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Forum Post: Spy on Me, I'm Innocent!

Posted 4 years ago on Aug. 25, 2013, 6:50 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Spy on Me, I'm Innocent!

Sunday, 25 August 2013 12:42 By David Swanson, War Is A Crime | Op-Ed


You've heard people say they want to be spied on, as long as it means that other people will be spied on too. I know you've heard people say this, and which people it was, and how your face looked when you heard it, and what your next telephone call was. Or, rather, I could know all of that if I were one of the thousands and thousands of low-level snoops it will take for our government to accomplish its surveillance goals.

The logic is completely flawed, however. As FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley remarks, if you're looking for a needle in a haystack, adding more hay doesn't help. It makes you less likely to find the needle. A government that sucks up ever vaster quantities of useless information on innocent people actually hurts its own ability to investigate crimes. And the imagined intimidating effect of things like surveillance cameras in public spaces doesn't actually reduce crime; it merely makes us think of each other as potential criminals. On top of that, the over-investigation leads to all sorts of harm to innocent people that was completely avoidable: wrongful prosecutions and imprisonments, deaths and injuries during unnecessary confrontations, and disastrous cultural and legal changes. Once everyone has become a suspect, the burden of proof shifts to the defendant. Once activists are targeted for surveillance and suspicion, many become reluctant to engage in activism -- which, believe it or not, leads to corruption and tyranny.

It's also possible to be wrong about one's innocence. There are over 5,000 federal crimes on the books, plus 300,000 regulatory crimes, plus regulations, plus state crimes. Almost everyone is certainly guilty of something or easily made to appear guilty of something. All of these points become clearer, I think, when one learns, not just what could happen in the near future, but what is happening right now in the nature of abuses often considered futuristic or dystopian. A great place -- maybe the best place -- to start is John Whitehead's new book, A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State.

This book captures the stories of slowly growing abuse and suppression, and collects them in sufficient mass to shock readers out of their complacency. Have police pulled you over and done cavity searches yet? They have to others. Have they forcibly drawn your blood to check for alcohol? Have they stopped you on a sidewalk and patted you down? Some things you simply don't know whether they've done: have they scanned your pockets, bags, and clothing as you passed? Have they filmed you with a drone and stored the information, allowing a retroactive search of where you were when, should the need arise? Have they tracked you via your cell phone or your license plate? Do they know your web browsing history and the content of your emails? Have they entered your home and searched it while you were out? These actions are all "legal," even if unconstitutional.

Some abuses you can't help being aware of when they happen to you or someone you know. Tens of thousands have been arrested and committed to mental institutions. Local police have been militarized. Uniquely in the world, the U.S. military "donates" its weapons to local police forces. With the weaponry comes a militarization of uniforms, language, training, tactics, and thought. Over 50,000 no-knock SWAT-team-style police raids are carried out annually in the United States. Noticing this doesn't make us paranoid. It exposes the paranoia of the police, who see an enemy in every member of the public.

"There was a time," Whitehead notes, "when communities would have been up in arms over a botched SWAT team raid resulting in the loss of innocent lives. Unfortunately, today, we are increasingly being conditioned by both the media and the government to accept the use of SWAT teams by law enforcement agencies for routine drug policing and the high incidence of error-related casualties that accompanies these raids." Whitehead details some of the specific tragedies.

Combine police that have been militarized with a public that has been armed, and you get stories like this one: "[A]n 88-year-old African-American woman was shot and killed in 2006 when policemen barged unannounced into her home, reportedly in search of cocaine. Police officers broke down Kathryn Johnstone's door while serving a 'no-knock' warrant to search her home on a run-down Atlanta street known for drugs and crime, prompting the woman to fire at what she believed to be the 'intruders' in self-defense. The officers returned fire, killing the octogenarian. No cocaine was found." If only someone had had a gun!

According to Amnesty International, 90% of those killed by police tasers were unarmed when tasered. But when people are armed, they aren't just tasered; instead they have dozens of bullets pumped into them.

Drones, in Whitehead's view, open up a whole new level of militarization. As tear gas, tasers, sound cannons, assault vehicles, and other military weapons were passed on to police, so too are drones being domesticated. The reckless killing and blanket spying that will follow pale in relation to some of the suicidal stupidities the military has planned, such as nuclear-powered drones and drones carrying nuclear weapons.

It's not too late to push back, assuming we come to understand the desirability and necessity of doing so.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.



