These incidents were not aberrations of the era. During the Bush years, for example, documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) revealed, as the group put it in 2006, “new details of Pentagon surveillance of Americans opposed to the Iraq war, including Quakers and student groups“. The Pentagon was “keeping tabs on non-violent protesters by collecting information and storing it in a military anti-terrorism database”. The evidence shows that assurances that surveillance is only targeted at those who “have done something wrong” should provide little comfort, since a state will reflexively view any challenge to its power as wrongdoing.
The opportunity those in power have to characterise political opponents as “national security threats” or even “terrorists” has repeatedly proven irresistible. In the past decade, the government, in an echo of Hoover’s FBI, has formally so designated environmental activists, broad swaths of anti-government rightwing groups, anti-war activists, and associations organised around Palestinian rights. Some individuals within those broad categories may deserve the designation, but undoubtedly most do not, guilty only of holding opposing political views. Yet such groups are routinely targeted for surveillance by the NSA and its partners.
One document from the Snowden files, dated 3 October 2012, chillingly underscores the point. It revealed that the agency has been monitoring the online activities of individuals it believes express “radical” ideas and who have a “radicalising” influence on others.
The NSA explicitly states that none of the targeted individuals is a member of a terrorist organisation or involved in any terror plots. Instead, their crime is the views they express, which are deemed “radical“, a term that warrants pervasive surveillance and destructive campaigns to “exploit vulnerabilities”.
The government may treat anyone who challenges its policies as terrorists. For example:
- The former head of the NSA and CIA compared privacy advocates to terrorists
- Peaceful protest may be treated as terrorism by the FBI
- Questioning war may be considered terrorism
Constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead writes:
No matter what the Obama administration may say to the contrary, actions speak louder than words, and history shows that the U.S. government is not averse to locking up its own citizens for its own purposes. What the NDAA does is open the door for the government to detain as a threat to national security anyone viewed as a troublemaker. According to government guidelines for identifying domestic extremists—a word used interchangeably with terrorists, that technically applies to anyone exercising their First Amendment rights in order to criticize the government.
Daniel Ellsberg notes that Obama’s claim of power to indefinitely detain people without charges or access to a lawyer or the courts is a power that even King George – the guy we fought the Revolutionary War against – didn’t claim. (And former judge and adjunct professor of constitutional law Andrew Napolitano points out that Obama’s claim that he can indefinitely detain prisoners even after they are acquitted of their crimes is a power that even Hitler and Stalin didn’t claim.)
And the former top NSA official who created NSA’s mass surveillance system says, “We are now in a police state“.
The implications of such massive surveillance are staggering. It might be nearly impossible to stop because with such surveillance in place a political reformist can and will be targeted. From the article:
Among the information collected about the individuals, at least one of whom is a “US person”, are details of their online sex activities and “online promiscuity” – the porn sites they visit and surreptitious sex chats with women who are not their wives. The agency discusses ways to exploit this information to destroy their reputations and credibility.
One might hope that an economic collapse of the Federal Government, which I think is nearly certain, will stop it. But an agency with that much power and the tools to maintain it will be among the last to go down and make itself “useful” in any government resurrection.
As long as we retain the trappings of a republic most Americans won’t
see anything wrong, with being spyed on.
I doubt that economic collapse will change anything for the power elite. Yes, they’ll lose one system of projecting power: money, but they will hold on to power projection by fiat.
Look at South America. How many nations there have had economic collapses, and nothing changed except their currency exchange rates?
For anything to REALLY change, the elites must be physically separated from their seats of power. We call that a revolution where I’m from.
Those in our government don’t fear criminals or foreign enemies nearly so much as they fear good, honest, strong, principled, enterprising, armed American citizens. Keep that in mind.
Of course. They have the underclass (us) to protect them from criminals and foreign enemies. But who is to protect them from the underclass?
Department of Agriculture and BLM, et al, SWAT teams?
As Cooper pointed out though; the only good marksmen are enthusiasts. One wonders about the levels of enthusiasm among the various Departments, Agencies and Bureaus. That must be a point of focus. Hunting and combat are chiefly matters of the mind and spirit.
Linked back from my place.
I agree with the guy who wrote this: “Attempting to stop mass surveillance is as futile as attempting to stop weapons of mass destruction from existing. The science and technology genies are never going back in their bottles, unless civilization destroys itself so thoroughly that all knowledge about how to make and maintain weapons of mass destruction and mass surveillance was annihilated. As long as sufficient scientific and technological civilization exists, then the knowledge base for weapons of mass destruction and mass surveillance will continue to exist. In many ways, the political problems presented by weapons of mass surveillance are the SAME as the problems presented by weapons of mass destruction.”
