4 August 2015

Can Snowden heal a broken democracy?

The Blog

Current democratic efforts to watch and rein in US government surveillance targeting American citizens wouldn't be possible without Edward Snowden's brave extralegal actions.

C4SS (Center for a Stateless Society) writer Jason Farrell argues that despite the White House's recent repetition of its claims that Snowden undermined US national security, "The reality is Snowden’s leaks revealed that the growth of state power cannot be constrained—even by normal legal means—without assistance from extra-legal measures."

In sum, relying on the current institutions of the US state is insufficient to maintain a functional democracy and the actions of whistleblowers who break the law are now necessary for any appearance of democracy. The development of the deep state - the de facto authorities whose power is embodied in unaccountable security forces and corporate sponsors rather than elected officials - is causing the architecture of democracy to crumble. Technology is largely to blame for democracy becoming almost impossible to practice, according to Farrell, who argues we are faced with "advances in technologies that, in the possession of states, give them enormous power to spy on their citizens without detection".

According to Farrell, effective safeguards on the technological capabilities of states are needed to limit regimes' access to the means to monitor all citizens and reduce democracy into a farce. Until these safeguards are apparent, extralegal actions such as Snowden's heroism and other whistleblowing will continue to be necessary deeds to produce even the slightest appearance of democratic accountability.

Further, any lack of transparency and reliance of a regime on secrecy to protect itself should be interpreted as an admission of guilt on the part of the regime until transparency is forced on it by whistleblowers' actions.

The Blog

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