Enough Surveillance Already!

by Diane Dimond on July 22, 2013

 

Too Much Spying on Innocent Americans?

Okay, now I’m mad.

I know we live in a hyper-vigilant time. I know there are terrorists who would like to kill as many Americans as possible and some are living right here in the United States actively plotting murder and mayhem. But, I have had just about enough of our government snooping and conducting surveillance on innocent Americans. And so many Americans!

Look, I’ve worked in the area of crime and justice for a long time. I get the need to conduct undercover and clandestine operations – but the sheer scope of what’s been going on is absolutely chilling.

Think of it this way: You go to the airport to catch a flight and every single passenger is treated as a suspicious character, right? The grip of political correctness forbids airport security from singling out those who history has shown would be most likely to perpetrate a terrorist act on a plane – i.e. Young men of Middle Eastern Muslim heritage bent on conducting acts of jihad against non-believers. At the airport everyone – from tiny babies to old people in wheelchairs – gets treated like a potential criminal.

Everyone at Airport is a Suspect. Fair?

It is clear now that our own government consider the whole of American citizenry in the same light as the lemmings at the airport. We are all suspect. Why else would such widespread and intrusive surveillance by U.S. intelligence agencies be today’s norm?

The scope of domestic spying programs takes your breath away. And it has occurred under both Republican (W. Bush) and Democratic (Obama) administrations. While there has been some citizen outcry at recent revelations about the wide-ranging nature of the surveillance I’ve been stunned that the outrage came and went pretty quickly.

I don’t want to get into the motivations of secrets-leaker Edward Snowden (I’m pretty convinced he has committed treason) but let’s be honest. His actions broke open the dam of silence about what America’s intelligence agencies have been doing — to us, the chumps whose taxes pay the freight.

Edward Snowden – Patriot or Traitor?

The domino-like waves of revelation make it clear: We don’t have near the level of privacy we thought we had.

We now know the National Security Administration has collected trillions of “metadata” bits of information on our internet communications. Among the captured data: who was contacted, the date, time, the subject line and the private I.P address of the sender.

Under a separate program the NSA has kept logs of all telephone calls dialed by and received by Americans. Aiding in this once-clandestine scrutiny were the internet and phone companies with their apparent across-the-board compliance with each government request for customer information. I’m not sure if they could have successfully fought the government on behalf of their customer’s privacy but I haven’t heard of even one case in which they tried.

We have been given to believe that it is only the dialed digits of the phone calls that have been kept for analysis but there is evidence that Big Brother has gone beyond just keeping a list of phone numbers.

Gov’t Surveillance Can Get to Content of Calls

Weeks before the Snowden revelations a former FBI Counterterrorism agent named Tim Clemente said during a nationally televised interview that U.S. intelligence agents do more than simply run numbers through a computer to see if they match those used by suspected terrorists. Right after the Boston Marathon bombing Clemente twice appeared on CNN and openly spoke of the capability of U.S. intelligence agencies to, “Go back and find out what was said,” during phone calls between bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his wife.

“We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said,” Clemente said firmly. “No digital communication is secure.”

Oh, really? That would mean our government is capturing CONTENT of phone calls not just numbers dialed? The FBI declined to specifically deny their former agent’s statement.

But, hold on to your hats because your internet activity and phone calls aren’t the only things under surveillance. The NSA keeps track of each and every credit card purchase, ostensibly to watch out for those who buy bomb making materials.

Every Piece of Mail is Photographed

In addition, the mail in your mail box has been scrutinized. It was reported recently that a longtime surveillance system called the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking Program photographs the outside of every piece of paper mail processed in the United States. That’s about 160 billion pieces every year! The idea is to capture the return address, time stamp and post office place of origin in case law enforcement ever needs it. (To be fair this program is credited with helping to pinpoint the culprit who recently sent letters tainted with poisonous ricin to the President and to New York’s Mayor, Michael Bloomberg.)

Again, I’m all for keeping America safe from crime and would-be terrorists – but keeping track of every phone call? All of that internet activity? Each credit card purchase and every single piece of mail? It feels just like the misdirected overkill we see at each of the nation’s airports. And, can you imagine the total manpower hours expended on these surveillance programs? Can you fathom how much we are paying to gather up what turns out to be mostly superfluous information? There’s got to be a better way.

The U.S. Constitution does not specifically guarantee our right to privacy but who among us does not believe Americans are supposed to enjoy such a right? The Fourth Amendment says we should feel secure in our “… persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

I don’t know about you but I don’t feel as though I have any expectation of privacy at all anymore.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Diane Dimond July 22, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Noozhawk Reader SocialJay in Santa Barbara writes:

“Diane, I have to disagree with your comment that, “The U.S. Constitution does not specifically guarantee our right to privacy.”

4th Amendment

“The RIGHT of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, SHALL NOT BE VIOLATED, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon PROBABLE cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing THE PLACE to be searched, and THE PERSONS or THINGS to be seized.” – See more at: http://constitution.findlaw.com/amendment4/amendment.html#sthash.8cYj61m8.dpuf

When speaking of electronic surveillance related to national security issues, in Katz v. United States, the government tried to argue that national security was paramount and that the President or Attorney General had the authority to direct warrantless surveillance. They were wrong. SCOTUS determined that, “The Government’s duty to preserve the national security did not override the gurarantee that before government could invade the privacy of its citizens it must present to a neutral magistrate evidence sufficient to support issuance of a warrant authorizing that invasion of privacy.” – See more at: http://constitution.findlaw.com/amendment4/annotation05.html#6

Furthermore, “Congress has acted, however, providing for a special court to hear requests for warrants for electronic surveillance in foreign intelligence situations, and permitting the President to authorize warrantless surveillance to acquire foreign intelligence information provided that the communications to be monitored are exclusively between or among foreign powers and there is no substantial likelihood any ‘‘United States person’’ will be overheard.” – See more at: http://constitution.findlaw.com/amendment4/annotation05.html#6

Seems to me that the American people have been subjected to unlawful searches and seizures of information that would reasonably be expected to be protected under the 4th Amendment. If, for example, emails are considered legal communications applicable to the law, how can the government then say there is no reasonable expectation of privacy?

