Forget the tin foil hats – Friday’s headlines leave no doubt that this administration’s abuse of power is real. As Martin wrote: “We have a government that has grown steadily more and more powerful and we’ve seen more and more abuses of that power. And those are just the ones we know about.”
And now we know about more. No effort has been made to tailor the surveillance to any criteria of potential threat. Even more remarkable is the fact that the majority of Americans are apparently ambivalent to the over-reach and magnitude of the corrupt abuse of power being perpetrated upon them – all in the name of safety, of course. It’s for our own good.
The president says that all the data collection is necessary to protect the nation from terrorists. But does anyone else wonder why, despite all the data collected, plus a warning from Russia, our protectors could not apprehend the Tsarnaev brothers before they killed 3 people and maimed dozens in Boston?
Makes one wonder about the purpose for tracking American’s phone records, addresses, credit card information and probably Internet use. Already beset by revelations of IRS and DOJ abuses of power, the president has assured the nation that there is nothing to fear from their government. (We’re from the government and we are here to help.) He also denied Internet surveillance was being conducted on people living in the U.S. However, that fails to reassure given the Guardian’s most recent revelations.
“The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian.
The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called Prism, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, the document says.”
The Prism program allows the NSA, the world’s largest surveillance organization, to obtain targeted communications without having to request them from the service providers and without having to obtain individual court orders.
With this program, the NSA is able to reach directly into the servers of the participating companies and obtain both stored communications as well as perform real-time collection on targeted users.
The Guardian explains:
…where previously the NSA needed individual authorizations, and confirmation that all parties were outside the USA, they now need only “reasonable suspicion” that one of the parties was outside the country at the time the records were collected by the NSA.
The Guardian also pointed out that unlike call records, this surveillance can include the content of communications and not just the metadata. The top-secret document obtained by the Guardian reveals that the data includes: “email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice-over-IP (Skype, for example) chats, file transfers, social networking details, and more. “
Though it is unusual to quote from the New York Times on these pages, in this case their editorial of June 6, 2013 is both eloquent and accurate.
Within hours of the disclosure that federal authorities routinely collect data on phone calls Americans make, regardless of whether they have any bearing on a counter-terrorism investigation, the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights.
Those reassurances have never been persuasive — whether on secret warrants to scoop up a news agency’s phone records or secret orders to kill an American suspected of terrorism — especially coming from a president who once promised transparency and accountability. The administration has now lost all credibility…on this issue.
The three words after the ellipsis mysteriously appeared a few hours after the Times posted its scathing editorial. Indication that the Times has not really given up on the man they supported (twice) for president.
But no weasel wording can change the fact that the obfuscations or deliberately misleading statements from this president and other high-ranking administration officials have now become fodder for late night comedians. Obama didn’t know about the IRS violations. He read it in the newspaper. Holder had never heard about potential prosecution of journalist James Rosen, but he signed the affidavit. James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, denied before Congress, “NSA collect[s] any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.”
There is nothing funny about the abuse of government power. Given the evidence of the apparently concerted efforts of government agencies to target those the president has considers enemies –the thought occurs that what this is really all about is control.
No one wants to be visited by the IRS, the EPA or any other agency for donating to organizations or candidates that oppose administration policies. It’s better not to attract attention. Why express an opinion that could adversely affect business, job or family?
Far-fetched? The evidence is in the headlines every day and in the history books, but not, unfortunately in the ones the current crop of high school and college students are likely to read.
In East Germany, the Stasie (Communist Secret Police) used threats and bribes to get people to become government informers. According to a recent report, “189,000 people were informers … The Stasi infiltrated nearly every aspect of life in the GDR.”
The captive population of Czechoslovakia knew that a certain degree of collaboration was necessary to assure the welfare of their families. As one woman told this writer just before the Soviets pulled out, “In a way the people in prison have it easier.” She explained that being in prison relieved one of the daily necessity to do the regime’s bidding.
But the Stasi and the KBG were amateurs compared to the mechanisms for control today. No need to draft informants to keep people in line. Most will censor themselves. Information is power that can be and is used to intimidate and control. In recent weeks Americans have had a peek at how it works. More coming.