Wednesday, September 25, 2013
For Your Own Good: Government Surveillance
What has become of America? You know--"home of the free and land of the brave" and all that? Is it really necessary that we have to have a government that monitors our phones calls, be it landline or cell, or our emails? Do they need to record our banking transactions or credit card use? Is there a point to checking out our Facebook or LinkedIn pages to see what we're reading; who we're "friends" with; or what games we're playing? Is it especially important to US national security to know what news articles, videos, or jokes we're reading or watching? Is our credit history reports all that important? Do we really need satellites or drones watching and photographing us? We have the NSA and other federal agencies spying not just on ordinary citizens, but on the governments of our allies (and quite probably their citizens as well). No honor among thieves I suppose. I always thought their job was keeping an eye on the bad guys intent on doing harm to Americans. Apparently, somewhere along the way, the American People morphed into the "bad guys". That's seems to always be the trouble with "protectors of the common good", be it spymasters or the self appointed "defenders of public morals". There's always an evildoer hiding behind every tree (see Robespierre or Stalin, or Cromwell, or the Salem Witch Trials, or even more recently, the Senate hearings of Joe McCarthy for examples of how quickly things can snowball out of control). Even our friendly local police officer has become a real life "Robocop" who increasingly sees everyone not for what they are---people going about their lives---but potential criminals waiting to be caught.
Don't think it stops there. We have the federal pit bulls, the IRS, going after individuals and/or groups viewed as a "threat" (a threat by just who, I don't know) and then threatened with all sorts harassment from simply delays to audits to possible fines or jail time. Of course, one is still free to defend their selves, but at what cost? It takes an enormous amount of time, preparation and money to fight back; money and often time that many of these groups simply don't have. Why is that? Whatever happened to our right---our duty---to question the government and its leaders? When did the tools given to us by our Founding Fathers get tossed overboard?
Did you ever notice that while our Founding Fathers specifically said that when the government failed to act in the best interest of its citizens, and when all else failed, we not only had the right, but the duty, to overthrow that government, but no one today will either actually say it out loud and direct? Why you wonder? Because it's against the law. Seriously. It's called "sedition". The government said, in effect, that yes, while it's true the Founding Fathers told us we had a duty as citizens to preserve our freedoms, your action in doing so would be deemed as "un-American" and treasonous against the American People. Now, just how can the American People's action against a government which is infringing on the rights of its citizens (which in itself, could be considered treasonous), turn around and say the American People were being treasonous against themselves? It would be like getting punched in the mouth and then being denied the right to punch back. So, we're left with empty words and bravado.
What's more, our Founding Fathers gave us the tools to fight back. Most notably, the 1st Amendment (freedom of speech), the 2nd Amendment (the right to own and bear arms), the 4th Amendment (illegal search and seizure), and the 6th Amendment (the right to know the charges, a speedy trial---that means no undefined seizure and/or detention of a individual). Well, if you thought sedition was bad, steps are actively being taken to usurp those rights as well.
The current administration is acting as the purveyor of public safety and morals (once again, on actually whose behalf I can only guess), by using the press and media to push an agenda contrary to the truth; that is, their definition of the "truth" by alledging the old tried and true "villains behind every tree and under rock". But, to be sure, this has been going on for awhile both parties. Having "exposed" the crime, they also have a ready solution at hand. We will limit your freedoms---for your own good and protection naturally. It worked in Ancient Greece and late Republican Rome. It worked in Fascist Spain and Italy. It worked in 1933 Germany. It worked in 1917 Russia, and later in China. The sad fact about the human condition it that historically, a free people has always been willing to sacrifice their freedom in the name of security, especially when it's someone willing to take responsibility.
The next logical step would be to secure the means of self-defense. In this case, guns. To do so, it's necessary to convince the masses that by surrendering their right to self-protection, the State could better protect you. After all, since only the criminals will have guns, you, as an unarmed citizen, could much more easily be identified as an "innocent" in need of protection. Only those still with guns will need to bear closer watching in anticipation of their yet to be committed crimes. But since we don't know who all the potential new criminals are, the police will have to be prepared for anything, and therefore, are morphed into a para-military state security force. Naturally too, the State will need to increase its monitoring of populace in order to anticipate an act of violence...all in the name of the nation's welfare of course.
The State too has reserved what it believes to be its right (which supersedes our individual right) against illegal entry and seizure. All the State needs is the hint of what it deems to be "probable cause"; that is, it suspicion there may be something illegal going on. What was once used only sparingly and after intense verification, military style entry has become almost commonplace. The same is true about electronic monitoring. The trouble is that when they've kicked down the wrong door (and usually injured or murdered the occupant in the process), there's not much that can be done. More recently, under the Patriot Act, the State can now arrest an individual without naming the charges and hold them almost indefinitely in a undisclosed location. No attorney. No phone call. No notifying their families. Nada. You simply vanish into the night. And in case you thing this applies just to terrorists or non-citizens, thing again. It applies to everyone. But don't worry, it's for your own good.
So, now don't you feel better? The State is here to protect us. Sleep tight.
President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act.
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FAQ: What You Need to Know About the NSA's Surveillance Programs