This is an area that I believe is the most important issue of our day when it comes to the government’s intrusion into our lives.”

Reply

Diane Dimond July 22, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Reader Harry Hodges writes:

“You recently commented about the resources used for NSA surveillance, specifically the collection of telephone metadata. I would suspect that collecting phone company billing records would involve mostly phone company effort to transmit a report to NSA. NSA likely would reformat those data for storage in their database which although massive is likely equivalent to Google’s server farm. Pretty inexpensive I would think in relative terms.

What might be expensive would be the storage of digital records of phone call content. The equipment to scan those records to find interesting material might be expensive because of the search scale. More yet would be the humans that would be needed to interpret the results of the search.

Keep in mind that much of the overhead imagery collected by U-2s over Cuba (1962) has yet to be analyzed. These data were collected at the cost of a dead pilot. See Anderson. ” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudolf_Anderson

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Diane Dimond July 22, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Reader Mark Porter writes:

“Hi Diane,

I read your online article about being fed up with enough surveillance already. However, I think you are missing some core key issues. Our secret government created the very enemies they fight today. Over sixty plus years of overthrowing governments, installing puppet dictators, training their goons squads and secretly meddling in everyone’s affairs. If you research this problem over the lifespan of these agencies, you will find that they secretly acted without public knowledge or consent and created the very enemies they fight today. And they are exaggerated enemies.

The end result? A self perpetuating scheme in secret international and domestic crime at the expense of our freedom and economic prosperity. Our secret government is almost entirely a fraud.”

Sincerely,
Mark Porter

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CLS July 23, 2013 at 9:13 am

Huxley’s book “1984” was supposed to be a cautionary tale, not a blueprint. How frightening it is when the government chooses to suspend the Constitution, with the Bill of Rights.

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CLS July 23, 2013 at 11:48 pm

Correction: George Orwell wrote the cautionary tale.

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ColoradoBMan July 23, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Ms. Dimond,

My comment is not to contridict your views and or disagree with those who view the government surveillance as an intrusion its only my opinion.

In this day in age of technology, political corruptness, terrorism (foreign and domestic) there are several people who will get on their soapbox that our nation’s President is not doing enough to secure our borders. See, its not the President who makes these decisions, as much as we’d all like to believe, but those who keep him informed. Knowing there are sleeper cells living in our country is rather scary; not to long ago, here in CO, 2 individuals in a very affluent neighborhood were discovered making, or having, ingredients to manufacture a weapon of mass destruction, they were dealt with and incarcerated w/o incident; but the possibility that it could’a been too late played in the back of our minds for weeks to come.

While many live in fear of the next bomb to tear us apart there are those who preemptively do their best to ward off future attacks. I do like my privacy however I wonder if my right to that privacy needs to be monitored in order to guarantee the safety of my fellow man? After some thought I feel as though my privacy is still intact and no one is knocking on my door to ask me questions; truth be told I have nothing to hide and I find it, more often than not, that those who argue the premise of privacy are those who are trying to hide. Many are quick to throw out the constitution and our bill of rights but a educated person would have to consider that the time frame in which these documents were drafted were in far different times. A land free of tyranny and oppression still exists but a new digital world is out of reach of what our forefathers coulda envisioned.

Whether or not a drone is flying around, or that my phone call to my Grandma may be monitored is of no consequence; I will wake up tomorrow much like I did today or like I did yesterday and that is with the assumption that the world is going to spin whether I like or dislike something. I have better things to do than worry about whether the government is fairly/unfairly targeting groups or spying with instruments of war but I would like to think that their actions are meant for good, to protect us from the next 9.1.1. Privacy is subjective, you don’t have the right to live here and plot or conspire to kill otherwise innocent people, to sell secrets of our nation or other nations so unless you are doing one of these chances are they’re not too concerned with what “you” are doing.

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Bill Glazener July 26, 2013 at 1:19 pm

You wrote: “I don’t want to get into the motivations of secrets-leaker Edward Snowden (I’m pretty convinced he has committed treason) but let’s be honest. ..
I researched when a person could commit treason, and found this reference in The Free Dictionary by Fairlax: http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Treason They say: “The Treason Clause applies only to disloyal acts committed during times of war. Acts of dis-loyalty during peacetime are not considered treasonous under the Constitution. Nor do acts of Espionage committed on behalf of an ally constitute treason…” Since the United States are not at war (though we may be involved in several “wars,” there can be no treason. I have seen and heard other references to this time requirement, but it probalby will never he acknowledged on Fox “News,” so you will have to look further.

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Diane Dimond July 26, 2013 at 3:29 pm

I can just hear a government prosecutor talking about America’s long standing “War on Terror” that began, as we all know, right after 9-11, and continues to this day. In other words, it depends on what the court approved defininition of WAR is.

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