| "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." -
Lord Acton |
COMMENT Bob Weaver
Living in fear, the times are a'changing.
The entire political system is now being driven by a us vs. them fear
In America's illustrious history we have a number of so-called "Golden Ages."
Now, in the 21st Century, we have "The Golden Age of Surveillance."
The government is spying on Americans in ways the founders of our country could never have imagined, violating constitutional laws related to privacy.
The FBI, federal intelligence agencies (NSA), the military, police, and private companies are gathering incredible amounts of personal information about ordinary Americans that can be used to construct vast dossiers that can be widely shared through new institutions like Joint Terrorism Task Forces, fusion centers, public-private partnerships, and companies for marketing products.
This surveillance often takes place in secret, with little or no oversight by the Congress, courts, legislatures, or by the public. While there is a claim of a checks-and-balance system, mostly it is just a "trust us."
Washington claims it is reigning in some of its surveillance programs.
Washington has been on the move with the invasion of privacy since the Bush administration's Patriot Act, with Goliath Congressional revisions and massive expansion during the Obama administration.
Following a lack of Congressional approval, parts of the Patriot Act expired on June 1, 2015. With the passage of the USA Freedom Act on June 2, 2015 the expired parts were restored and renewed through 2019.
However, Section 215 of the law was amended to stop the NSA from continuing its mass phone data collection program. In what seems to be a roll-back, phone companies will retain the data and the NSA can obtain information about targeted individuals with permission from a federal court.
Even before, the secret surveillance of American citizens was geared up under the Reagan administration.
As early as 2006, the government was said to be ingesting "one Library of Congress every 14.4 seconds."
Most Americans don't seem to mind since it is protecting us from the ominous threat of terrorism and from each other, nor do we have little concern over the militarization of state and local police, or the fact that President George Bush got the authority to nationalize the state's National Guards, essentially usurping the approval of state governors.
American's champion the use of surveillance cameras in public buildings, public streets and private businesses, because they often catch the bad guys.
We marvel at Google Maps, which allows use to quickly bring up sky-views and street views of our houses and property, likely to be improved with drone technology.
The wide range of drone surveillance over America's communities with their spotless ability to for finite detail is yet another Orwellian technology that is projected to become commonplace, even with state and local governments.
The technology is being used for crime fighting with warrant-less searches.
The public could marvel at their use to catch the bad guys, and drones for the delivery of commercial products, recently proposed by Amazon.
Since 1999, so-called black boxes have been inserted in cars to monitor the vehicles use. Now, a GPS technology has been inserted into virtually every hand-hand electronic device, recording and storing the users locations and activities.
The mathematical explanation for how much of American's formerly private information being collected by government computers is mega-trillions of information bites each day, and then storing it.
The National Security Agency has staggering capabilities, eavesdropping and hacking its way around the world to strip governments and other targets of their secrets.
The 2013 Edward Snowden revelations that hit media, also revealed that American citizens are targets too, collecting data about their every move, phone calls, Internet traffic, emails, texts, and transactions.
This unbelievable information collecting machine invades the once-treasured privacy of American citizens under the 4th Amendment.
The Fourth Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights that prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, requires a warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause.
So much for that.
Some members of Congress are pleading they were ill-informed, railing about the surveillance machine, which brings to mind columnist Charley Reese's quote:
"Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them."
"Our review of these practices has found that Americans have been put under surveillance or harassed by the police just for deciding to organize, march, protest, espouse unusual viewpoints and engage in normal, innocuous behaviors such as writing notes or taking photographs in public," said Michael German, an ACLU attorney and former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent.
Certainly, the Hur Herald has experienced such in the past 15 years, in West Virginia, some agencies consistently stonewall what should be public information under the First Amendment and under the state's Freedom of Information Act.
First Amendment rights in the United States Constitution prohibits impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.
Maybe the lack of attention to the overwhelming invasion of privacy and free speech rights is because US citizens are occupied with entertainment and much too busy texting, tweeting and Facebooking.
We are more connected to entertainment (including entertainment news), hubris and noise, ignoring the big issues.
Polls indicate that most Americans are passive in the face of the wholesale privacy invasion of their phone calls, emails, Internet traffic, bank accounts, personal transactions, or photographing license plates to monitor movement.
Simply put, the government's computer banks are recording your every move.
A few years back, Americans would be outraged by such violations of civil privacy and rights, accusing the government of moving toward a totalitarian state.
The government appears to have done a good job convincing its citizens it's no big deal.
Few Americans have historical memory.
They do not recall the illegal spying by the government on its citizens by the FBI, amassing millions of files on citizens who were "suspicious," many involved in protesting the Vietnam War or as Civil Rights activists.
They do not recall the illegal intrusions by the Nixon administration, the Pentagon Papers, which for a moment sent chills up the spine, or the earlier witch-hunt for so-called communist sympathizers in the USA by Senator Joseph McCarthy.
Meanwhile, "talking head news" focuses on the misdeeds of Edward Snowden and his violation of law in leaking a story that was already known and ignored by most Americans, including most members of Congress.
Now, the spin will mostly be about Snowden's crime.
The invasion of privacy machine goes on, maybe with a few cosmetic oversights, while Washington politicians make political hay using the blame game.
President Obama has told the American people he will increase the checks and balances on the spy program by having an independent group have oversight, but headed by the guy in charge of the surveillance.
Now, under President Donald Trump, the issue rarely hits the news except for the political blame game.
Gun owners have been outraged nationwide in protecting gun purchases and ownership under the Second Amendment, led by gun manufacturing lobby the NRA, but no outrage here of the Fourth Amendment prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures, requiring a warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause.
In West Virginia the reaction to
mass shootings of school children, legislators introduced about 40 bills to protect or expand gun rights.
No bills have been proposed to protect citizens constitutional rights to privacy under the 4th amendment.
In the meantime, we'll be entertained by the "shiny objects" of diversion put before us, with a few citizens reacting with Orwellian recall, or worse yet, becoming subjects of Huxley's "Brave New World."
Orwell's "Big Brother" is watching us.