Taming the NSA*

* National Security {Spy} Agency

The U.S. has used 9/11 as the raison d’être to instigate endless war and sweeping police powers. Twelve years after the pivotal event, the death toll from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and military actions in dozens of other countries is in the hundreds of thousands, the financial cost in the trillions of dollars.

Because of the revelations of Edward Snowden, Mark Klein, and other whistleblowers, we know the pervasive depth and breadth of the U.S. government’s surveillance of its citizens and elected officials and the citizens and officials of other countries.

The U.S. government has vacuumed up phone calls, emails, snail mail, internet searches– all forms of communication, often in collaboration with U.S. corporations. Now we learn this potentially lethal force is literally invading our homes, attaching spyware to our personal computers.

Remember, the firebombing of the Reichstag, the German parlaiment, on February 27, 1933, blamed on a communist, led to totalitarianism in Germany. It is time to confront the questions we ask about the German people during the Third Reich: How did the citizenry let this happen? What can we do to deter it? What will we do to stop it?

This Action Agenda on surveillance (and its ugly twin, wars of aggression) is intended to jumpstart your ideas and activism toward stemming the rising tide of fascism in the U.S.

President Barack Obama’s January 17 “Defense of Spying” remarks delivered in front of at least six American flags at the Department  reinforce our conclusion what is necessary is not meager reform of a secret spy state but rather radical change to restore the primacy of the Fourth Amendment.

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches, seizures, and gives Americans the right of privacy. It reads:

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.

Action: Dump collected citizen data – meta and content, ban spying (collecting) on U.S. citizens, abolish the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court, repeal the USA PATRIOT Act, and reboot the Forth Amendment, returning to the good old days when warrants based on probable cause were required to search our “papers.”

The mild-mannered report of President Obama’s review panel on government surveillance attempted to make the case for balancing individual privacy with national security. Both the advisory report and the President’s remarks concern control of collected bulk phone meta data. Rather we must remember the big picture — the collection of  all data.

On the narrower issue of where the phone meta data is stored, the president’s advisory report suggested instead of the government storing electronic eavesdropping data, phone companies, which collect some of this information as part of doing business, should hold this power.

The danger of corporations collecting or storing citizen data for the government is graphically told by journalist Edwin Black in his award-winning book, IBM and The Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation.

According to Black, soon after Hitler came to power in 1933 and for 12 years, the Third Reich used IBM’s Hollerith punch card technology to identify Jews, confiscate their assets, ghettoize, and deport millions to concentration camps for extermination. IBM was in it for the money– leasing their machines – (equivalent to computers today) for high fees and sole source selling their punch cards.

Profit, a corporation’s reason for being.

Thanks to whistleblowers, we know dangerous collusion between the U.S. government and U.S.-based corporations already exists and is widespread. In 2005, Mark Klein exposed AT&T beginning in 2001 illegally cooperated with the government, setting up a dragnet at its Folsom Street facility in San Francisco, making copies of the content of internet searches and emails to and from its customers. (As senator, Barack Obama voted to grant immunity to telecom companies for their role in warrantless wiretapping during the Bush Administration.)

Under the PRISM program, according to information made available by Snowden, the NSA with the alleged cooperation of tech companies has a back door way  to collect our stored data and information under FISA-court approved terms. In addition to direct payments,the government can grant corporations favors on taxes, monopoly ownership, and regulation for their cooperation with or silence about surveillance.

Second: End war profiteering and the careers of politicians using their elected positions to financially enrich themselves through their votes and policies and actions on “national security.”

Political contributions from defense contractors to members of Congress are an obvious way the military-industrial-security complex perpetuates war and police powers. A more insidious modality: government officials profiteering from the spoils of war. (The Bush family business since the Civil War: war profiteering.)

Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat and the senior senator from California, has served in the U.S. Senate since 1993. She has been a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence since 2001, overseeing 16 intelligence agencies. She became chair of the Intelligence Committee in 2009.

Feinstein has consistently voted for war resolutions and funding and increased surveillance despite failing wars and faulty intelligence she cites to make her case. Most memorably, Sen. Feinstein her voice trembling claimed on cable television during the lead-up to the October 2002 Congressional vote on the Iraqi war resolution the intelligence showed we should be afraid, very afraid of Saddam Hussein. Her performance was as egregious as the presentation of then Secretary of State Colin Powell at the United Nations purporting Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Feinstein has also been a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee since she came to Congress, except for the two years of the 104th Congress, from 1995-97. Most critically, from 2001 through the end of 2005, during the years the U.S. invaded, occupied, and “reconstructed” Afghanistan and Iraq, Feinstein was the chair and ranking member of the Military Construction Appropriations subcommittee.

“Senator Warbucks,” an award-winning investigation by journalist Peter Byrne published January 24, 2007,in The Bohemian, a San Francisco North Bay news organization, details Feinstein’s conflicts of interest during the time she served on the subcommittee because of her husband Richard C. Blum’s “ownership of two major defense contractors who were awarded billions of dollars for military construction projects approved by Feinstein.”

For those who appreciate irony, Feinstein’s Senate website touts her “significant record of legislative accomplishments helping to strengthen the nation’s security.”

Action: Demand Feinstein, Richard Cheney, George H, W. Bush, George Bush, and other war profiteers repatriate their ill begotten gains to the families of civilians killed in the U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition, Feinstein and government officials with blatant conflicts of interest should resign and be replaced/with true public servants.

Oh, and abolish government contracting along with government surveillance.

Third: Stop giving it (your privacy) away.

How much information do you and I voluntarily post on Facebook and other social media? Why do we casually turn over birthdates and other identifying personal information to companies offering “free” email like Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google? (Why do they need our birth dates?)

Support organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Freedom Foundation, and the Center for Constitutional Rights, and independent media fighting for individual and collective privacy.

According to a report released shortly before President Obama’s January 17th speech, the NSA’s controversial and massive phone data collection fails to prevent terrorism. An analysis of 225 terrorism cases in the United States since the September 11, 2001 attacks found “traditional law enforcement and investigative methods provided the evidence to begin most cases.”

Of course, government spying in cases of false flag terrorism (9/11) is an obvious charade to keep state secrets from the prying eyes of journalists and to intimidate citizzens who would expose such treasonous acts.

A comment posted to a news article on the report offers a succinct analysis about U.S. corporate-government spying on it citizens: “No surprise: It (preventing terrorism) was never the reason for its existence. Suppression of dissent is.”

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