Obama scandals seem not to end. The disclosure that the Obama administration has continued the tradition inaugurated by president George W. Bush to routinely collect metadata of phone calls has sparked a lively debate on social media and in political circles. The disclosure came first from The Guardian newspaper, which described the process by which the National Security Agency and the F.B.I. have obtained a secret warrant to compel Verizon to turn over phone data. The first report was followed by a The Guardian and The Washington Post article revealing that the Obama administration was mining also data from nine U.S. Internet companies such as Google, Facebook, Skype and Apple. The PrismProgram , as it is known, was until now, a top secret program.
Secrecy, and its relationship to power, and to presidential power in particular, is emerging as a theme of public debate because of the secrecy masking both the details of the use of U.S. predator drones in the Middle East and the covertsurveillance of phone calls and Internet data. For a president, who campaigned on a promise of transparency and accountability, secrecy is turning into a defining trait of his administration.
President Barack Obama provided a strong defense of the surveillance program.“You can’t have 100 percent security and then also have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience,” the president said.
In light of the ensuing debate, I suggest below three readings by anthropologists that can help to think anthropologically about the surveillance program, the relationship of power to secrecy, and more in general about the hegemony of today’s security paradigm. As Elias Cannetti wrote, “Secrecy lies at the very core of power.”
Via Andrea Naranjo