There is little question anymore that the US has become a surveillance state. The US monitors citizens regardless of whether or not there is any specific investigation or even indication that the individual is involved with illegal activities. I have been warning people about this since the passage of the USA PATRIOT act in 2001. Back then I warned of warrantless wiretaps, collection of large amounts of data on individuals and classified warrants. At that time most people looked at me like I had two heads, “It will only be used on terrorists and bad guys” people would respond. How do you know that if the government can classify all the information? As time has passed I am sad to say that I was correct about the situation and threats that the PATRIOT act and subsequent legislation has resulted in. Now we live under constant surveillance by the government though I don’t expect you to take my word for it. Instead I will make my case that the US is a surveillance state.
First and most recently is the revelation that the National Security Agency (NSA) is collecting phone records of all Verizon customers. They are gathering information on the phone calls of literally millions of individuals. The court order allows the NSA to gather phone numbers called, time, duration and location for every call to or from the US. The AP reported that “The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence committee says the top secret court order for telephone records of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon is a three-month renewal of an ongoing practice”. So this isn’t some special occasion but rather an on going intrusion into the privacy of US citizens without any probable cause.
Next lets step back only a few weeks to when the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) came under fire for scrutinizing the applications of Tea Party groups. One thing that was not highly publicized is that the IRS has been reading the emails of individuals without a warrant as long as the email is 180 days or older. The IRS determined that if an email is over 180 days old then a warrant is not required for them to read the emails. So the IRS can snoop through our personally lives without any judicial oversight.
Right about the same time the story broke that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is gathering records on Associated Press and Fox in regards to information ‘leaks’. Never mind the 1st Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press. Now the government is aggressively pursuing those who leak information to the press and potentially the press themselves. Clearly the government does not want the people finding out what it is doing. The government is taking every step possible to prevent transparency.
To find the next instance of government surveillance overreach we need only go back to the last election. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director and retired 4-star General David Patraeus resigned after being caught having an affair. That in itself is not the disturbing part. The problem is that the FBI was searching through the emails of the director of the CIA based on a complaint of cyber-stalking. On top of that the FBI decided to release the information about the affair despite the fact that infidelity is not a crime investigated by the FBI. There was legal grounds for disclosing the CIA directors personal information since there was no legal violation for the FBI to charge him with. Yet the FBI brought down Patraeus and General Allen in the process of spreading gossip that was none of their business to spread.
If that isn’t enough we can next look at the warrantless wiretap program. It was discovered in 2005 that the NSA was wiretapping international phone calls from the US without a warrant. This was authorized under the PATRIOT act and the NSA was given free reign to wiretap as they pleased as long as it was an international phone call. On top of that nobody who was wiretapped was informed. Recently this was challenged in the Supreme Court but was thrown out because the plaintiffs could not prove that they were personally wiretapped. Yet the plaintiffs were not allowed to see any records of who was wiretapped in order to determine if they were personally effected. Rather Supreme Court required that in order to challenge the warrantless wiretap program one must prove that they were wiretapped but must do so without any documents or information from the NSA who was engaging in the wiretapping. That leaves everybody in a catch 22 where there is no conceivable way to challenge the warrantless wiretap program.
Now lets put this all together. The NSA is free to collect phone records from millions of citizens and wiretap any international call they please while we can do nothing about it. The IRS is free to go through our emails as long as they are 180 days old and we will never know if they did. The FBI is free to air the dirty laundry of major officials including the CIA director and the Commander of US Forces in Afganistan. The FBI need not have a good reason to disclose information about the personal lives of these people, they simply can do it because they please. And these are the parts that we know about. There is certainly a great deal more going on than we the people know.
The surveillance apparatus of the US has gone into overdrive. The government is free to gather all types of information about citizens without a warrant or any reason to believe the individual is involved in illegal activity. The citizens of the US are unable to challenge government surveillance. This country has certainly become a surveillance state, we can be watched in a variety of manners without probable cause or any legal recourse. Never have Orwell’s words been so fitting.
Big Brother is Watching You!