The Government did not fail to detect the 9/11 attacks because it was unable to collect information relating to the plot. It did collect exactly that, but because it surveilled so much information, it was incapable of recognizing what it possessed ("connecting the dots"). Despite that, we have since then continuously expanded the Government's surveillance powers. Virtually every time the political class reveals some Scary New Event, it demands and obtains greater spying authorities (and, of course, more and more money). And each time that happens, its ability to detect actually relevant threats diminishes.While I am plainly sympathetic to Greenwald's gripes about the surveillance state in Soviet America, I think he comes at it wrong. Sure, America is a death-dealing monster, but it's a slightly ridiculous one, a rubber-suited Godzilla, a Cyclops rather than a Circe. I don't mean to diminish the horrors America inflicts around the globe or the iniquities it commits within its own borders, and I surely wouldn't want to get caught up in some NSA dragnet--hell, I get the sweats going through airport security. But you have to admit that as dystopias go, ours tends toward the absurd . . . an overpriced, gel-sole cross-trainer stepping on a human's open-toed strappy sandal . . . forever.
The government intercepts almost 2 billion telephone calls and texts every day! What can it do with them? I can't even follow My Boyfriend Johnny Weir's semi-daily Twitterz without getting confused. Is this . . . what day is this? And again, I'm not saying this to diminish the general awfulness of squishy totalitarianism, but perhaps it is an awfulness more akin to a bad oyster than a bullet to the back of the head? I don't know. Look, murderous singlemindedness is so twentieth century, and I frankly see a future when it no longer matters that there is no social security, or whatever, because every single American will be a lifetime employee of the Hornito's Presents The Defense Department.