We are the target
Everyday people are surrounded by highly invasive technologies that gather data about our every move, click, search, email, chat, sms, phone call and purchase. We don't opt in to these, we didn't click "I Agree" to a Terms Of Service agreement. The US National Security Agency just collects this stuff, and other countries are not far behind. In a country that calls itself "free" and "democratic" there was no open debate by an informed public about these policies, they have just evolved on their own, in secret. In fact, discussion of these topics has been criminalized at the same time technology has advanced to make surveillance ever more pervasive and powerful. We are told this is necessary to protect us from terrorism. That may or may not be true, but this system impacts our lives and has consequences that are far broader than the "war on terror."
This is the era of big data - collect everything, figure it out later. If you think encryption will shield you from this, you are likely wrong. NSA specifically targets encrypted communications, and stores them for later analysis. Anything that cannot be decrypted now is saved for when algorithms and the machines hosting them have evolved. Governments and private companies are pursuing this big data with increasing momentum. Many people just accept the loss of privacy because they "have nothing to hide", but the fourth amendment to the US Constitution stands in stark contrast to the government role in these developments.
We used to have a dystopian ideal in the form of George Orwell's "1984". Now Edward Snowden has revealed we've slipped into something far worse than Orwell could have imagined. We've found that the free, open system we call the internet is poisoned with systems of control that it was originally designed to prevent.
...even if you're not doing anything wrong you're being watched and recorded. And the storage capability of these systems increases every year consistently by orders of magnitude to where it's getting to the point where you don't have to have done anything wrong. You simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody even by a wrong call. And then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you've ever made, every friend you've ever discussed something with. And attack you on that basis to sort to derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer.
Clearly these systems offer a massive opportunity for abuse. There is no way to know if they are being abused or to what extent without transparency. That is the nature of a democracy. If you have unchecked power that operates in secret, this is not a democracy, it is something else. I believe we should be able to live in a democracy, where the government impacts our lives in ways that are transparently beneficial to the public. We have a long way to go.
In my opinion, and I think there is ample evidence to make the case, the Surveillance State is the other side of the Military-Industrial-Complex. The two work hand in hand. Private financial interests drive our foreign policy, for their own ends - the current experimentation with drones is a good example. The death, destruction, misery and hatred this causes in other countries creates a blowback that necessitates the Surveillance State to protect us from the resulting terrorism. Both the Military-Industrial-Complex and the Surveillance State profit from this situation, with some of our most powerful companies participating in this and funding politicians who will ensure ever more opportunities for this extremely profitable convergence of interests. The only losers are human beings. Yeah, we are kind of losers to let this happen.
I have long been a critic of surveillance and US foreign policy. I put a lot of effort into this because I care about security, and I want us to get it right. The problem I keep seeing is that policy is driven by private economic and institutional interests, and this becomes confused with the public interest. I have strong differences with policymakers on these issues, but I also have high regard and great respect for the work being done by the military and intelligence professionals who carry out these policies. I'm not "against" the US military or the NSA. What I'm "for" is open debate, and the idea that our tax dollars should be spent in a way that produces the desired result. Our military and intelligence systems are the best in the world, and that's a good thing. It is up to policymakers to use them in ways that really do keep us safer and serve the public interest. It is by having an open, and sometimes adversarial public debate that we can make sure we are using our military and intelligence systems in the best way possible. For me, that means keeping Americans safe, and showing the world that we are a friend, not an enemy, and that our actions reflect the values we claim to hold dear.