Our country was founded by men who had had their rights trampled by the most powerful empire on the
face of the earth at the time — the British Empire. Although the colonists in early America were British citizens, they did not enjoy the same privileges as those who resided in England or the British Isles. Our forefathers became angry when an imperious Great Britain levied taxes on them without allowing them representation in the Parliament.
In response to these taxes, our forefathers became smugglers so they could transport and sell their goods to avoid the onerous taxes. The British attempted to enforce their unpopular taxes and laws. The British troops, or redcoats, through British law, were able to search houses, ships and carriages at will. This invasion of privacy eventually led to the founding fathers breaking away from Britain and the creation of a new nation altogether.
Indeed, opposition to government invasion of privacy was a major factor in the establishment of the United States itself, as American colonists protested laws that let British officials ransack at will any home they wished. It was legitimate … for the state to obtain specific, targeted warrants to search individuals when there was evidence to establish probable cause of their wrongdoing. But general warrants — the practice of making the entire citizenry subject to indiscriminate searches — were inherently illegitimate. (Greenwald, 2014: 2-3).
After the Revolutionary War against Britain it seems like the colonists quickly forgot some of the nobler ideas that led to the war. Almost from the founding of our country politicians have been trying to infringe on our civil rights. During the presidency of the second President of the United States, John Adams enacted the Alien and Sedition Acts.
A significant part of the acts was that it criminalized making false statements critical of the federal government. And this was enacted not long after the Bill of Rights and the first Amendment (protecting freedom of speech) were brought into being. It only gets worse from here.
During the years preceding World War I Americans watched as the trench warfare in Europe killed thousands of young men on the battlefield. By and large, Americans did not want war. As a matter of fact, President Wilson ran on a slogan saying that he kept us out of war. This was for looks only. Behind the scenes he was actively trying to get America into the war. And at one point he and his administration actively discouraged people from criticizing him or the war. Regarding President Wilson and the Espionage Act:
… a Constitutional abomination known as the Espionage Act was used to silence any remaining skeptics and dissenters. (Apparently making the world “safe for democracy” meant demonizing and jailing US citizens who continued to voice their opposition. (Plummer, 2014: p. 136).
The government has been slowly taking away and infringing on our civil rights almost from the time the country was founded. In recent years, post 9/11, The Patriot Act was enacted. The act allows government agents to spy on us without a warrant.
The agency that does much of the spying is The National Security agency (NSA). It has collected copio
us amounts of data on ordinary Americans, unlawfully, and without their knowledge or consent.
The USA Patriot Act (HR 3162), … essentially nullified the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizures. Government agencies can search your home without a warrant. Software can Secretly be installed on your computer to monitor your e-mail and Internet activity without telling you … In 2013 Edward Snowden, a private contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA), leaked thousands of documents showing that the NSA was spying in private e-mails, undermining attempts at encryption, and tapping into Yahoo and Google data centers to collect information from millions of account holders. Over 90% of those spied upon were ordinary Americans. (Ruwart, 2015: 330).
The United States Constitution is supposed to be the foundation of our country, its laws and our liberties. The Amendments do not grant us our rights, they are supposed to recognize them and to protect them from being violated — especially by our government.
Previously I stated that war and money are two of the most important things facing our nation. Civil Rights being the third is woven within the fabric of the first two. With each new war, bailout, or crisis our liberties and Civil Rights are eroded even further. On this matter the Great Doctor Ron Paul wrote:
… liberty is compromised every time a new welfare program is established or a new war is entered into. When danger breaks out as a consequence of our policies, inevitably the authoritarians … use the problems they created to tighten their grip over the people and the economy. Terrorism is a serious problem, but if it’s not seen as blowback form our unwise foreign interventions, then the only solution offered will be more government control of out lives. We don’t change foreign policy; we merely regulate the innocent American people by abandoning the Fourth Amendment protection of their privacy. Those who wanted bigger government anyway conveniently used the problems — such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks — to build fear in the people so they practically beg the government to protect them from harm, (Paul 2009: 194).
The Terrorist attacked of 9/11 were a tragic and horrible event. It is also one which the government used to pass the Patriot Act which allows government agencies to further violate our right to privacy. Glenn Greenwald wrote:
… the Bush administration had secretly used the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on the electronic communications of Americans without obtaining the warrants required by relevant criminal law … this warrant less eavesdropping had been going on for … years and had targeted at least several thousand Americans … the notion that the threat of terrorism vested the president with virtually unlimited authority to do anything to “keep the nation safe,” including the authority to break the law. (Greenwald, 2014: 1-2).
