Of The People, By The People, For The People …

war is ...

“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!

Like I said, I could say a lot more. If you need more, you can get it from voices both on the left and the right and from others. But what can I do you may ask?

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.

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10 thoughts on “Of The People, By The People, For The People …

  1. As a UK citizen we have been made aware of PRISM, a surveilence program, from a leaker. The US government says it has not been used in tne USA, but only in foreign counties The question being asked does that include US allies.

    Besides that, does everybody believe that the President is fully informed about what the US intelligence agencies are doing?

    Facebook, Google etc deny allowing access to their data bases!

    1. As to the first question, that’s probably being passed along even now to the NSA and I imagine you’ll be hearing from them at the appropriate time 🙂

      I won’t try to answer the second. As for Facebook, Google, and the rest of them, I haven’t followed that closely. However, they seem to have parsed their comments pretty carefully. U.S. intelligence agencies apparently do not have direct, unrestricted, access to their servers; instead, the companies gather up all the information for them and apparently place it in a secure location only the agencies can access.

      Isn’t that sweet of them?

  2. Just curious…   If you’d like to make a logical, reasonable argument against what you apparently see as the big brother state… (an argument I am open to by the way)…   Why do you refer to the president as ” King Barack,” a pretty obvious effort to smear the current president as the author of a secret NSA policy, which was in fact instigated by President George W. Bush with the consent and continuing agreement of congress?   If there are bad guys here, they include both parties and both chambers of congress.   Your denigration of our current president does not help make your case; rather it undermines it.   I would sugggest you not only get your facts straight, but that you also park your prejudices at the door to rational argument.   Peace, lad.   James

    ________________________________

    1. Feel free to make that logical, reasonable argument against our big brother state yourself, James. That’s why the post is here, to generate some discussion. But I rather suspect you won’t make the argument against what this President is doing because some people just cannot bring themselves to ever criticize the man; or to believe that this country is no longer what it once was.

      Did this start under Bush? Yes. Did Obama campaign against all of this when he was running for President in 2008? Yes. Did he flip-flop and decide to continue and expand what Bush was doing once elected? Yes. Are both parties part of the problem? Absolutely.

      Those are the relevant facts so we obviously agree on some things. Apparently we have different priorities, however.

      Smear the President? I rather suspect that Obama’s skin is thick enough to handle my barbs should he ever stumble across them. Whether our constitutional rights can survive the surveillance state strikes me as something a bit more problematic and important. But, hey, that’s just me; if you want to spend your time worrying about Obama’s feelings, be my guest.

    1. I suspect we’ll survive, but we’ll be living in a far different country for sure and each generation to come will have less and less privacy as the technology brought to bear on this data becomes more powerful.

      Indeed, from what I’ve been reading, the truth is that this kind of metadata can already paint a detailed portrait of every American without having access to the actual content of your phone calls. The government can know where you are at any given moment, track your movements, discover who you have been talking to, texting, or e-mailing, what medications you take, how much you owe and to whom, and on and on.

      Assuming it wants to, of course, and at some point it will (if it doesn’t already). And also assuming that nothing changes; that the checks and balances on this kind of spying remain toothless and ineffective.

      Honestly it’s not clear that anyone except the President can reign this in. The FISA courts are very limited. The congressional intelligence committees are largely captives of, and cheerleaders for, the massive intelligence network the government has constructed over six decades.

      But we’ll see. I suppose there’s hope as long as they’re people willing to fight the Borg rather than be absorbed by it. Of course, that’s one of the reasons why the government has prisons, of course 🙂

  3. While I don’t agree with some of your posts, this one is spot-on. I have mostly backed conservative candidates, not for their stand on social issues but for other reasons. I was dismayed at the erosion of our rights and privacy under the Patriot Act and harped to my way more conservative friends about my concerns about the Bush Presidency.

    Now, King Barrack is furthering those invasions of our personal lives. I think King Barrack is the perfect name for the man, he doesn’t act like a President of the people but like a man of privilege. He and his cronies have continued the slide down this slope away from what the Constitution is all about.

    I believe that this is why so many people in the US are buying guns and ammunition in huge quantities these days. Not to commit crimes, not to hunt, not to defend against terrorism but to defend from tyranny from within. It is a scary time in the US right now and the idiots in D.C. are more concerned with getting re-elected and fattening their personal treasuries than they are with the preservation of our union.

    I totally agree that we must begin to change with the very next election. Clear out the scoundrels and see to it that the honest people sent to Washington remain honest. Sadly the current climate in Washington seems to lure good people to “the dark side”.

    1. As you already know, I’m not a big fan of guns and don’t see them as part of the solution. There is no way individual citizens are going to win a battle with the government if comes down to guns. There’s just too much of a mismatch in terms of the firepower each side can bring to bear.

      The traditional remedy is elections, i.e., throw the bums out. But honestly I’m very discouraged about our electoral system these days and it’s capacity to effect real change.

      What are you supposed to do when a candidate (like Obama in 2008) runs taking seemingly the right stance on these issues and then chooses to flip-flop after the election?

      But even beyond that, the whole electoral system has become increasingly polluted by money in the wake of the Citizens United decision. You have members of Congress who spend three or four days a week away from their offices on Capitol Hill dialing for dollars for their next campaign.

      How can they possibly keep themselves informed on the issues in these circumstances; especially issues like these where they can’t even assign a member of their staff to keep them informed or discuss what they might learn in an intelligence briefing with anyone?

      So coming up with remedies is not the easiest thing in the world. That’s why the notion of throwing them all out every two years is attractive. But given how gerrymandered the system is, that’s not even possible.

      And now for the good news.

      Kit thinks hard.

      Um, I’m going to have to get back to you on that later 🙂

  4. I won’t argue politics with you because I want to keep you as a friend.  I still remember Waco, Ilios Gonzalas, and Ruby Ridge.  The question I have for you is what is that website for homeless gay teens?  My wife just passed and I am now in the position I can be a foster parent and I want to help.   Take care and may God Bless

    With a warm hug, Uncle Roger

    ________________________________

    1. We can argue politics and still be friends, Roger. I’ll forgive you for being wrong 🙂

      I’m not really sure which site you’re thinking of, but check out this post and this one for links to some organizations that work with homeless LGBT youth. There are also some links that might help listed under Gay Youth Resources on this page (scroll up and look to your left).

      In any event, good luck. There’s a real need and it’s great that you want to help.

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