Janet Napolitano: Orwellian State? What Orwellian State?

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet “See Something, Say Something” Napolitano says there’s no reason for people’s fears to be raised about a surveillance state, even in the wake of Edward Snowden’s exposing of the NSA’s PRISM project. Besides, we’ve got plenty of checks and balances in place that would prevent any agency from misusing people’s personal data. Napolitano even referred to a “privacy officer” who is “constantly reviewing [their] policies and procedures.” That should make us feel better, knowing that they have someone going over their policies all the time. And approving of them. Here’s what she told a local news organization in New York:

 “I think people have gotten the idea that there’s an Orwellian state out there that somehow we’re operating in. That’s far from the case… I think we need to do a better job of explaining to the American people exactly what is kept, what are the real restrictions on how – I’m just talking now for DHS, Department of Homeland Security – how we use it, how long we can keep it, how we share it, all those things… No one should believe that we are simply going willy-nilly and using any kind of data that we can gather.”

 And why shouldn’t we believe that? They want surveillance cameras everywhere. They want surveillance drones everywhere. By 2020, we’ll likely have more than 30,000 drones watching over us. Practically nothing we do is secret anymore. Everything we do on a computer or a cell phone is tracked, monitored, recorded and stored. It sounds like they’re “going willy-nilly and using any kind of data [they] can gather.”

Speaking of an “Orwellian state,” remember this from 1984:

 “There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live – did live, from habit that became instinct – in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”

 That pretty much describes our situation today in the “land of the free.” The NSA revelations show us that at any given moment, some bureaucrat or some agency might be watching what we’re doing. Watching what you type in your e-mails. Watching how you comment on blogs. Watching which blogs you frequent. Listening to your phone conversations. In fact, they’re probably doing that for everybody. To prevent terrorist attacks, of course. And any of that information could be used against you…in a secret court of law, where secret evidence is presented against you in secret. And your presence won’t be allowed.