…doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you, or so goes the old saying. Recently, legislation was enacted which is incredibly striking, given that it’s coming from a nation that is widely renown for its insistence upon individual rights and personal freedoms : The United States.
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein joined with her GOP colleagues on the Senate Intelligence Committee to vote into action a bill which greatly extends warrantless spying on average american citizens (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/28/fisa-feinstein-obama-democrats-eavesdropping).
The surprising thing is the wide support this kind of thing has in Washington. As noted:
To this day, many people identify mid-2008 as the time they realized what type of politician Barack Obama actually is. Six months before, when seeking the Democratic nomination, then-Sen. Obama unambiguously vowed that he would filibuster “any bill” that retroactively immunized the telecom industry for having participated in the illegal Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program. But in July 2008, once he had secured the nomination, a bill came before the Senate that did exactly that – the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 – and Obama not only failed to filibuster as promised, but far worse, he voted against the filibuster brought by other Senators, and then voted in favor of enacting the bill itself.
Wow. Must be something big to have a (then) presidential contender hop on board. And big indeed it is:
…the new 2008 law gutted the 30-year-old FISA statute that had been enacted to prevent the decades of severe spying abuses discovered by the mid-1970s Church Committee: by simply barring the government from eavesdropping on the communications of Americans without first obtaining a warrant from a court. Worst of all, the 2008 law legalized most of what Democrats had spent years pretending was such a scandal: the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program secretly implemented by George Bush after the 9/11 attack. In other words, the warrantless eavesdropping “scandal” that led to a Pulitzer Prize for the New York Times reporters who revealed it ended not with investigations or prosecutions for those who illegally spied on Americans, but with the Congressional GOP joining with key Democrats (including Obama) to legalize most of what Bush and Cheney had done. Ever since, the Obama DOJ has invoked secrecy and standing doctrines to prevent any courts from ruling on whether the warrantless eavesdropping powers granted by the 2008 law violate the Constitution.
Pretty incredible – which leads up to a major point raised by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ): americans are the most spied upon citizens in the world, if not in the history of the world, as noted by WSJ reporter Wall Street Journal reporter Julia Angwin (to listen to this interview, click on this link: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/lopate/2012/oct/03/).
The reasons are many, but few can deny that top among them is the technological power now making all of this possible. As has been reported, the American government is collecting and storing virtually every phone call, purchases, email, text message, internet searches, social media communications, health information, employment history, travel and student records, and virtually all other information of every American citizen.
Some critics now also claim that the government is also using facial recognition software and surveillance cameras to track where everyone is going. A few years, this would’ve been considered an amusing form of paranoia, but given the technological advances, this is entirely possible – if not (arguably) prudent if one is to consider this as part of the war on terrorism.
Keep in mind as well that cell towers track where your phone is at any moment while the major cell carriers – including Verizon and AT&T – responded to at least 1.3 million law enforcement requests for cell phone locations and other data in 2011. And (given that your smartphone routinely sends your location information back to Apple or Google) it’s incredibly easy for the government to track your location.
As the top spy chief at the U.S. National Security Agency explained this past month, the American government is collecting some 100 billion 1,000-character emails per day, and 20 trillion communications of all types per year, with the government collecting all of the communications of congressional leaders, generals and everyone else in the U.S. for the last 10 years.
Better watch those ‘booty calls’ you’ve been making on your cell phones, eh?
But when you think about it, how much of this really matters?
To be certain, many do not wish to be under the microscope of some impersonal agency or individuals watching our every move. But with new technology comes the necessity of adopting new attitudes: we may very well be undergoing that change as you read this blog:
So you want to listen to my messages? Go ahead. I don’t like it, but so be it.
So you want to read my emails? Go ahead; stare at them until your eyes bleed. See anything good? Anything worth reporting? Not likely.
Reading my text messages? Checking out to see if there are any pixs (pictures) or hot and heavy messages? No?
Haven’t you got anything else better to do?
Last time I checked, seems to me that I paid my taxes and frankly (although I’m a big fan of national defense) there comes a point when resources and time could be better spent looking at specific targets who would be far more worthwhile to watch: bigger fish to fry and greater dangers to be worried about.
Maybe a better use of government funding would be to focus more on counter-intelligence: identify and watch those individuals or groups who could put a hurting on us all – and then nail them before they nail us; this approach seems to work to notable effect in such countries encountering a constant stream of threats and attacks.
I’ve come to regard surveillance as a form of flattery: and for the most part, a waste of resources that could be better spent on more important things – like getting FEMA aid to areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy, building more schools, or creating a truly impactful national health care program.
Otherwise, my attitude remains unchanged – and frankly, I intend to keep on doing what I’m doing because one of the greatest dangers surveillance does in a democracy is create an unconscious fear, forcing a change in our behaviors: we become far less likely to express our opinions and beliefs, decreasing our insistence to make things better for ourselves, our communities and our country.
Unless we’re careful, this situation will soon make us victims no longer in control of our lives, much less our government(s). To act otherwise only allows those who oppose who we are attain victory. Act with fear and those who try to inspire greater fear – the usual gang of suspects blowing things up – wins.
And more importantly, those who profit from our fear also win – but only if we let them.
Live your life – and just remember to smile for Big Brother’s camera,…