The Age Of No Privacy: The Surveillance State Shifts Into High Gear

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

“We are rapidly entering the age of no privacy, where everyone is open to surveillance at all times; where there are no secrets from government.” ? William O. Douglas, Supreme Court Justice (1966)

The government has become an expert in finding ways to sidestep what it considers “inconvenient laws” aimed at ensuring accountability and thereby bringing about government transparency and protecting citizen privacy.

Indeed, it has mastered the art of stealth maneuvers and end-runs around the Constitution.

It knows all too well how to hide its nefarious, covert, clandestine activities behind the classified language of national security and terrorism. And when that doesn’t suffice, it obfuscates, complicates, stymies or just plain bamboozles the public into remaining in the dark.

Case in point: the National Security Agency (NSA) has been diverting “internet traffic, normally safeguarded by constitutional protections, overseas in order to conduct unrestrained data collection on Americans.”

It’s extraordinary rendition all over again, only this time it’s surveillance instead of torture being outsourced.

In much the same way that the government moved its torture programs overseas in order to bypass legal prohibitions against doing so on American soil, it is doing the same thing for its surveillance programs.

By shifting its data storage, collection and surveillance activities outside of the country—a tactic referred to as “traffic shaping” —the government is able to bypass constitutional protections against unwarranted searches of Americans’ emails, documents, social networking data, and other cloud-stored data.

The government, however, doesn’t even need to move its programs overseas. It just has to push the data over the border in order to “[circumvent] constitutional and statutory safeguards seeking to protect the privacy of Americans.”

No wonder the NSA appeared so unfazed about the USA Freedom Act, which was supposed to put an end to the NSA’s controversial collection of metadata from Americans’ phone calls. The NSA had already figured out a way to accomplish the same results (illegally spying on Americans’ communications) without being shackled by the legislative or judicial branches of the government.

Mind you, this metadata collection now being carried out overseas is just a small piece of the surveillance pie.

The government and its corporate partners have a veritable arsenal of surveillance programs that will continue to operate largely in secret, carrying out warrantless mass surveillance on hundreds of millions of Americans’ phone calls, emails, text messages and the like, beyond the scrutiny of most of Congress and the taxpayers who are forced to fund its multi-billion dollar secret black ops budget.

In other words, the surveillance state is alive and well and kicking privacy to shreds in America.

On any given day, the average American going about his daily business is monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways by both government and corporate eyes and ears.

Whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, is listening in and tracking your behavior. This doesn’t even begin to touch on the corporate trackers that monitor your purchases, web browsing, Facebook posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere.

We have now moved into a full-blown police state that is rapidly shifting into high-gear under the auspices of the surveillance state.

Not content to merely transform local police into extensions of the military, the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the FBI are working to turn the nation’s police officers into techno-warriors, complete with iris scanners, body scanners, thermal imaging Doppler radar devices, facial recognition programs, license plate readers, cell phone Stingray devices and so much more.

Add in the fusion centers, city-wide surveillance networks, data clouds conveniently hosted overseas by Amazon and Microsoft, drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras, and biometric databases, and you’ve got the makings of a world in which “privacy” is reserved exclusively for government agencies.

Thus, the NSA’s “technotyranny”  is the least of our worries.

Just about every branch of the government—from the Postal Service to the Treasury Department and every agency in between—now has its own surveillance sector, authorized to spy on the American people.

And of course that doesn’t even begin to touch on the complicity of the corporate sector, which buys and sells us from cradle to grave, until we have no more data left to mine. Indeed, Facebook, Amazon and Google are among the government’s closest competitors when it comes to carrying out surveillance on Americans, monitoring the content of your emails, tracking your purchases, exploiting your social media posts and turning that information over to the government.

It’s not just what we say, where we go and what we buy that is being tracked.

We’re being surveilled right down to our genes, thanks to a potent combination of hardware, software and data collection that scans our biometrics—our faces, irises, voices, genetics, even our gait—runs them through computer programs that can break the data down into unique “identifiers,” and then offers them up to the government and its corporate allies for their respective uses.

