Americans Are The Most Spied On People In World History

George Washington's picture

TechDirt notes:

In a radio interview, Wall Street Journal reporter Julia Angwin (who’s been one of the best at covering the surveillance state in the US) made a simple observation that puts much of this into context: the US surveillance regime has more data on the average American than the Stasi ever did on East Germans.

Indeed, the American government has more information on the average American than Stalin had on Russians, Hitler had on German citizens, or any other government has ever had on its people.

The American government is collecting and storing virtually every phone call, purchases, email,  text message, internet searches, social media communications, health information,  employment history, travel and student records, and virtually all other information of every American.

Some also claim that the government is also using facial recognition software and surveillance cameras to track where everyone is going. And – given that your smartphone routinely sends you location information back to Apple or Google – it would be child’s play for the government to track your location that way.

As the top spy chief at the U.S. National Security Agency explained this week, the American government is collecting some 100 billion 1,000-character emails per day, and 20 trillion communications of all types per year.

He says that the government has collected all of the communications of congressional leaders, generals and everyone else in the U.S. for the last 10 years.

He further explains that he set up the NSA’s system so that all of the information would automatically be encrypted, so that the government had to obtain a search warrant based upon probably cause before a particular suspect’s communications could be decrypted.  But the NSA now collects all data in an unencrypted form, so that no probable cause is needed to view any citizen’s information.  He says that it is actually cheaper and easier to store the data in an encrypted format: so the government’s current system is being done for political – not practical – purposes.

He says that if anyone gets on the government’s “enemies list”, then the stored information will be used to target them. Specifically, he notes that if the government decides it doesn’t like someone, it analyzes all of the data it has collected on that person and his or her associates over the last 10 years to build a case against him.


As we’ve previously documented, the spying isn’t being done to keep us safe … but to crush dissent and to smear people who uncover unflattering this about the government … and to help the too big to fail businesses compete against smaller businesses (and here).

And as we point out at every opportunity, this is not some “post-9/11 reality”.  Spying on Americans – and most of the other attacks on liberty – started before 9/11.

Senator Frank Church – who chaired the famous “Church Committee” into the unlawful FBI Cointel program, and who chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – said in 1975:

Th[e National Security Agency's]  capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.  [If a dictator ever took over, the N.S.A.] could enable it to impose total tyranny ….

We can debate whether or not dictators are running Washington. But one thing is clear: the capacity is already here.

TechDirt points out:

While the Stasi likely wanted more info and would have loved to have been able to tap into a digitally connected world like we have today, that just wasn’t possible.

That’s true.  The tyrants in Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia and Stasi Eastern Europe would have liked to easedrop on every communication and every transaction of every citizen.  But in the world before the internet, smart phones, electronic medical records and digital credit card transactions, much of what happened behind closed doors remained private.

(And modern tin pot dictators don’t have the tens of billions of dollars necessary to set up a sophisticated electronic spying system).

In modern America, a much higher percentage of your communications and transactions are being recorded and stored by the government.

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enoch_root's picture

Anonymous holds the ace in the hole, but they have yet to realise it although it is only a matter of time. The Nation State's revenue collection IT systems are big creaking, centralised targets just waiting for a judiciously timed shove (like just at peak of electronic tax return filings for example) to knock it completely off kilter.

The archilles heel of the modern nation state, now that they have swallowed the red pill of centralised TIA and IT hubris, is they can be shutdown completely if they lose their revenue gathering ability due to IT systemic failure. This is second biggest worry to big bank failure.

And they have no plans to decentralise their funding infrastructures so the massive surveillance state apparatus continuity is actually predicated on the assumption that the centralised revenue gathering model is robust. Network theory has already proven that it isn't.

Place you bets. Anonymous hackers versus too big to fail centralised revenue gathering.

