of 9/11 and basically refuses to discuss challenges to it. Architects & Engineers For 9/11 Truth are doing about all that could be done by people who are not professional journalists and are not privileged to government insider information to establish the veracity of details showing it to be fallacious.
+8 # Aliazer 2015-03-15 19:42
Improved 21st century Nazism is alive and well in the western world today.

Hitler did not have the wherewithal to perpetrate on us what today's Orwellian reality is capable of doing.

The fact that a number of political hacks say that everything is OK is laughable on its face. They have no credibility or standing with the rank and file as we all despise their corruption and criminality.
+11 # LandLady 2015-03-15 22:10
Thank you again, Glenn Greenwald, for this excellent reporting and analysis.
+6 # PatG 2015-03-16 02:25
Insane that these clandestine agencies in both US and UK think they have the right to dictate to the citizens in whose employ they are- how much of our private information they can siphon up and store for their sick purposes. I hope the citizens of these countries can wrest away control from them and force the destruction of these databases that hold all of our private data hostage. Secretive societies should not have power over our governments. But that is the ultimate effect of allowing agencies to operate in secret. JFK warned us about it and paid the ultimate price.
+5 # Milarepa 2015-03-16 04:08
You're getting to the core of the matter, Glenn. Sloganism is the motor of suppression. Remember 'Enduring Freedom'? The people who came up with this simply never imagined that enduring freedom can also mean suffering freedom - which was much closer to the truth. This is certainly a semantic war. Presumably Orwell in his heaven has been having a wonderful time. War is Peace. That's the peace we live in and will for quite a while. Good to question the integrity of all government-crea ted or affiliated groups. They wouldn't know if integrity bit them where the sun don't shine. Still, this is a good fight for all of us and you're right in the frontline.
+3 # Milarepa 2015-03-16 04:22
Let's bust Snowden out of there somebody. Soon! He looks
sad, resigned on the above picture. I've thought of taking Obama hostage (just kiddin', surveillance folk) and trade him for Snowden. Putin might go for it, but Boehner? Not a chance.
+1 # Milarepa 2015-03-16 11:47
I was doing alright with the pluses but now I seem to be losing. Musta said something wrong. Maybe I should stop funnin' with this. On the other hand if I can choose between crying and laughing I usually choose laughing. We'd better learn to laugh at all this shee-ite.
+2 # Bruce Gruber 2015-03-17 06:45
Input from a constitutional lawyer requested:

Is any bulk collection or mass surveillance data associated with a person's existence exempt from:

"Amendment IV: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Or, absent the enumerated, individual and specific warrants regarding "oath, ...person ...or thing", could any subsequent legal action taken pursuant to such mass data collection be allowed?

Could the Boston Marathon bombers be prosecuted for their hideous and inhuman acts if the information leading to their identification, capture and prosecution had been the result of "mass data collection" including public surveillance cameras? cameras?

Does the same apply to "OCCUPY" demonstrators on a public sidewalk outside Bank of America?

Has 1984 REALLY arrived?!?
0 # C-SIK 2015-03-17 07:56

"IT IS NO JOKE" !!! ---
+1 # ptalady 2015-03-19 00:33
In 1984, the government had installed surveillance cameras in every home. Today, our government is spared the expense: people pay for their own surveillance cameras and run the feed through their cell phones -- i.e. through the government bulk data collection -- presto! Visuals on all of everyone's private homes! Facebook was just the beginning.... (Evil) Genius!

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