All of those internet-connected gadgets we just have to have (Forbes refers to them as “(data) pipelines to our intimate bodily processes”) are setting us up for a brave new world where there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

Incredibly, there are still individuals who insist that they have nothing to fear from the police state and nothing to hide from the surveillance state, because they have done nothing wrong.

To those sanctimonious few, secure in their delusions, let this be a warning.

There is no safe place and no watertight alibi.

The danger posed by the American police/surveillance state applies equally to all of us.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, in an age of too many laws, too many prisons, too many government spies, and too many corporations eager to make a fast buck at the expense of the American taxpayer, we are all guilty of some transgression or other.

Eventually, we will all be made to suffer the same consequences in the electronic concentration camp that surrounds us.

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takeaction's picture

Have lived like this for 10+ years. (Knowing everything is recorded) Just always understand...everything you say do or type is there forever...even here on ZH...all of the racist BS and fun...even though sarcastic could be pulled up in court if needed.

El Vaquero's picture

I had a conversation with a friend a year or two before the Snowden leaks.  He asked me if I thought the government was listening to everything it could.  I said that if it wasn't, it was going to be soon, and then told him about the Bluffdale center in Utah that was being built at the time.  An electronic spying agency doesn't build a facility that is speced out at 65MW with 100,000 square feet of server space unless you plan on hoovering up A LOT of shit.  


All that Snowden really did was confirm what we suspected, and provided details.  

OverTheHedge's picture

The sad part of all this is that real threats - terrorists, political extremists etc. - know this and take steps to avoid detection. You would have to be a pretty dim freedom-fighter to use the internet to email your co-conspirators. The rest of us, however, are in the bag for the state to use however they want. If, next week, all Zerohedge posters are considered traitors, then we will all be rounded up without a problem, and Joe Public will probably applaud because we are subversive terrorists.

You are not doing anything wrong TODAY, but things change, opinions change, and thought-police can act retrospectively. I live in a country with a history of military coups, locking people up without cause, and general rowdyness. This is why I resisted having an account here for years, but eventually I just couldn't help myself. Could be fun times ahead.

Oh, and  you guys with your endless "The Jews did it!" - They may yet do it to you, so you might want to be a little more circumspect, unless you want to take ownership of your white-supremacy racism charge at the FEMA camp.

Luc X. Ifer's picture

There is no privacy for the farm's cattle, your farmers need to get the max out of your existence and we reached the times the feudal lords owners of the human cattle aren't afraid or ashamed anymore to acknowledge it. Remember, the only way to see the farm is to leave it.

NidStyles's picture

As if they could efficiently shift through the data. Even Google can only claim about 70% accuracy.

playit's picture

I'm making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life. This is what I do...

Alt RightGirl's picture

1984 is upon us.

Well, might as well go along with it and try to come out on top of the others

What is Racism and Why You Should Embrace It's picture

Did we ever have privacy?

Spooks were keeping tabs on people and were blacklisting enemies of the state since forever.

Sam.Spade's picture

Only $7K?  Hell, you should be getting a lot more than that for running a kiddie-porn server in your bedroom closet.

ClickNLook's picture

Maybe their goal is that we all know that we are being surveyed and that we can't do anything about it...

Luc X. Ifer's picture

Exactly, humans are the only creatures with a perception of long term future and consequences, so they can build a mental model of suffering and death when threatened if not complying and obeying, the classic human cattle ruling scheme in the slaves or serfs ownership manuals.

mrbyrite's picture

yes it is the knowledge of surveillance that makes us prisoners in our minds to the extent we adapt our behaviour.  That's why 'leaks' like the Snowden revelations are something they are perfectly happy with at least in principle

Luc X. Ifer's picture

I recommend  some personal study of statistics, especially null hypothesis and bayesian inference - 70% *is* accuracy.

Sam.Spade's picture

Accuracy and efficency don't matter.  They don't care if they only get a 70% kill rate, because the 'innocents' don't matter to them.  All they care about is being able to supress those who would oppose them.

For that their databases are quite good enough.

Luc X. Ifer's picture

Correct, collateral damages are acceptable as long as the initial scope is attained - Machiavelli's purpose justifies means.


