Security, Drones, Snowden, and The Left

Regardless of which mainstream media venue one chooses to entertain – be it CNN, the New York Times, or the Wall Street Journal, the result, in terms of coverage allocation dedicated to this “new” political geography under President Donald J. Trump, is the same. The Left falls into “shock and awe” tactics when writing about Trump and how truly different the political geography in the U.S. really is from the last eight years as well. To change this discourse, we must ask ourselves the following: What if our collective hysteria is nothing more than the political equivalent of a child throwing a tantrum?

Trump is a natural outgrowth from the U.S.’s post-Second World War globalization of capital and privatization of governance at home and abroad (1), its global hegemony (2), and its inculcation and formation of a population alienated from rational analysis and sequestered to our societies “Empire of Illusion” (3). The landscape we find ourselves lost within isn’t nearly as foreign as we may believe it to be. Just as the emergence of a Trump-like character was relatively predictable by some on the U.S. Left (4), the maturation of the Security State to its’ current form maintained a chronological parallel as well; a parallel that needs to be adhered to and witnessed in order to avoid the trappings suffered by the anti-war Americans of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Global Assassinations in the Name of Security

The socialist Left must attend to the twisted implementation of drones for the purpose of assassinating anyone deemed fit to kill according to the U.S. Government’s Executive Branch. Justified in the name of “security,” there is little else that compares to our deployment of drone strikes as the overwhelmingly main arm of a Western “global assassination complex” (5).

Long before President Obama held office, “the CIA first used an unmanned Predator drone in a targeted killing” on February 4th, 2002 (6). But it wasn’t until The Intercept released “The Drone Papers” in 2015 that people became critical of unchecked Presidential power validated beyond reproach (7). While we must not devote our entire attention to the prohibition of drone-based assassinations in the name of “security” and be unflinching in our rejection of all, unsanctioned uses of force – such as Trump’s order to execute the Yemeni raid that was planned by the Obama administration and ultimately “gunned down” the “women and children” of the region (27) as well as the deployment of 59 Tomahawk missiles against an air base in Syria as a response to what appears to have been the use of chemical weapons on civilians by Assad before the international community truly understood who was responsible for the gas attack and what took place in the town of Khan Sheikhoun (8-10) – the drone-based “global assassination complex” allows us to coalesce about a case study of monumental importance.

Upon further reflection regarding the documents included in “The Drone Papers,” one quickly comes to understand and observe that there exists a plethora of ethical inquiries that should be discussed in the public domain. For example, what are the implications of our over reliance on signals intelligence? It’s obscene that we would rely so heavily upon very limited data from a suspected terrorists’ technological device to approve a drone strike upon the geolocation of that device, without confirming that it was on the suspected terrorists body and that he presented an imminent and immediate threat. It seems just as reasonable that the suspected terrorist could have planted the phone on an unsuspecting tribal member who is opposed to the terrorist’s presence in the community or village. We must also give serious consideration to the role drone warfare plays in breeding more terrorists, by way of radicalizing uneducated and unbelievably impoverished youth in Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, and elsewhere, who frequently lose community members to drone strikes. The revelations that have followed from “The Drone Papers,” at the very least, call for a congressional investigation. Nonetheless, I sincerely doubt that such congressional hearings will ever take place, just as I doubt that ethical consideration of non-Westerners will ever arise in the mainstream media.

Snowden, Security, and Subversion of the State

As many are already familiar with, Edward Snowden worked with correspondents Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian’s defense and intelligence contributor Ewen MacAskill, and Laura Poitras to offer America’s populace with a prevue into the National Security Agency’s Orwellian surreptitious mass reconnaissance processes. Having uncovered the NSA’s pigeonholed papers to reporters, Mr. Snowden afforded his associated United States residents with fundamental evidence relating to the extents some of our administrative organizations are prepared to go to, in order to breach our supposed inalienable privileges and our legal fourth amendment rights.

Subsequently, it isn’t extraordinary that Snowden is maligned and denounced by those in stations of authority. Charged by the US Department of Justice with two counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917, as well as theft of governmental property, it is clear that many governmental officials would rather terminate Snowden – both literally and metaphorically – than engage in the public discourse pertaining to the significance of his revelations.