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[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

The NSA: "The Abyss From Which There Is No Return"

Sunday, 25 August 2013 09:54 By John W Whitehead, The Rutherford Institute | Op-Ed


“The National Security Agency’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. If a dictator ever took over, the N.S.A. could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.”—Senator Frank Church (1975).

We now find ourselves operating in a strange paradigm where the government not only views the citizenry as suspects but treats them as suspects, as well. Thus, the news that the National Security Agency (NSA) is routinely operating outside of the law and overstepping its legal authority by carrying out surveillance on American citizens is not really much of a surprise. This is what happens when you give the government broad powers and allow government agencies to routinely sidestep the Constitution. Indeed, as I document in my book, A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, these newly revealed privacy violations by the NSA are just the tip of the iceberg. Consider that the government’s Utah Data Center (UDC), the central hub of the NSA’s vast spying infrastructure, will be a clearinghouse and a depository for every imaginable kind of information—whether innocent or not, private or public—including communications, transactions and the like. In fact, anything and everything you’ve ever said or done, from the trivial to the damning—phone calls, Facebook posts, Twitter tweets, Google searches, emails, bookstore and grocery purchases, bank statements, commuter toll records, etc.—will be tracked, collected, catalogued and analyzed by the UDC’s supercomputers and teams of government agents.

By sifting through the detritus of your once-private life, the government will come to its own conclusions about who you are, where you fit in, and how best to deal with you should the need arise. Indeed, we are all becoming data collected in government files. Whether or not the surveillance is undertaken for “innocent” reasons, surveillance of all citizens, even the innocent sort, gradually poisons the soul of a nation. Surveillance limits personal options—denies freedom of choice—and increases the powers of those who are in a position to enjoy the fruits of this activity.

If this is the new “normal” in the United States, it is not friendly to freedom. Frankly, we are long past the point where we should be merely alarmed. These are no longer experiments on our freedoms. These are acts of aggression.

Senator Frank Church (D-Ida.), who served as the chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence that investigated the National Security Agency in the 1970s, understood only too well the dangers inherent in allowing the government to overstep its authority in the name of national security. Church recognized that such surveillance powers “at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.”

Noting that the NSA could enable a dictator “to impose total tyranny” upon an utterly defenseless American public, Church declared that he did not “want to see this country ever go across the bridge” of constitutional protection, congressional oversight and popular demand for privacy. He avowed that “we,” implicating both Congress and its constituency in this duty, “must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.”

Unfortunately, we have long since crossed over into that abyss, first under George W. Bush, who, among other things, authorized the NSA to listen in on the domestic phone calls of American citizens in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and now under President Obama, whose administration has done more to undermine the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee of privacy and bodily integrity than any prior administration. Incredibly, many of those who were the most vocal in criticizing Bush for attempting to sidestep the Constitution have gone curiously silent in the face of Obama’s repeated violations.

Whether he intended it or not, it well may be that Obama, moving into the home stretch and looking to establish a lasting “legacy” to characterize his time in office, is remembered as the president who put the final chains in place to imprison us in an electronic concentration camp from which there is no escape. Yet none of this could have been possible without the NSA, which is able to operate outside the constitutional system of checks and balances because Congress has never passed a law defining its responsibilities and obligations.

The constitutional accountability clause found in Article 1, section 9, clause 7 of the Constitution demands that government agencies function within the bounds of the Constitution. It does so by empowering the people’s representatives in Congress to know what governmental agencies are actually doing by way of an accounting of their spending and also requiring full disclosure of their activities. However, because agencies such as the NSA operate with “black ops” (or secret) budgets, they are not accountable to Congress. In his book Body of Secrets, the second installment of the most extensively researched inquiry into the NSA, author James Bamford describes the NSA as “a strange and invisible city unlike any on earth” that lies beyond a specially constructed and perpetually guarded exit ramp off the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. “It contains what is probably the largest body of secrets ever created.” Bamford’s use of the word “probably” is significant since the size of the NSA’s staff, budget and buildings is kept secret from the public. Intelligence experts estimate that the agency employs around 38,000 people, with a starting salary of $50,000 for its entry-level mathematicians, computer scientists and engineers. Its role in the intelligence enterprise and its massive budget dwarf those of its better-known counterpart, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The NSA’s website provides its own benchmarks:

Neither the number of employees nor the size of the Agency’s budget can be publicly disclosed. However, if the NSA/CSS were considered a corporation in terms of dollars spent, floor space occupied, and personnel employed, it would rank in the top 10 percent of the Fortune 500 companies.