Arthur Borges's picture

Well, a friend of mine had a retired KGB uncle in the family who laughed when commenting on the Patriot Act: "We never had such powers," said he, adding that "Yes, under Stalin we could arrest anyone we liked, but we didn't have the technology."


newengland's picture

The problem for the USA is that it has too many Stalinist types in public office, and snivelling cowards backing them or too timid to defy them.

No worries. There are enough people who can and will keep close to neighbors, the Republic.

Your problem is that you remember the 'friend' or 'uncle' of the KGB, rather than do something for the Republic.

newengland's picture

There are more CCTV cameras in dhimmi Britain per population than anywhere else on earth.

Monarchist Britain linked to the House of Saud and other despots like the AshkeNAZI big banks is trying to demoralise the USA.


The USA is the size of a continent...1776 and all that.

goldcoastgirl's picture

It's called the New Dark has fallen...sadly.


goldcoastgirl's picture

It's called the New Dark has fallen...sadly.


MikeMcGspot's picture

Cash transactions are hard to trace, as we transition to the new world we should architect it such that tracability of transactions is a criteria of low priority.

In the realm of accountability what is more important to you?

The what or the who?

Central planning is only relevant at the transaction level when the "Who" of "What" is known.

Thus is the beauty of Fiat currency. FIAT as it should be without the "Who" unless the spender wishes to call it.

Transactional integrity is a state of trust between the seller and the buyer.

The means of exchange are being driven towards the medium of exchange on a transaction basis.

With the medium of cash, we have the blessing of ambiguity of transaction records with the world at large.

The notes between the parties constitute the trust of the agreement per signatures.

The role of government is to discern and enforce the contract when we are unable to cut a deal as reality plays its ways.

Otherwise it should get the fuck out of our business, we don't need the intrusion of the collective mindset on the pop culture scene.

It is all really boiling down to the question.

What do you believe and will you accept as the truth?

FIAT currency is king. Only traceable between two parties with paper receipts who enter into agreement without a thousand lines of text that may take a couple hours for a smart person to discern,

The rest is all BS in some database, holding you accountable for some deal you did not sign on for or you just pushed the button cause the fine print may have taken the rest of your life to read and understand.


FIAT! Yea!




Oldrepublic's picture

I would like to thank George Washington for this very important information

reader2010's picture

Data mining? Long ORCL.

MrPalladium's picture

While one can never be sure, the most probable reason why the government could not disclose the real reasons for dismissing generals Petreaus and Allen was that some of their communications concerning the possibility of a military coup were intercepted. Public disclosure of such a reason would have provoked open discussion of military coups incidental to their dismissal up and down the chain of command within the military, and the system cannot afford to have such a thing become a topic of conversation within that group.

What other cause for dismissal would they need to cover up in such an awkward and clumsy way?

the edge of chaos's picture

and you can bet your ass EVERYONE on ZH is being tracked!!


ThisIsBob's picture

"Never write when you can talk.  Never talk when you can nod.  And never put anything in an email."  Eliot Spitzer


lakecity55's picture

First guy to invent a drone jammer makes a killing!

ThisIsBob's picture

Where are all the hackers when you really need them?

Things that go bump's picture

I hope they are hiding safe underground in the alternative economy.   

Vendetta's picture

Its just a giant monolith named vger with all the knowledge in the universe ready to destroy all the carbon based units till it finds its creator so it might find its soul and something to love other than itself. 

Mark Noonan's picture

This is getting way out of control - and I'm not a privacy fanatic as most of the desire for privacy rests upon a desire all but saints share:  to not have our screw ups made public.  But while privacy, in and of itself, is a trivial thing in my view, there is a danger in the government being able to get all this information because it is true that with that much data any government can cook up a case against anyone they wish - and even if unsuccessful, it will be enough to cause a citizen a lot of trouble, cost a lot of money and generally chill any desire to become noticed by the government.  At the core of any democratic republic is a requirement that the government notice its citizens - especially those with a gripe about the government.  We're trending towards a system in which no one but those who agree with government will dare mention it.

