March 13, 2008

You Are Neither Safe Nor Free

The Republican argument is, by now, familiar. The “terraists” have evolved to such a level of sophistication that our current laws governing intelligence gathering and the very rules of warfare (not to mention basic understandings of human dignity), have been rendered obsolete. They claim the only possible solution is to immediately, and without question, give the Bush Administration everything is demands. Everything. Without exception, condition, or accountability. The Constitution is cute and all, but such a quaint antique needs to be evaluated in proportion to the THREAT OF SCARY BROWN PEOPLE KILLING US ALL!!!!

The line from the Right has been fairly consistent. The government can be trusted. They wouldn’t lie to you, or spy on you, or leave you to rot in a devastated American city, or needlessly waste your sons or daughters’ lives in some desert so their corporate buddies can make a nickel. The American People ought to simply trust to these truths, no matter what the liberal media tells you. We all know that the media (and apparently, reality) has that “lefty” bias. You should trust that all the warrantless, extra-legal surveillance being conducted is focused on non-Americans. On suspected terrorists. And those suspicions are based on something more concrete than a person’s Arabic name, or their tan. You should trust that the government does not universally vacuum up the personal information of its citizens in vast, KGB-like cloak and dagger operations. You should trust that the government is only targeting known, dangerous individuals here.

But wait, its all bullshit.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the National Security Agency (NSA) maybe wasn’t so specific when it targets individuals for surveillance. Like maybe not narrowing their efforts to one specific person, but maybe, for example, the entire city of Detroit. Maybe some of the people were actually Americans, and the legally required warrants may or may not have been issued. Perhaps they might have compiled extensive databases on an unknown number of innocent American citizens, containing everything from phone numbers, email addresses and subject lines, to travel information. Not to mention a myriad of financial information such as wire transfers and credit card records. A recent document posted by an anonymous whistle blower on indicates that the FBI, under the grossly mis-named Patriot Act, has been harvesting information from American citizens, and not the foreign terrorists we were assured would be the targets. Hmmmm.

You are probably saying, “Wait a minute, don’t we have the 4th Amendment to protect us from these types of intrusions? How can they get around that?”

Very clever, you law-abiding, civil liberty-enjoying hippy. And come on, when has “the law,” or whatever you peasants keep talking about, ever stopped His Royal Foolishness, King George W. Bush II, from doing whatever the hell he pleased? But no, the NSA has a clever legal argument up their sleeve to justify this surveillance monster. They claim that because neither the audio of the conversations nor the bodies of emails are actually recorded (again, it must be pointed out, this is on their say-so), they are legally able to spy ‘til their hearts are content. On the other hand, the argument is difficult to refute that if you combine such a call and email list with a persons’ travel, financial, and web browsing records, you get exactly the type of personal picture the founding fathers attempted to hide from the government without a warrant. These are extremely private aspects of a person's private life, and while some content is not recorded, they collectively create a very real "unreasonable search" when this intel is collected without a warrant.

Apparently, The NSA is using pieces of a program, originally called the Total Information Awareness program, to collect this data. TIA was designed to vacuum up huge volumes of these types of "transactional" intel, as it is called, and organize and analyze it for certain trends. The program was defunded in 2003 by Congress due to concerns about, surprise!, civil rights and 4th Amendment violations. The TIA wasn't destroyed, however, merely dismantled, and the funding transfered to the Pentagon's "black budget" to avoid scrutiny.

I know, your "shady business" alarm is going nuts right now. But don't worry, Michael Chertoff, head of the Department of Homeland Security (in charge of the intelligence community), is here to assure us that no rights are being violated, everything is legal, and all this domestic spying is justified by more than his "gut." Think again.

In a March 7, 2008 interview with's Jeff Stein, Chertoff made it abundantly clear that he doesn't have a fucking clue. Apparently, his DHS has been using intel, for Gawd knows how long, without any knowledge of, or even interest in, how it was obtained.

Me : So you don’t know if it was done with a warrant or not?

Chertoff : Right. I would have no visibility into what the legal requirement was, whether a warrant was obtained, whether a warrant was necessary. None of that is visible to me, or revealed to me.
Warrants? Huh? Never heard of em.

The bottom line here, Trusting American Rubes, is that the world is actually a scary place. There are people out there who would love to see our country come to a violent and disgraceful end, but this is not a new development. There have been anti-American factions working against our interests for as long as we have had interests. Now we need to take a deep breath and make some decisions about the type of nation we are. Early Americans, in drafting the founding documents of their infant country, decided that it was better to be free than safe. Civilian Liberties trump governmental powers in every instance. Now I know the Fundies are screaming something about how hard it is to enjoy those "leftie civil liberty-thingies" when you've been killed by a terrorit's bomb, but I would argue that is not the type of people Americans are. We don't bow, we shouldn't be afraid. Terrorism is called what it is for a reason, Terror. That is their weapon, the crippling, irrational fear that cries, "Take whatever you want, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but make me feel safe!" It empowers not only the fringe terrorists who use such tactics, but the selfish and power-hungry politicians who would turn that weapon upon their own people. We are being frightened into submission. For every day that passes in which citizens do not express outrage at the wrongs being committed against them, it is another day of victory for the Fearmongers, both those attacking the nation the Whitehouse symbolizes, and those occupying the Whitehouse and its Pulpit of Terror.

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." - Benjamin Franklin

Sphere: Related Content


Tye said...

good shit dean, that was a pretty monster post

Anonymous said...

Ah....a blogger after my own heart!
Excellent! Just perfect!
Linking to you for my blogroll!