Sam.Spade's picture

Well said.  I upvote you.

And, because I think you would really like the book, I offer you a no-charge copy of Thieves Emporium.  If you are interested, please contact me at

Sam Spade


Thieves Emporium

redmudhooch's picture

Stop being such a pussy, thats why we're at this point now. People are afraid to speak up, this is exactly what they want.

Fuck em.

ClickNLook's picture

If someone hides a gun in a pocket it is not as scary as the gun pointing at your face.

HRClinton's picture

The overseas transfer of data is sent to the UK and Israel.

The latter enjoys going through data that turns into useful Intel on persons of interest to that state. This is especially true of US politicians, executives, celebs, Deep State employees, dissidents, etc.

Ms No's picture

"...even though sarcastic could be pulled up in court if needed."

That is true but with arbitrary courts that will increasingly target politically that's the least of our problems.  They would hang you anyway and likely trump up charges on you.  Being quiet and obedient wont solve anything.  It might keep people safer... for a while.  I personally hope to go down first if things get too bad.  I am not interested in living in slavery or without freedom of speech.


343 Guilty Spark's picture

It isn't the NSA that you should be worried about. It is DHS and FBI.

I know many here will disagree with this next statement but it is true as far as my personal experience goes: NSA only cares about what goes on outside the US. A ton them are very libertarian minded and would flip shit if they were spying on US peeps in the US.

That vast majority are not deep state peeps (those are much higher up and I doubt many of those are part of it either).

My personal concern is with DHS due to how new and relatively unregulated the agency is. NSA has historically been highly criticized since the end of WW2 and should be scrutinized constantly so they don't fuck up. But with that being said, it would be foolish to believe that the threat you can see is the real threat. 

How many articles have come out on DHS and what they do in the past year?

Abaco's picture

You are naive about NSA.  They are spying on US citizens and there is no lawful authority to do so.  The people who work at NSA are paid well, have very lax working conditions, and excellent pensions.  That is why there is very little internal resistance to the criminal behaviour of the agency.

c2nnib2l's picture

why would hide secrets from our  government ?

xtremers9's picture

we haven't had privacy since the internet started. better get used to the new reality

J Jason Djfmam's picture

If this is the case, should not the constitution and bill of rights be changed to reflect todays attitudes about privacy and/or lack there of, instead of just saying (with no legal right I might add) that you (meaning we the people) have no privacy anymore.


Abaco's picture

Since the domestic pying is pervasive, and the intelligence agencies have the ability to put anything on anyone's device, and since audio files that are indistinguishable fro an actual voice can be created at will, there is plausible deniability for any charge based upon digital data.

LetThemEatRand's picture

American public:  "I have nothing really important to say, therefore I have nothing to hide."

Benjamin Franklin:  "a Republic, if you can keep it."

What's to keep.

VWAndy's picture

 Boy I cant help but wonder how a taste of the governments own cooking would go over. If these tools were to ever be used to fight the corruption in government? Just saying. The gennie is not going back in the bottle. Its not the tool that really matters. Its always about how its used.

BarnacleBill's picture

The simple solution has been stated a million times on ZH, in one way or another. It's this: move to somewhere else.

ClickNLook's picture

Like some leftists moved to Canada after the Trump's triumph?

Yeah, that would show them!

order66's picture

"As I made clear in my book...." Lame.

Herdee's picture

Wonder what the American government is preparing for? The number of those gigantic camps they are building looks like a lot of people are going to be imprisoned.

Ms No's picture

There is no doubt that Israel and the banks know who their opposition is.

Suleyman's picture

They are not all seeing, and have not all the power.


MedicalQuack's picture

THE WARNING: 4 years ago, big data used against consumers without regulation and used out of context will be the biggest attack on consumers ever seen.  It's all those corporate quants modeling the algorithms.  ZD net removed the nice embedded video they had up there for a few years, with corporate quants, not bank quants, company quants talking about what they are doing to do with all the data.  I think it became too controversial.

FICO predicts if you are taking your prescriptions too...bogus scoring I say, bad algos.

