The world that I outline in my new novel, What Happens to Us, http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DSSN5SU is one in which Cat, the female protagonist, is watched in minute detail by a man who both loves her and hates her. He has no oversight. His supervisor is too busy to watch him. Nobody is standing over his shoulder. The courts don’t care. Everything is top secret. It’s Edward Snowden’s worst nightmare.
During World War II, Heinrich Muller (of the German High Command) had a dream. “His great ambition,” according to historian W. Hoettl, “was to have a central index containing a card for every living German, on which would be entered every ‘suspicious incident,’ however trivial.” (The Red Orchestra, by Gilles Perrault, 1967, p. 438 – 439)
Lately, I’ve been reading a history of the spy network within Hitler’s Europe in the 1940s, cited above, and how they penetrated the German military, government, and citizenry, and helped the Allies win the war. Anyone who complains about “political correctness” would be stunned by Germany of this era, when people were closely monitored 24/7. Punishment came after only a cursory trial.
In 1941, for example, Reinhard Heydrich was sent to occupied Prague as vice-protector of Bohemia and Moravia. Heydrich had placed great faith in surveillance. Before arriving in Prague, he had set up a deluxe brothel in Berlin which was to be patronized by foreign diplomats. The brothel was infested with hidden microphones and listening rooms, and the prostitutes were coached to engage their patrons in conversation about their work.
Heydrich was brutal in Prague. He instituted a program of hangings and shootings to keep order. He quickly earned the moniker, “Angel of Evil.” Within nine months, however, the Allies parachuted two assassins into Prague, who shot Heydrich dead while he was traveling in his Mercedes convertible.
Retribution was swift and severe, as it always is in such authoritarian states. Goebbels had 500 Jews arrested in Berlin, of whom 252 were later executed, and 300 arrested from Theresienstadt. In Prague, over 3,000 were arrested and 1,331 were executed. In the countryside, 5,000 villages were searched and 657 people shot. In Prague prisons, 1,700 were shot, and in Brunn prisons, 1,300. And on June 10, several hundred people–the entire population of the village of Lidice–were completely massacred (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lidice#Massacre).
Obviously, America is not the same as Nazi Germany. However, it must be admitted that it has taken some steps along that path. After the Church Committee hearings in the late 1970s, it was established that spying on ordinary Americans without a warrant was a criminal offense. After 9/11, however, things changed. We started calling our country “the homeland.” We established a secret court called FISA in which no one had standing to argue in their own defense. The government was given the authority to requisition from bookstores a list of which books certain customers had bought, from video stores a list of which videos certain customers had bought, and the like. Given the tides of history, this is not the path we want to take.
(Download the novel, What Happens to Us, http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DSSN5SU, which is a case study of what can happen when one NSA employee lacks oversight. Only $3.99 on your Kindle. If you don’t have a Kindle, download the Kindle for PC software for free: http://www.amazon.com/gp/kindle/pc/download)