Last week, we learned that our government is spying on our phone calls and internet activities. We didn’t learn this from the government itself. Rather, it was leaked by a brave young man who worked as a contractor for the National Security Agency. That’s not supposed to happen. Contractors are paid handsomely to keep secrets and behave like a government employee. But somehow this young man had a conscience and couldn’t keep quiet about a policy he knew was wrong. So he told his story to The Guardian newspaper, a UK publication. The US Corporate media would perhaps not have broken this story and anyway we know the Obama administration is already spying on domestic journalists so that channel isn’t safe.
Just after the story broke, a cadre of US Senators from both parties were quick to defend the program. Diane Feinstein and Lindsay Graham pointed out that the phone spying has already thwarted over 100 terrorist attacks. Graham said he was glad that Verizon was reporting his calls to the NSA since he has nothing to hide. President Obama assured Americans that the government was only collecting “metadata,” about call numbers and not listening to the calls themselves. I guess the President doesn’t think Americans know what metadata is, and Mr. Graham must think we have amnesia and don’t remember all the abuses of power this government is famous for.
Remember Abu Grahb and Extraordinary Rendition? Mcarthy show trials during the 1950′s were a lovely example of the government using unlawful means to destroy the lives of Americans who engaged in lawful and constitutionally protected memberships in political parties. And who can forget how the FBI monitored Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement to the point where African American leaders became completely paranoid in the 1970′s. Remember how they used domestic wiretapping to monitor the anti-Vietnam war movement, police brigades to break up peaceful protests and violence at Kent State to kill innocent students? It took an unelected president, Gerald Ford, in 1978 to curtail the spy state our nation had become with the passing of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.
But that law has been extended and eviscerated since 9/11. In 2004, Republicans used provisions in the Patriot Act to spy on liberal protesters organizing for marches in NY City during the Republican Convention. On the first day of the convention, 3000 protesters were rounded up and held in jail for up to 10 days without charges and without access to counsel. During the last several years, the FBI has been teaming with local police departments to spy on the Occupy Movement. Protesters have been arrested on trumped up warrants, sprayed with pepper, beaten with batons. Muslim Americans are monitored 24/7 and their awareness of this monitoring has caused widespread anxiety and paranoia in their communities.
Beware America. Metadata spying is not for your good. If it was for your benefit, politicians would have told you about it. In America, you can be jailed for hacking into government computers. You can be arrested for protesting within 200 feet of the President or a member of Congress. You can be jailed for even publishing a veiled threat to the President or a Member of Congress.
But the government can lawfully read your email, hack into your computer, monitor all your international phone calls, collect metadata about your domestic calls, track your activities in public on video cameras, collect your financial and health data, and swab your cheek to collect DNA samples. They know who you know and can find out why.
Clearly the government has established laws and powers to protect itself from its citizens. The surveillance program is not for our benefit.
The constitution was created to protect the people from the despotism of government. But its just a piece of paper. Every generation must use the promises contained in the paper to defend Democracy from Domestic Despotism.
Act now before its too late.