Yars Revenge's picture

And where is the NSA transferring all the metadata collected on Americans?


HRClinton's picture

The NSA has a facility in Israel, heavily employed with Israelis.

PitBullsRule's picture

This isn't new, they've been doing this for decades, you just didn't know about it.  

ClickNLook's picture

Now I know, what is it now?

Redneck Makin-tosh's picture

enough probable cause to justify civil asset forfeiture?

stant's picture

Every thing has. Been weponized

ClickNLook's picture

And everybody is a target for radicalization.

ClickNLook's picture

After reading this article, what I suppose to to?

Sam.Spade's picture

Read Thieves Emporium for an answer to that question.  It's a primer on freedom in a world of data serfs.

See my other post in this blog for details.

Sam.Spade's picture

Good description of the problem.  Now how about the solution?

Should we take to the streets?  Protest so our biometrics can be scanned, our identity determined, and  our finances, employment, and legal status be assaulted?

In a country where over 50% of the population works, either directly or indirectly, for the government, where all of us unknowingly break laws every day, where our every action is recorded to enable any government prosecutor anywhere to drill down through that data and charge us with dozens of felonies any time we become too much of an annoyance for the state, do you really thnk this is a practical idea?

If the government knows who you are, they own you. Plain and simple.

So, I ask again, what is the solution? 


Learn to obscure your identity in everything you do. 

Absurd, you say.  Surveillance is everywhere.  True, but so is complexity, and that provides the dark corners.

Don't believe me?  Then riddle me this:  Why do we still have spam?  Or ransomware?  Or break-ins of every database from the DNC to the NSA itself?  Or botnets?  The last estimate I had was that there are over 2,600 known botnets, and growing every day.  If the watchers are so all-seeing, why do these cracks in their wall still exist?

And if there are dark spots, holes to hide in and strike back from, how do you find out about then?

I suggest you begin by reading Thieves Emporium.  It's a primer on anonymity in the surveillance state written in the form of a fast-paced novel to keep you reading to the very end, with an appendix to direct you to the next steps towards taking back your life and freedom.

The Daily Anarchist loved the book and called it 'Barely fiction'.  The editors of The Daily Bell thought it was so good they ran it as a serial which you can still read for free at

Or you can just buy a copy from Amazon (rated 4.6 in 122 reviews), Nook (same rating, fewer reviews), Smashwords (ditto), or iBooks.

But, whatever you do, get your hands on a copy and start reading.  Because, until you do, you won't have any idea about how to protect yourself, much less fight back for the future of your children.

VWAndy's picture

 The only real solution that could and most likely would work is for these tools to be used to root out corruption from every nook and cranny of all levels of government. Its not the tool but how its used.

Sam.Spade's picture

Ah, yes, the 'If we only elect the right people to office, they will clean it all up for us" solution.

Has it worked so far?  No?  Why not?

Because power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  You keep sending good people to Washington and TPTB keeps turning them bad.  In the end, what do you have?  More centralized power and fewer good people willing to step up to the plate.

No, the only answer is decentralization of power. Return it to the local level.

And, fortunately, for the first time in history, the complexity of the Internet has provided us a way to accomplish that.

Think Everyman Hacker vs The Deep State.

Thieves Emporium is a primer on the subject.  Read it now, while it's still available online.

Because freedom is never given, only taken, and you can't take yours back until you know how.

VWAndy's picture

  A civilian grand jury might be just the ticket. A good way of selecting them would be the real trick.

Sam.Spade's picture

"In 2008, the FED increased spendable money (cash and checking account deposits) by $225 billion. Someone spent that money when it was first created. When they did, they could have paid the operating budget for every U.S. intelligence organization (including the CIA, NSA, and NRA), the U. S. Army, Department Of Homeland Security, and the Department Of Justice, with money left over to buy half of all U. S. TV advertising and pay every political contribution made to or in the name of every Federal candidate in that year."

Let's see...  $225 Billion/12 juriors = $18.75B each. 

Hell, I'd sell out for a tenth of that.

Sorry, "a few good people" won't ever solve this problem.

By the way, the quote is from Thieves Emprium.