Yet, in the wake of the horrendous act of terrorism carried out by a terror cell in Paris on the night of Friday November 13, 2015, many governmental personnel have attempted to demonize his actions, rather than participate in the discourse surrounding the importance of Mr. Snowden’s revelations, by way of ascribing the growth of the Islamic State to Edward’s unsanctioned release of top secret documents.

Former Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Michael Morrell, for example, claimed that the Snowden revelations “played a role in the rise of ISIS” in his memoir The Great War of Our Time: The CIA’s Fight Against Terrorism – From al-Qaeda to ISIS. While this claim may hold a little merit, it seems just as sensible that the governmental officials are scapegoating Edward Snowden for their own short comings with respect to preventing terrorist attacks – like the attacks in Paris. The integrity of blaming Snowden ought to be evaluated under the highest scrutiny and therefore taken at face value, due to the fact that the contentions of strengthening terrorists are alleged by bureaucrats without providing the public with any exact proof or evidence to give sustenance to their assertions (in a way that is all too familiar to us in light of the ongoing “Russia-gate” happenings).

To strengthen the claim that the scapegoating of Mr. Snowden holds little to no weight, one need only to consider the fact that the NSA has not been successful at either identifying or preventing a large-scale terrorist plot, before or after the Snowden revelations. In fact, the one and only occasion the National Security Agency’s domestic metadata collection programs have ever played an essential role in thwarting was concerned with a man from San Diego who transferred $8,500 to the terrorist group al-Shabaab in Somalia.

Furthermore, a White House review panel on the NSA surveillance and bulk collection of Americans’ telephone data was “not essential in preventing attacks.” For further discussion on the matter, one may choose to read “Exploiting Emotions about Paris to Blame Snowden, distract from Actual Culprits Who Empowered ISIS” and “U.S. Mass Surveillance Has no Record of Thwarting Large Terror Attacks, Regardless of Snowden Leaks,” published by The Intercept, as well as No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald to better understand the Snowden documents.

Where to learn more?

With the brief commentary put forth herein, it is my hope that this piece’s readership will not glance over the challenges the Left currently faces if we hope to foster a political consciousness of anti-imperialism, anti-security, and a democratic socialist internationalism. Instead, I hope that the readership will employ this precursor to the forthcoming edition of The Socialist as a primer with respect to the overwhelming task of thinking about and organizing against the current leviathan that remains abstractly justified in the name of “security.”

Works Cited

[1] Risager, “Neoliberalism is a Political Project.” Jacobin, 2016.

[2] Stone et al., The Untold History of the United States. Gallery Books, 2012.

[3] Hedges, Empire of Illusion. Knopf Canada, 2009.

[4] Hooton, “President Donald Trump Wins.” The Independent, 2016.

[5] Scahill, The Assassination Complex. Simon & Schuster, 2016.

[6] Sifton, “A Brief History of Drones.” The Nation, 2017.

[7] “The Drone Papers.” The Intercept, 2015.

[8] Dearden, “Survivors of Donald Trump’s Yemen raid reveal horror of ‘women and children being gunned down’.” The Independent, 2017.

[9] Rosenfeld, “Trump launches attack on Syria with 59 Tomahawk missiles.” CNBC, 2017.

[10] Hersh, “Trump’s Red Line.” Welt, 2017.

[11] Lederer, “UN: Chemical Experts Found Sarin Exposure in Syria Attack.” AP, 2017.


Bryer Sousa

Bryer Sousa earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Maine’s Department of Mathematics & Statistics as a member of the Honors Program. Prior to USM, Sousa formally studied chemistry and physics as well as philosophy, Marxism, and socialism as a member of the University of Maine’s Honors College. Sousa currently serves as a Research Assistant and Ph.D. Candidate in the Greater Boston Area. Having engaged with various groups on the Left and served as a School Board Director for a regional school district in Maine, he now engages with socialist groups in Worcester, MA.

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