31/07/2013 11:11 BST | Updated 29/09/2013 06:12 BST

In Whose Interests Do Governments Operate?


The conviction of Bradley Manning of espionage is no real surprise. Given the huge embarrassment that has been heaped on the American government it was essential that Manning be made an example of.

It is to be hoped that his sentence is not so long as to mean that he will either die in custody or to spend so much time incarcerated as to be released when old or because of infirmity.

What Manning exposed through his leaks was that the American state is as pernicious as its critics suggest. Through the documents and film footage he passed on to wikileaks we know far more about the reality of the things that the military have done, supposedly, in pursuit of freedom and justice.

And now we have even greater insights of what goes on within the Central Intelligence Agency courtesy of what Edward Snowden has leaked.

The conviction of Bradley Manning will mean that both Snowden and Julian Assange will have even more incentive to avoid the US.

Undoubtedly we can expect many government officials in many countries including our own to argue that the truly appalling events of September 11th require greater security to ensure that the really bad people never do it again.

I would accept that anyone who has suffered the consequences of terrorism will probably feel that increased surveillance is essential.

But equally there has to be some accountability on the actions of those who supposedly act 'in our name'. The thousands of innocent victims who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan should surely deserve more consideration than simply to be seen as, so the jargon of war goes, "collateral damage".

This, of course, is a complex and emotional argument but it does us no good to simply pretend that if we ignore the issues and morality of what is being done then it will all sort itself out.

The need to know what is going on has been given increased importance by the information leaked by Edwards Snowden.

And what is becoming obvious is that the very technology that was supposed to liberate us and give us increased freedom and choice was pretty much created by the security services to enable them to monitor us through the daily emails and multitude of transactions we carry out every day.

Snowden's actions have altered us to the fact that The National Security Agency are been able to use the generation of 'super' computers to scan our every interaction on the internet or use of mobile phones.

All of this is achieved by the US through the use of legal or illegal means and employing private contractors to do the dirty work.

The internet, it seems, is a beast that has been created to seduce us into sharing everything we know which provides a ready supply of information that can be harvested.

There is a danger that our trust in the internet will decline.

The report by the Home Affairs Select Committee that the internet is becoming an increasingly popular way for criminals to commit e-crime (fraud and theft) literally at "any time or in any place," means that if the spooks aren't spying on us, then the crooks may be.

Additionally, according to technology commentator John Naughton who writes for The Guardian, no internet company which is based in the US will be trusted to protect our privacy or data.

Naughton he believed that all of the major outfits such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft have become "integral components of the US cyber-surveillance system."

Naughton also counsels us to be aware that using cloud devices which are increasingly offered to ease the problem of storage on our own devices means that we give away our personal information to these providers who will then pass it on to the American security services.

The consequence for these providers is that they will lose business.

Naughton contends that the internet's days a system to link almost every person in the world who has access are numbered and that we will probably and describes that a 'Balkanisation' policy is increasingly being implemented by authoritarian governments to ensure that they can exert greater control over what is communicated.

Sadly a wonderful phenomenon which was being celebrated last year during the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympics is now being seen in a very different way to the tool which undoubtedly has been an immense source of joy and freedom.

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) wrote a number of aphorisms in his 1886 book Beyond Good and Evil. Number 177 states that "With regard to what "truthfulness" is, perhaps nobody has ever been sufficiently truthful."

What people want is that our governments act in a truthful way and which is in our interests.

What Manning, Snowden and Assange have demonstrated is that they are using their ability to control 'the system' in a way that is patently not to our advantage.