If the NSA’s size seems daunting, its scope is disconcerting, especially as it pertains to surveillance activities domestically. The first inkling of this came in December 2005 when the New York Times reported that President Bush had secretly authorized the NSA to monitor international phone calls and email messages initiated by individuals (including American citizens) in the United States. Bush signed the executive order in 2002, under the pretext of needing to act quickly and secretly to detect communication among terrorists and their contacts and to quell future attacks in the aftermath of September 11, 2001.

The New York Times story forced President Bush to admit that he had secretly instructed the NSA to wiretap Americans’ domestic communications with international parties without seeking a FISA warrant or congressional approval. The New York Times had already sat on its story for a full year due to White House pressure not to publish its findings. It would be another six months before USA Today delivered the second and most significant piece of the puzzle, namely that the NSA had been secretly collecting the phone records of tens of millions of Americans who used the national “private” networks AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth.

It would be another seven years before Americans were given undeniable proof—thanks to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden—that the NSA had not only broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times every year but was actively working to flout attempts at oversight and accountability, aided and abetted in this subterfuge by the Obama administration.

Then again, all Snowden really did was confirm what we already suspected was happening. We already knew the NSA was technologically capable of spying on us. We also knew that the agency had, since the 1960s, routinely spied on various political groups and dissidents.

So if we already knew that the government was spying on us, what’s the big deal? And more to the point, as I often hear many Americans ask, if you’re not doing anything wrong, why should you care? The big deal is simply this: once you allow the government to start breaking the law, no matter how seemingly justifiable the reason, you relinquish the contract between you and the government which establishes that the government works for and obeys you, the citizen—the employer—the master. And once the government starts operating outside the law, answerable to no one but itself, there’s no way to rein it back in, short of revolution.

As for those who are not worried about the government filming you when you drive, listening to your phone calls, using satellites to track your movements and drones to further spy on you, you’d better start worrying. At a time when the average American breaks at least three laws a day without knowing it thanks to the glut of laws being added to the books every year, there’s a pretty good chance that if the government chose to target you for breaking the law, they’d be able to come up with something without much effort.

Then again, for those who insist they’re not doing anything wrong, per se, perhaps they should be. Because if you’re not doing anything wrong, it just might mean that you’re not doing anything at all, which is how we got into this mess in the first place.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 0 points by forourfutures (393) 4 years ago

And there are too many posters here that attack Article V, for them to be a natural part of our society. Ows is a killing field of valid legal and political concepts for protecting freedom.

[-] 0 points by itsmyblood (10) 4 years ago

we need a revolution not a convention.

[-] 1 points by forourfutures (393) 4 years ago

It is the peaceful, lawful revolution Jefferson advocated for each generation.

[-] 1 points by itsmyblood (10) 4 years ago

it's delusional to think it will happen.

[-] 1 points by forourfutures (393) 4 years ago

Do you know how much the NWO loves to hear that from the people?

"You're delusional if you do not give up real hope based in real laws and real history. You f,nn eater."

That is your message in the realm of action protecting the lives that love knows.

[-] 0 points by itsmyblood (10) 4 years ago

my message is rise up serf.

[-] 1 points by forourfutures (393) 4 years ago

Rise up-not peaceful revolution?

[-] -1 points by itsmyblood (10) 4 years ago

Citoyens, vouliez-vous une révolution sans révolution? Citizens, did you want a revolution without revolution?-------maximilien robespierre

[-] 1 points by forourfutures (393) 4 years ago

A revolution without violence, which makes it a de evolution, particularly in contemporary times.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 4 years ago

a revolution against violence is apropos

[-] 2 points by forourfutures (393) 4 years ago

Not against violence, without violence.

Using reason, law and democracy. Am I wrong to assume they are not all our to use if we chose to?

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 4 years ago

as long as no one gets violent

[-] 1 points by forourfutures (393) 4 years ago

Reason works and can be built upon. Violence, unless it is self defense, is always destructive and is to be left behind.

Lawful peaceful revolution was a vision drawn from the "alter or abolish" of the Declaration of Independence and codified into Article V. It is different however. "Alter or abolish" is unconditional, with Article V the states have that power.

Our lawful peaceful revolution begins with our agreement across the states upon what constitutional intent is. Once that agreement is strong with perhaps a million Americans, the state with the most in agreement begins petitioning state legislators to find support for Article V.

This is a process of testing lawmakers principles. The constitution is under attack. This is not a time where any half assed unconstitutional legislator can be tolerated if we've got the tools to expose the fact they cannot make constitutional decisions because they have no respect for constitutional intent.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 4 years ago

Revolution will happen

when people stand up for themselves

to be counted to matter

to use their name with their words