“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to.”
The words, of course, are from George Orwell’s 1984, published in 1949 but never more relevant than they are today. As most of you you know, I haven’t been blogging much lately; and I don’t plan to do very much in the future if I can help it. But recent events in Washington require people to take a stand, to decide whether they’re Americans or a bunch of sheep afraid of their own shadow.
We’ve just been reassured by King Barack that no one is listening to our telephone calls; that we can’t have one hundred percent security and 100 percent privacy and that we’re going to have to make some choices as a society.
King Barack says that he welcomes this debate even though everyone knows he doesn’t really welcome any debate at all about his policies. He and Michelle just don’t want to hear a different point of view. But since he actually said the words, I thought I would offer my two cents on all of this.
Simply put, I think what we’re witnessing is the shredding of the Constitution of the United States by a bunch of clowns in Washington intoxicated by power and determined to keep fighting another one of their never-ending phony wars, this one the war against terrorism.
Yes, terrorists exist. No, we don’t need to turn America into a surveillance state to deal with them. What would be the point of winning the war after all, assuming it could ever be definitively won, which it can’t?
And we certainly don’t need an arrogant President who likes playing judge, jury and executioner to be making all the decisions about these critical matters.
Like many others, I voted for Obama, but for President, not King. But let’s be honest people. On these critical national security/civil liberty issues, there isn’t a lick of difference between Bush and Obama; and sadly I don’t see very many members of Congress or ordinary citizens willing to stand up against this perversion of fundamental American values.
There’s a lot to say about all of this, but let’s just start with a few things Obama has said.
NSA surveillance is legal we are told. It isn’t, of course. Yes, there has been a law passed, the Patriot Act, that’s been interpreted to permit all of this. But neither the Congress nor the President can enact a law that repeals the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution; and blanket warrants make a mockery of the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of probable cause.
But let’s assume it is legal. So what? Slavery was legal at one time in this country too. Laws that destroy our fundamental values and freedoms as a nation should carry no weight at all with any real American. So no, King Barack, I’m not reassured by all your protestations about how everything you’re doing is legal. It’s wrong and it violates both the spirit and the letter of the Constitution.
We’re not listening to your telephone calls, the King says; and, besides, if you don’t have anything to hide, why should you care even if we were? This is typical Obama. Don’t answer the tough questions being asked. Substitute a contrived, phony, question and answer it instead.
No one said you’re listening to our telephone calls, my Lord. But you’re definitely spying on us; and if YOU don’t have anything to hide, you need to tell us how, why and exactly what all of this has accomplished. We’re not accountable to you, King Barack. You’re accountable to us.
But you won’t tell us, of course, will you? What you will tell us instead is that all of this is classified and we need to trust you. But that’s the point, you see; we don’t trust you, Mr. President, or the rest of the clowns in Washington.
And we certainly don’t trust those anonymous sources you send out to leak information about Najibullah Zazi to the press because we can’t ask that anonymous source the tough questions that need to be asked about that case or get you to engage in an honest debate about how important the information collected on Zasi was when compared to the routine intrusions into our daily lives.
What we do know is that at least one member of the Senate Intelligence Committee briefed on these matters does not believe these warrantless searches have stopped anything at all. They’ve just given the U.S. government the tools it needs to attempt to intimidate everyone into silence; and at some point those tools will be used. You can count on it people.
Oh, and just so you know, Mr. President, it would be nice if you and your friends in the FBI pursued that anonymous source you sent out to leak this information to us as vigorously as you plan to pursue Mr. Snowden, who was at least honest enough to take responsibility for leaking classified information (unlike your toady).
But that won’t happen,of course, because the truth is not all leaks are created equal in Washington. There are the approved leaks, the ones the King and his courtiers like and want us to believe; and then there are the ones that actually tell people the truth.
The point is there are over 316 million Americans making a ton of telephone calls every day. They are sending off a gazillion emails, taking a bazillion pictures, and participating in lots of online chats every day. Mining all that information is just a matter of how many computers the government is willing to devote to the task; and with increasingly intrusive technology, the task will become progressively simpler in the future.
