Privacy SOS

Government shutdown is nothing of the sort while the police and surveillance states live on

Protected by the "shutdown": the militarization of the police.

The so-called “government shutdown” isn’t really a government shutdown at all. It’s a public services shutdown. Food aid to needy families will stop. Over one thousand food safety and inspection workers will not go to work. Veterans looking to apply for benefits will face serious delays. The IRS won’t answer the phone to help you prepare your taxes, and will stop processing returns. Depending on where you live, you might have a difficult time getting your passport renewed. Zoos and museums are closed effective immediately.

But the government’s guns and surveillance state apparatus chug on without much of a blip at all. 

The federal government announced that so-called “national security” programs are exempt from the “shutdown”. But what keeps us secure? Is it mass surveillance, drug war enforcement, and police militarization? Or would we be more secure if we stopped spending countless billions on the wars on terror and drugs, and invested in our communities? 

A recent study announces that drugs are purer and cheaper than they have been at any time in the last twenty years. The war on drugs is a failure. Nonetheless, even amidst this so-called “government shutdown”, the Drug Enforcement Agency thrives. Meanwhile, the people at NASA responsible for detecting asteroids hurtling toward earth to destroy us are not at work today

We know that the trickle-down of federal immigration crackdowns to state and local law enforcement builds distrust in our communities. We know that all of the NSA's massive surveillance programs didn't do squat to stop terrorists from blowing up the finish line at the Boston Marathon. We know those programs don't keep kids in Chicago safe from rampant gun violence that is plaguing low income, majority black communities there. We know that your likelihood of going to prison correlates with your education level, and that putting more police in schools helps to solidify the school-to-prison pipeline, not the other way around.

We know that funding opportunity cultivates healthy community and society. We know that our budget is reflective of our values. But when faced with tough funding choices, what are we doing?

The NSA, fully funded and operational, won’t have any problem continuing to map our social and associational patterns. The FBI will still map ethnic communities and spy on peace and justice activists. The CIA will go on plotting and executing its extrajudicial drone killings in places like Pakistan and Yemen. The DEA will still use NSA intercepts to sneakily forward drug prosecutions while hiding from judges and defendants the intelligence that sparks investigations. Customs, Border Protection will go on harassing Muslims and immigrants at the border, humiliating citizens and visitors alike for no good reason. ICE will continue to deport and detain immigrants, tearing families asunder. 

The surveillance state will go on, 'protecting' a shell of a civilization. We might not be able to eat, but at least someone will be watching us starve.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.