The terrorist attacks on 9/11 are not the only time the government has overstepped its bounds and violated our rights. Whenever there is someone who goes against the grain, or is considered radical or different (no matter how peaceful they are) the government has gotten involved in some of the worst ways imaginable. Regarding government agaicies spying on its own citizens, Glen Greenwald wrote:
Frank Church’s mid-1970 investigation into the FBI’s spying shockingly found that the agency had labeled half a million US citizens as potential “subversives,” routinely spying on people based purely on their political beliefs. (The FBI’s list of targets ranged from Martin Luther King to John Lennon, from the women’s liberation movement to the anti-Communist John Birch Society.) … mass surveillance is a universal temptation for any unscrupulous power. And in every instance, the motive is the same: suppressing dissent and mandating compliance (Greenwald, 2014: 3-4).
You will be told that it is for your safety and the good of society when the government breaks the law to spy on innocent Americans. You will have been told a lie. Martin Luther King Jr. protested the Vietnam War and he was a man of peace. He led non-violent protests to obtain freedoms for everyone. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) spied on King. Whenever agents of the government tell me that they do anything to “keep us safe,” I choose not to believe them.
With government agencies, if there is no violence, no crime to be found among American citizens which they find different they have no problem creating the problem first. They then swoop in acting as a savior to keep everyone safe from a booth man who never existed.
The FBI’s domestic counterintelligence program COINTELPRO … showed how the FBI had targeted political groups and individuals it deemed subversive and dangerous, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, black nationalist movements, socialist and Communist organizations, anti war protestors, and various right-wing groups. The bureau had infiltrated them with agents who, among other things, attempted to manipulate members into agreeing to commit criminal acts so that the FBI could arrest and prosecute them. The FBI succeeded in convincing the New York Times to suppress the documents and even return them. (Greenwald, 2014: 183-184).
… the Washington Post published a series of articles … revelations led to the creation of the Senate church Committee, which concluded … the Bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the national security and deter violence. Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic society even if all of the targets had been involved in violent activity, but COINTELPRO went far beyond that. The unexpressed major premise of the programs was that a law enforcement agency has the duty to do whatever is necessary to combat perceived threats to the existing social and political order. (Greenwald, 2014: 184).
I wish I could write that it was only the FBI which violated the rights of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and other people considered “dangerous” or “subversive.” However, not to be outdone, the NSA has not only collected information on innocent Americans, they then had the unmitigated gall to lie about it.
NSA officials had lied to Congress, directly and repeatedly, about the agency’s activities. For years, various senators had asked the NSA for a rough estimate of how many Americans were having their calls and emails intercepted. The officials insisted that they were unable to answer because they did not and could not maintain such data: the very data extensively reflected in the “BOUNDLESS INFORMANT” documents. Even more significant, the files — along with the Verizon document — proved that the Obama administration’s senior national security official, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, lied to Congress when, on March 12, 2013, he was asked by Senator Ron Wyden: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper’s reply was as succinct as it was dishonest: “No Sir.” (Greenwald, 2014: 30).
As in the past, the government never misses a chance to use a horrible incident to make a power grab when people are scared and vulnerable. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 are no exception. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11 the NSA was given spweeping powers to collect information on citizens:
… the program allowed the NSA to obtain virtually anything it wanted from the internet companies that hundreds of millions
of people around the world now use as their primary means to communicate. This move was made possible by the laws that the US government had implemented in the wake of 9/11 which vested the NSA with sweeping powers to surveil Americans and with virtually unlimited authority to carry out indiscriminate mass surveillance of entire foreign populations. (Greenwald, 2014: 73-74).
As I wrote before, when I speak of the government I am not just talking about the politicians elected to office. Many people have been employed by huge corporations before they are in office and when they are out of office, they go back to whence they came. The revolving door of government and corporations not only exists in the areas of warfare and finance but in government spying and surveillance as well.
The post - 9/11 era has seen a massive explosion of resources dedicated to surveillance. Most of those resources were transferred from the public coffers (i.e., the American taxpayer) into the pockets of private surveillance defense corporations. Companies like Booz Allen Hamilton and AT&T employ hordes of former top government officials, while hordes of current top defense officials are past (and likely future) employees of those same corporations. Constantly growing the surveillance state is a way to ensure that the government funds keep flowing , that the revolving door stays greased. That is also the best way to ensure the NSA and its related agencies retain institutional importance and influence inside Washington. (Greenwald, 2014: 168.)
And why should the gravy train be limited to the politicians themselves. Their friends and family, people close to them, can get in on the action as well.
The “fake reform” faction was led by Diane Feinstein, the very senator who is charged with exercising primary oversight over the NSA. Feinstein has long been a devoted loyalist of the US national security industry, from her vehement support for the war in Iraq to her steadfast backing of Bush-era NSA programs. (Her husband, meanwhile, has major stakes in various military contracts.) Clearly Feinstein was a natural choice to head a committee that claims to carry out oversight over the intelligence community but has for years performed the opposite function. (Greenwald, 2014: 131).
When The Network, the oligarchy or Corporatocracy (through their agents in the government and media) say that invasive surveillance on innocent, non violent Americans is needed (like Dr. King), when they violate our freedoms and civil rights in the name of safety — I choose not to believe them.