Thursday, 22 August 2013

Mock the State? At your peril

We’re here to protect you, says the State. Mock us not.

Because if you do, boy will we get you and get you good.

Bradley Manning
An unforgivable crime. 35 years

It’s fascinating that what Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden have done is reveal to the world how cavalier an attitude the State takes towards our privacy. They reserve the right to read our e-mails, listen to our phone calls, track our internet usage. What’s private to us is public to them.

But turn that round, by making public what they want kept private and, as Manning has discovered, you’re facing a 35-year gaol sentence.

Or if they can’t lay their hands on you, they’ll start to make life tough for your nearest and dearest. That
s what happened to David Miranda when he made the mistake of trying to change planes at Heathrow. Nine hours detention, intensive interrogation and the confiscation of his electronic equipment, to teach him to be in a relationship with the man who spoke to the man who watched the men who were spying on us.

Now of course the State justifies its actions on the grounds that it’s there to protect us. And I’m sure it does: terrorists aren’t having much joy in their attempts to attack Western countries. But, as many children have learned from helicopter parents, certain forms of protection can become stifling in their excess. And 35 years really sounds like a little too much tough love.

Particularly when you compare it with the kind of sentence that gets handed down in other cases.

Lynddie England, American in spite of her name, was a US army reservist who had the misfortune to be sent to Iraq. Had she never been involved in that dismal adventure of her nation’s, she might have led an irreproachable life and died in respectable obscurity. Sadly, she was exposed to stresses beyond her moral frame to absorb, and broke. She compounded her misfortune by photographing the reprehensible behaviour that followed, with the result that she got herself caught.

Lynddie England poses
Regrettable misdeeds. Three years
And what was done to her for torturing and mistreating Iraqi prisoners? She was gaoled for three years.

Let me repeat: Manning’s been sentenced to 35.

The message from the US state? Mock Iraqi prisoners and abuse them, and we disapprove – we don’t like unsanctioned torture. But mock us and abuse our confidence, then you really rile us. Your penalty will be ten times worse. And then some.

Now that’s what I call protection. Tony Soprano would have been proud.


Faith A. Colburn, Author said...

Not a whole lot of perspective in this system, is there?

David Beeson said...

Not much of a sense of proportion. Not much of a sense of humour either.