Collect it all: America’s surveillance state

Fault Lines investigates the fallout over the NSA’s surveillance programme in the US and abroad.

  Last Modified: 07 Nov 2013  AlJazeera.com

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Some of the US’ best secrets are out since former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden released thousands of classified documents about government surveillance in one of the most significant leaks in US history. He has been charged with espionage and has been living in Russia under temporary asylum.What does it mean to live in a surveillance state? Fault Lines investigates the fallout over the NSA’s mass data collection programmes by speaking to the people at the centre of the story, including journalist Glenn Greenwald and NSA director Keith Alexander.

The NSA’s goal really is the elimination of privacy globally; it is literally a system to monitor all forms of human behaviour in the United States – which is the ultimate surveillance state.  — Glen Greenwald, journalist

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Greenwald tells Fault Lines how he got the Snowden documents, what the main revelations are, and why people should care. He lives in Brazil and has not returned to the US since he broke the story about the NSA surveillance programmes.

We also speak with William Binney, an NSA whistleblower who tells us the main turning point was 9/11, when the NSA vastly expanded its programmes and began collecting the data of Americans, not just foreigners as they had been before.

After the 9/11 attacks, surveillance also became more pervasive at the local level. We decided to speak to a group of people who definitely know their being spied on.

The New York Police Department (NYPD) began a programme with the help of two former CIA officials, to surveil Muslim life at all levels: mosques, cafes, infiltrating organisations and student groups.

We speak to a young Muslim student who talks about what it feels like to be under constant surveillance, and also meet Linda Sarsour, the executive director of a local community organisation called the Arab American Association of NY (AAANY).

The NYPD had a plan to infiltrate the board of AAANY, a centre that caters to immigrant women, children. She tells us what the implications of the programme is for the local Muslim community and discusses the effects.

We also speak to law professor Ramzi Kassem who analyses these policies as well as a psychologist who discusses the psychological effects of mass surveillance.

Finally, we come to Washington DC, where the NSA programme is being debated in the halls of Congress. We attend hearings on the hill, where General Keith Alexander and director James Clapper are being questioned; we hear from members of Congress from across the political spectrum about it; and we even get a chance to ask General Alexander questions ourselves.

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