It can’t be stopped. Technology is not going away.
I’ll have to think on that some.
I’ll concede that I may have a lot to learn but my first inclination is that we can create laws which punish government officials that transgress certain boundaries just as we do when they engage in torture in interrogations, voting fraud, or lying under oath.
I don’t see it as a matter of trying to make the technology go away. I see it as a matter of punishing those who use the technology in manner not allowed by their citizens.
And what would you do if you found out that surveillance is mostly being conducted by private companies like Google and Facebook?
I don’t worry about corporations arresting or blackmailing me for voting for the wrong side. I don’t worry about corporations recording all my phone calls, email, and web browsing and using it to put together a case demonstrating I commit three felonies a day.
Corporations surveillance is used to sell me more products. Government surveillance outside of legitimate criminal investigation and foreign intelligence gathering is used suppress political opponents and give political favors.
I can boycott a corporation. I can’t boycott a SWAT team surrounding my house.
I’m not sure you are thinking about what will happen to that info when these companies eventually change hands. Will you be so happy with the Chinese having this data?
Or maybe the Koreans? Or the Russians?.
I’m not “happy” with anyone having that type of data about the general populations. But even foreign nations are less of a threat than our own government. If our own government can’t have it then they are far more likely to protect us from it’s misuse by foreigners.
And again, I can boycott a foreign nation. I can’t boycott a SWAT team surrounding my house.
I also don;t have a problem having laws that punish the illegal use of surveillance techniques by private companies. If it costs them money (and possibly even costs executives their freedom for willful criminal violations), companies will start to avoid using these techniques.
Remember, the same things can be said about opening provate mail, “black bag” jobs of breaking into private houses to snoop, wiretapping, planting bugs, etc. We have managed to keep those transgressions by corporations down to a dull roar — but they were NOT that uncommon in the past, when there was no strong enforcement.
I CERTAINLY hold the government, which exists to PROTECT individual Constitutional rights, to a higher standard than private citizens when it comes to the willful (or criminally negligent) violations of those same rights. It’s like bribery: It’s bad when a business owner accepts bribes and kickbacks from potential suppliers so they can steal a march on their competition; it’s inexcuseable for a public official to accept bribes – and public officials convicted of such should serve hard time and be barred from government service.
Well! I hope THIS post is enough to earn me a “special dossier”!
Joe, you suggest 2 control mechanisms… Punish them. Force them.
Same 2 methods we have successfuly used to stop illicit drug manufacture and use.
The desire to treat political opponents to spying, dirty tricks, detention and other negative reenforcements up to and including execution is as hard wired as the desire to catch a buzz, you can find it throughout recorded history. Probably related to the mechanism a new alpha ape uses to ensure his genes are the ones going forward in his particular band of primates?
What needs to change is culture, not laws. Look for a culture where it wasn’t expressed? If you go back to the whiskey rebellion, our politician’s desires have not changed, merely their tools have been refined and their use become cheaper.
I’m going to check out the original “ride, shoot (the bow) straight and speak the truth” people now. Like the Japanese, they supposedly didn’t even lie during criminal trials. Wonder how they ran their politics?
I’ve known for a long time that I’m different. I have never liked “a buzz” from drugs of any type, including legal ones. Similar are my aversions to dirty tricks to honorable opponents. Once they transgress “the rules” then… well, I shouldn’t say.
I’ll grant you may be correct for vast majority of political types and maybe even people in general.
What I don’t understand is the implications of what you are saying. Are you suggesting, by my extrapolation, that there is no point in having a Bill of Rights, or even a constitution, unless we change our culture? I might be able to be convinced of that but it would be a bitter pill to swallow.
No. Bill of rights, Constitution, an excellent start! What we need to add to these is something like a religious belief in the desirability to think, plan and act righteously (as opposed to profitably or strategically in preparation for the next election cycle…)
What do the folks who run our corporate and political infrastructure consider to be “righteous”? Do they even consider such a concept?
On good words, good deeds and good thoughts
==Some Basic Maxims of Zoroastrianism==
Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds.
* There is only one path and that is the path of Truth.
* Do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, and then all beneficial rewards will come to you.
What makes you think you have a bill of rights or a constitution -now-?
In the last 20 years alone, there is -no- Constitution, Amendment, or Law that the government has not wilfully violated in the extreme. There is no ethic they will not broach, no moral extreme they have not surpassed.
In all seriousness, sir… what makes you think you had a Constitution to begin with?
Why is it, that when I wish to comment on these news items, that I must be willing to give up my email address, my Facebook friend’s list and all other sorts of information?
Now, now. You just have to give *a* email address, etc. — who says it must be yours?