“You can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience,” Obama tells us. “You know, we’re going to have to make some choices as a society.” This is the one I love best of all. First of all, even with all the abuses our government commits in the name of protecting us, we still don’t have 100 percent security and never will. The people of Boston are living proof of that.
The same is true with privacy, of course, so it’s a question of balance. Sadly, the balance has tipped completely in favor of those who have no respect for our privacy or for fundamental American values.
And, by the way, did you happen to notice the use of royal we by Obama? Funny; it seems like the only choice we the people get to make is how far to bend over as the government probes us every day. Sadly, it’s Obama and Holder (he of “due process is not necessarily legal process” fame) and people like James R. Clapper of the NSA and the rest of that ilk that get to make all the real choices.
Under judicial supervision? Tell me about it. As I understand it, the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Court approved all 1,789 wiretapping requests submitted to it in 2012. In addition, the F.B.I. made 15,229 National Security Letter requests on Americans in 2012 and none even required a FISA rubber-stamping.
This is a court that was deliberately created to be toothless. If you’re a spook who wants to trample on our freedoms you get to argue your case before the court; and you don’t even to argue that hard because no one will be there challenging your position. Privacy advocates don’t get their day before the FISA court, people.
So if you’re counting on FISA judges to protect your Constitutional rights, folks, forget about it. What passes for judicial review is a mockery of the very concept.
But Congress is kept informed about all of this the President says; what’s the problem? The answer to that should be obvious enough. Counting on an institution with an approval rating under ten percent to protect you may not be the wisest of choices.
In reality, a few selected members of Congress on a few selected committees get briefed. Most are largely content to serve as cheerleaders for their intelligence masters in exchange for visits to the Farm and the illusion of having some influence. The rest of Congress gets lied to and misled just like the rest of us ordinary peons.
Think not? Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on March 12, here is what James R. Clapper had to say when asked a simple question.
“Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” committee member Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked Clapper during the hearing.
In response, Clapper replied quickly: “No, sir.”
“There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect [intelligence on Americans], but not wittingly,” the U.S. intelligence chief told Wyden and the rest of the committee.
Of course, the problem isn’t King Barack or Mr. Clapper. It’s whoever leaked all of this information to the press. Ah yes, we live in a wonderful country, one where your punishment is uniquely suited to your crime.
Murder 16 Afghans, including nine children and three women like Staff Sergeant Robert Bales in March 2012, and you get to plead guilty and avoid the death penalty. And, no, this wasn’t the fog of war we’re talking about. This is a dude who carefully slipped out of his camp in the middle of the night, went into two villages, and murdered people with premeditation. We paid the families $700,000 so the guy could get life in prison instead of fried; and keep in mind that the question of parole (in as soon as ten years) is still to be decided.
On the other hand, leak a bunch of documents like Bradley Manning and you get thrown into jail for years, tortured by your own government, finally charged with “aiding the enemy” (among other things), and face the death penalty as well (although the U.S. military is apparently only going to press for life in military custody with no chance of parole).
Equal justice under law? You betcha!
You can speak up just like I am. You can talk with your friends and neighbors about all of this because there are obviously a lot of people out there willing to put up with pretty much whatever the government wants to do. You can write your elected representatives.
And while I understand you may not have a lot of leverage with those clowns in Washington, you do have the ultimate leverage; and you may want to think about voting against every incumbent President and Member of Congress, Republican or Democrat, until they get this mess cleaned up, restore our right to privacy, and stop shredding the Constitution.
In simple terms, you are largely being represented in Washington by a generation of political vipers who have greatly damaged America. They’re worthless and sending all of them packing would be the smart thing to do in my opinion.
If you must, feel free to make some exceptions, but only for those who say LOUD and CLEAR that they’ll vote to repeal the Patriot Act and work to put something a lot more reasonable and sensible in its place; something that provides for real and meaningful checks on the King and his courtiers. It’s also pretty obvious that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act needs a major overhaul to bring it into the 21st century.
If they won’t say that, they’re not protecting you. More importantly, they are making it more and more likely that government of the people, by the people, for the people, will indeed perish from this earth.
Note: Comments are welcome on this or any post. As I’ve mentioned before, however, anonymous posts without an e-mail address will not be published. You don’t have to provide your last name and your e-mail address will not be published.