Edward Snowden, former CIA employee who leaked top-secret documents about sweeping U.S. surveillance programs, is displayed on the front page of a newspaper in Hong Kong. Pic: AP.

Is 2013 the new 1984? asks Asia Sentinel’s Vanson Soo

Historians can be expected to mark June 9, 2013 as a significant date in the evolution of the surveillance and monitoring of mankind and peg 2013 alongside George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, making 2014 officially 1PS – one year Post Snowden.

There is justification for this chronological divide. The world will be working its way out of the events of last June for years and decades to come, trying to come to grips with the astonishing ability of electronic snoopers to surreptitiously monitor the details of millions of lives.

It appears that they will continue to be able to do so despite growing knowledge of the pervasive level of this surveillance. For instance, US federal judge William Pauley ruled last Friday that the National Security Agency’s massive collection of telephone records is lawful and, citing the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, a valuable tool in the country’s arsenal to fight terrorism that “only works because it collects everything.”

In other words, the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution – which protects Americans from unreasonable search and seizure and requires a warrant for the search of their homes, appears no longer to be valid.

Whether you like it or not, care or care less, the Snowden saga that began last June not only stole global headlines unlike other recent historic events but hits at the very core of our modern social fabric, revealing a glaring divide.

“A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all,” said the former NSA contractor turned “indoor cat” Edward Snowden in his “Alternative Christmas Message” broadcast by British network Channel 4 last week, where he stressed that “asking is always cheaper than spying”.

“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” he said. “I already won.”

He also pointed out that the Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four had already warned us of mass surveillance.

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