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America's Surveillance Society

by Stephen Lendman Friday, Jul. 19, 2013 at 8:49 PM

police state

America's Surveillance Society

by Stephen Lendman

It's not new. It's longstanding. State-of-the-art technology makes it easy. It's more intrusive than ever. It's lawlessly out-of-control.

On July 6, The New York Times Times headlined "In Secret, Court Vastly Broadens Powers of NSA," saying:

More than a dozen Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) "classified rulings created a secret body of law giving the (NSA) power to amass vast collections of data on Americans while (allegedly) pursuing not only terrorism suspects, but also people possibly involved in nuclear proliferation, espionage, and cyberattacks, officials say."

More on this below. Spying is the national pastime. Legal standards no longer apply. Anything goes is policy. America's a total surveillance society. Big Brother more than ever is real.

It's "time to rein in the surveillance state," said ACLU. It "strikes at the core of our right to free speech, association and privacy."

On June 10, ACLU filed a motion with the FISA court. It seeks release of secret opinions. People have a right to know. They lawlessly authorize "mass acquisition of phone records."

On June 11, ACLU sued. It's "challenging the constitutionality of the phone tracking program." Fundamental rights are threatened. They're fast disappearing.

Far more than NSA spying is involved. More on what the NYT reported below. America has 16 known spy agencies. FBI counterterrorism/counterintelligence programs serve power and privilege.

Operations are secret. Unconscionable abuses are committed. Innocent victims are targeted. Enormous harm persists. It does with no oversight,

Infiltrate, disrupt, sabotage, and destroy tactics are used. Activism is criminalized. So is being Muslim in America at the wrong time.

ACLU's Matthew Harwood said the Agency's "become a domestic intelligence agency with unprecedented power to peer into the lives of ordinary Americans and secretly amass data about people not suspected of any wrongdoing."

Post-9/11, ACLU learned about outrageous FBI abuses. They include "domestic spying, racial and religious profiling, biased counterterrorism training materials, politically motivated investigations, abusive detention and interrogation practices, and misuse of the No-Fly List to recruit informants."

An ACLU fact sheet discusses "The Ten Most Disturbing Things You Should Know About the FBI Since 9/11."

(1) Patriot Act abuses include:

.  so-called "exigent letters" to track US phone calls;

.  email monitoring;

.  national security letters for records, financial information, and other personal information without prior court permission for any reason or none at all; and

.  other ongoing intrusive/extrajudicial FBI practices with no oversight.

(2) 2008 amendments to Attorney General guidelines:

Bush AG Michael Mukasey "re-wrote the FBI's rulebook." He gave FBI agents "unfettered authority to investigate" without probable cause.

He created a "new kind of intrusive investigation." It's called an "assessment." It requires no "factual predicate."

FBI agents have sweeping unchecked powers. They use them extrajudicially. They use them abusively. They search "government or commercial databases, conduct overt or covert FBI interviews, and task informants to gather information about people or infiltrate lawful organizations."

Thousands of innocent victims are ruthlessly targeted. Anything goes is policy.

(3) Racial and ethnic mapping:

Mukasey's guidelines authorized "domain management assessments." They let FBI operatives map US communities by race and ethnicity.

It's done based on "crass stereotypes about the crimes they are likely to commit." Doing so reflects racial, ethnic and religious bias.

(4) Unrestrained data collection and meta-mining:

Billions of records are lawlessly collected. The FBI "refused to give the Government Accountability Office access." Like NSA, it's an out-of-control rogue agency. So is CIA and other US spy operations.

(5) Suppressing internal dissent: Waging war on whistleblowers:

The 1989 Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) protects federal employees who report misconduct. Federal agencies are prohibited from retaliating against those who do so.

Whistleblowers may report law or regulatory violations, gross mismanagement, waste, fraud and/or abuse, or acts endangering public health or safety.

The FBI's exempt from WPA provisions. It doesn't protect whistleblowers. It targets them. It does so ruthlessly. Exposing government wrongdoing is hazardous.

(6) Targeting journalists:

AP, Fox News and others were monitored lawlessly. It's virtually certain that numerous other journalists are now. Doing so chills press freedom. It stifles investigative reporting. It makes whistleblowers reluctant to come forward.