To me, the best course of action here is legislation which prohibits those who transmit data (audio, text, video) for private person to maintain any record of it beyond, say, 72 hours (we do have to have a window of opportunity for properly warranted law enforcement to take a look at people who are either about to commit a crime, are committing it or just committed it).  Just dumpt the data after 72 hours - erase it as if it has never been.  Additionally, no data transmitting agency should be able to provide the any semblance of data to a third party without the express, written-on-paper (no "check if you've read the disclosure" box on line any longer) consent of the data owner.  Provide heavy criminal penalties for any data transmitter who keeps such data beyond 72 hours, or mines it - and extremely heavy penalties for anyone who hacks in to a private person's data (hacking in to government should, in my view, result in a much lighter sentence).

Absent this, the only way you can get 'round it is to cease using electronic media and go all-cash.

lakecity55's picture

technology, blah. They'll just shoot people.

Mediocritas's picture

For a bit of a laugh:

Once again, The Onion's fiction ends up being closer to reality than the "real" news.


laomei's picture

Haha, you're more fucked than China.  Good luck with that illusion of so-called freedom.

moondog's picture

Organs are not harvested from political dissenters...yet

mkhs's picture

That you know about.

lakecity55's picture

Uh, George, could you speak a little closer to my wristwatch?


Sure, LC. Say, how about sitting a little closer to that flower vase?


Tyler: I think both of you would be real comfortable sitting right under that lighting fixture.

(both): Sure, T.

JOYFUL's picture

...While the Stasi likely wanted more info and would have loved to have been able to tap into a digitally connected world like we have today, that just wasn’t possible...

What appears to be missing from this account is the realization that the massive surveillance systems of those failed fascisto-communist states have not died, but merely evolved into the current form via an unannounced continuity of government program in place since the inception of Operation Sunrise, and the importation of massive numbers of sionist nazi black ops specialists who worked in collusion with domestic traitors like James Jesus Angleton to undermine the security apparatus from within and set the stage for a domestic putsch by dual-citiizened agents of a foreign power....

whose ultimate goal is the complete removal of the western people from the pages of history.

Michaelwiseguy's picture

How was this allowed to happen in the USA. What are the names of the people who approved of and put this surveillance state on the American people in place?

I want all the names and addresses of these people, even if the numbers of people is in the thousands.

A class action law suite against these people for violating 4th Amendment Constitutional Rights and harshest penalties imposed is in order.


We all take for granted the heavy hand of our government employees. This is what we do about it, by teaching those public employees to know their role;

We should have required "Presumption of Freedom, Presumption of Innocence of American Citizens Sensitivity Training", administered through human resource departments of all government agencies.

These classes will include the citing of law that backs up and reinforces the training topics covered in the lessons.

I'll have more on this subject as I develop my new realm of education for government employees.

I'm starting this New Entrepreneurial business today and invite you to participate and join me in this endeavor.

We can pass a law requiring public employee role teaching. Everyone who works for a fortune 500 company has to sit through the social engineering sensitivity training lessons. Lots of companies specialize in this field. They can add another course study to their specialties for public employees, especially for those who work in law enforcement. There's money to be made in this business.

There is a difference between public and private concerns.  Charter school employees come to mind.

The auto dealer and employees that service government owned equipment will not be required to have training. That sort of thing. I'm pretty frugal about what my property and income tax dollars are being spent on. The type of training courses can be tailored to each occupation. It's not rocket science, and it's money well spent, knowing I have respectful employees working for me.  Only people who are employed by governments through subcontractors that have direct contact physically with the public that employ them, will be required to have public interaction sensitivity training. If they have a problem with it, those private companies are perfectly free to conduct their business exclusively in the private sector as they see fit.

Preventing Harassment and Discrimination, Connecting With Respect
Developed as a practical and easy-to-implement workshop for organizations ready for a different kind of “diversity” training, Connecting with Respect represents the newest and most original approach to cultural excellence in decades.

Respectful Workplace

Things that go bump's picture

Education!  Oh, my dear - these are not children whose minds you can mold.  I think something much more forceful will be required.  

Ignatius's picture

Just wanna say:


...for Mr. Binney with a Bluffdale, Utah chaser.  This is a real man who understands why we have the Constitution  and a Bill of Rights.

Things that go bump's picture

I wouldn't count on a piece of paper for protection anymore.  

New_Meat's picture

Let's see, layers upon layers of spying under Stasi, kids turning in parents, happened under Saddam, ...

Yep, GW has the right headline.

- Ned

{GW, do you write your own headlines?  Just wonderin'}

Satan's picture

And yet American Airlines still can't find my bag...

The Alarmist's picture

That's what you get for checking it at the gate to avoid the $25 bag surcharge.  They didn't have the heart to tell you that after picking it clean of anything of value, they had the bag and contents sent to be auctioned off on a TV show for junk collectors treasure seekers.

cxl9's picture

Yes, but it subsidized the cost of his ticket, so it's a push.

pirea's picture

The others had less people under surveillance because they were smarter and could make difference between enemies and inoffensive people.

For these guys anybody is a danger.


BanjoDoug's picture

You gotta be TOTALLY careful about what you put in e-mails and what you say over the phone - CELL PHONES & LANDLINES.....

The only thing that is safe (today) is hand written notes exchanged in a covered area (no overhead survelliance) and then burn the note immediately afterward.....  NO KIDDING.....

Don't assume that you still have a right to privacy....   & even if you still have the right, it doesn't mean it's honored.

GeneH3's picture

Lesson: the capacity to crush you (and worse) is in place. Don't speak out, don't challenge the status quo, don't shine the light of day on criminals and demagogues, refrain from using the buzz words that will get you surveiled, be compliant, pay your taxes without complaint, follow the regulations, don't have a sense of humor in front of the TSA and let them fondle you without protest, don't be politically active or passionate about political principles, especially things like freedom and justice, buy your hunting supplies with cash, avoid transactions of $600 or more, give up your membership in the NRA, sell all of the gold you bought with your credit card (and keep a record of who you sold it to), don't belong to a fundamentalist religion, don't stock up on emergency supplies for the next blizzard or hurricane, don't ask questions that make politicians and their cronies uncomfortable. In short keep your head low and your mouth shut.

Can you say "chilling effect?"

CH1's picture

The only thing that is safe (today) is hand written notes exchanged in a covered area

As I've said before, get (for free) Tor, GPG and OTR - and learn how to use them - or pay for Cryptohippie.

It's not going to just be okay.

whstlblwr's picture

But why? let them know your opinion. People hiding and scared is the problem. We have a bigger voice now and can share information on social media. Now all of a sudden we better be careful the government is watching.

Mark Noonan's picture

The most important thing for everyone to remember:  just because the government arrests someone, it doesn't make the guilty.  As long as we remember that, then attempts to use the data mine to harrass Americans in to silence won't work.  But if we immediately turn on everyone who runs afoul of law enforcement, then we're cooked.  Wait for the facts; demand long as we're doing that, then we'll be ok.

CH1's picture

It's a huge surveillance network. The more info you give them, the more you arm them.

Facebook is a trap:

Lore's picture

Facebook is a tool. You can allow it to become a trap, or you can make it work for you.  And it's just as much a potential trap for "them" as it is for "you."  Data is data. It doesn't care where it gets mined or how it gets used or abused. As usual, the important thing is how people stand up for themselves.

whstlblwr's picture

“A government afraid of its citizens is a Democracy. Citizens afraid of government is tyranny!”

Thomas Jefferson

Don't hide, share your opinion, it's the only way things will change.

CH1's picture

You think they give a shit about your opinion?

Wake up.

whstlblwr's picture

LOL, logic problem with your statement. Run and hide dumb little gorilla.

pirea's picture

or eat the note if you are hungry

dexter_morgan's picture

Are you paranoid.....or just extremely perceptive...........