(7) Thwarting congressional oversight:

The FBI stonewalls. It withholds vital information. It limits or delays requests to provide it. False and misleading information is provided other times.

(8) Targeting First Amendment activity:

ACLU FOIA requests obtained "significant evidence." It showed FBI agents used "expanded authorities to target individuals and organizations because of their participation in First Amendment-protected activities."

Doing the right thing is dangerous. Advocacy groups are targeted. Muslims are especially threatened.

(9) Proxy detentions:

FBI operations are increasingly outside America. It's authority abroad is unclear. Its activities are hard to monitor.

Troubling cases occur. Foreign governments are pressured to arrest and detain US citizens. Often it's done without charge. Lawless interrogations and torture follow. These practices persist.

(1) No Fly List used to pressure Americans abroad to become informants:

Since 2009, no fly list numbers doubled. Innocent people are harmed. Due process rights are denied. Often Americans learn when they're abroad.

Away, vulnerable, and unable to fly home forces compliance. This type behavior is unconstitutional. Thirteen plaintiffs ACLU represents aren't criminally charged. They're not told why they can't  fly. They're denied a way to challenge their right to do so.

The Times addressed NSA's power to collect vast amounts of data. It's done extrajudicially. FISC rulings show the court's more expansive role. It operates "with almost no public scrutiny."

It does so extrajudicially. It handles government monitoring requests. It's rubber stamp. It approves virtually all warrant requests.

Eleven US district court judges serve staggered terms up to seven years. They’re chosen from at least seven judicial circuits. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts selects them.

The process reflects police state justice. Legislative changes created an "almost parallel Supreme Court." It's the "ultimate arbiter on surveillance issues."

Its rulings involve troublesome intelligence collection practices. They persist unchecked. An unnamed former intelligence official said:

"We've seen a growing body of law from the court. What you have is a common law that develops where the court is issuing orders involving particular types of surveillance, particular types of targets."

Terrorism was reinterpreted. Definitions expanded. FISC judges adopted a legal principle called "special needs."

Doing so circumvents Fourth Amendment protections. Extrajudicial warrantless searches persist.

"(W)holesale collection of communications in pursuit of (alleged) terrorism suspects" reflects America acting lawlessly.

Anything goes is policy. Constitutional rights are denied. Probable cause isn't required. Warrants no longer are needed. Suspicions without evidence suffice.

Court rulings let NSA and other spy agencies do whatever they want. So-called "foreign intelligence" is broadly defined. It's whatever authorities say it is.

FISC is a virtual kangaroo court. It "hears from only one side in" cases - the government. It does so secretly.

Its findings are virtually never revealed. A Court of Review exists. It's empaneled to hear appeals. Throughout FISC's history, it happened "only a handful of times."

No case ever went to the Supreme Court. FISC's been around for 35 years. I heard thousands of cases. A single judge signs most surveillance orders. None from intelligence agencies are denied.

"(O)ne central concept connects" most court opinions. Meta-data collection, it's claimed, doesn't violate Fourth Amendment protections. It's permitted as long as authorities claim "valid" national security reasons.

This type justification stretches legal standards beyond reason. It twists them to serve policy. It does so lawlessly. It permits anything goes. It reflects police state justice.

"This concept is rooted partly in the 'special needs' provision the court has embraced." They're whatever authorities say they are.

Constitutional Law Professor Geoffrey Stone is troubled. A system letting FISC judges create law based on what government alone says has no place in free societies, he believes.

It denies an adversarial judicial system. "That whole notion is missing in this process," he stresses.

FISC judges are rubber stamp. Challenging them is virtually impossible. So is any chance for justice.

Post-9/11 intelligence gathering expanded exponentially. It did so extrajudicially. Secrecy more than ever is enforced.

Civil libertarians are denied access to what everyone needs to know. Snowden's revelations are hugely important. They reflect sunshine where it needs to go.

America's a virtual police state. Things go from bad to worse. Everyone needs to know so they understand. Freedom's too precious to lose. It's disappearing unless people act to save it. There's no other way.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

Visit his blog site at

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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