How Did We Get Here? The Secret Government Spying Program Revealed

You can at once do the worst and best thing to someone by educating him or her (or yourself) – the worst thing because once informed, he can never be indifferent or neutral to events around him and use ignorance as the excuse, and best because there is nothing more empowering than knowledge, just as there is nothing as disempowering as ignorance.

Guardian and Washington Post revealed the other day that the National Security Agency, secretly, indiscriminately and without a cause, accesses, seizes and stores just about all forms of communication and Internet activities of tens of millions of Americans, including email, chat, videoconferencing, Web searches, file transfers, etc., directly from the servers of most (probably all) major carriers and Internet service providers, such as Facebook, Yahoo, Google, Skype, Verizon, Apple, Microsoft and others, through a program codenamed PRISM.

Upon the revelation of the secret program, the Administration made it clear they intend to find and prosecute the source of the leak. According to Washington Post, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. said Saturday that the NSA had initiated a Justice Department investigation into who leaked the information. They couldn’t be any clearer what the intended message was: you expose government wrongdoing and breaking of the law and we’re coming after you.

Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old system administrator and former undercover CIA employee, came forward today as the source, denouncing the “systematic surveillance of innocent citizens”. He said in an interview with Washington Post: “it’s important to send a message to government that people will not be intimidated.” He added: “I intend to ask for asylum from any countries that believe in free speech and oppose the victimization of global privacy”. Let me repeat that: He’s looking for “any countries that believe in free speech …”, and he’s a US citizen and a former CIA employee! He said he won’t be intimidated and added: “Allowing the U.S. government to intimidate its people with threats of retaliation for revealing wrongdoing is contrary to the public interest”, he added.

Already, John Kiriakou, another former CIA employee is serving time for blowing the whistle on torturing prisoners in Guantanamo, and Bradley Manning has been charged with espionage and is awaiting trial for revealing US atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan, after spending over 3 years in military prison, most of it in solitary confinement. And, they’re also trying to get their hands on Wiki leaks founder Julian Assange who did what any journalist would do with leaked information: he published it. And he’s not even a US citizen or resident and the publication didn’t occur in the US. Are you getting the mind boggling arrogance here?

Snowden added that “The government can’t reasonably assert the state secrets privilege for a program it has acknowledged. The courts can now allow challenges to be heard on that basis”. But, when Amnesty International sued the government recently over their seizure of Verizon cell phone records, the court dismissed the case on the grounds that the plaintiffs didn’t provide enough details!! Who was supposed to give those details, the government?!?

Think about it. Not only do they resort to an act that clearly and irrefutably violates the law and the citizens’ civil and privacy rights, not only no one is held accountable for this violation, not only is no one apologizing or running away from it, or promising to stop or, at the very least, limit its scope to those that involve persons suspected of having ties to terrorists or terrorist organizations or at least to those communications that either originate or end overseas, they shamelessly admit to it, and as if to add a slap in the face to this egregious violation, they seek to press criminal charges against the person who blew the whistle in order to discourage future whistle blowers and silence opposition, once and for all.

This is not just another government overreach, as we’ve come to know, little by little, in the past few decades. Nor is it just arrogance and over zealousness of government officials or a simple and harmless violation of the law by them, which we’re getting accustomed and desensitized to. This is something completely new, altogether. This is precisely what a military junta which tightly controls information, keeps its operations secret and identifies, tracks, controls and punishes or eliminates its opponents does – no more, no less.

We didn’t get here overnight. We got here step by step, starting from the Patriot Act. At each step, as the corporate government imposed on us more and more intrusive laws that took away some of our civil and privacy rights and freedoms and we remained silent, they became emboldened to go even further. I’m going to say something that I challenge anyone – and I know many liberals would love to – to prove me wrong: No administration and no security agency – NSA or others – has ever gone as far as the current government of the United States in stripping the civil and privacy rights of the American people, and no administration has ever discouraged and threatened against honest whistle blowers who just wanted people to know of government wrongdoing, and no administration has attempted to operate in as much secrecy and without oversight and accountability as the Obama Administration and the current US government, as a whole, which all is being done under the pretext of “war on terror”. I’m not putting all the blame on Obama and his cabinet or the current Congress or NSA. Where we are is the culmination of a step by step process. Obama is faithfully continuing the overall and long term policies of the Empire – something he was hired to do, something he applied for the job and promised to do, starting with his speech to the Democratic National Convention of 2004. I knew then when I heard his speech that he knew what he was doing and what he wanted to do.

I am disappointed, though not surprised, that this bogus “war on terror” which I’d have expected anyone older than 5 years old to see through and reject as a ludicrous ploy, is being bought by so many who are much older than 5. That could only have been made possible by one thing and one thing alone: brainwashing. This is not rhetoric or innuendo or conspiracy. This is a fact. Corporate media, especially TV, and corporate controlled education at early age, have for over 50 years, drilled ideas, mindset, groupthink and culture into the heads of the population that have made it possible for the corporate government to implement their program and agenda unchallenged. Through such systematic and relentless brainwashing, wars are presented and mostly accepted either as fighting those who want to harm us or as taking democracy to other less civilized and savage people – people who don’t value life as much as we do and don’t want or “aren’t ready” for democracy and “prefer” tyrannical rule, something that even supposedly liberal TV personalities like Bill Maher tell us. By making that false and cynical claim, they’re indirectly, wittingly or not, conditioning us to think of other peoples as less than us and their lives as less valuable than ours. So, their casualties don’t matter as much and dictators we impose on them are for their own good, and if they revolt, well, that’s another sign of their violent nature.

The attacks on civil and privacy rights, as well as discouraging and threatening against whistle blowers who expose and report government overreach and law breaking, as a whole, is the corollary and requirement of the policy of expanding the reach and influence of the Empire and the objective of world domination and plunder for US corporations and the tiny super wealthy minority who own them.

The fact of the matter is that the policy of such expansive and broad eavesdropping on Americans’ communication, including chats, emails, cell phone conversations, file downloads and Web searches didn’t start after or as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and was not really for the purpose of identifying and preventing terror attacks. That was never its main purpose. Did they suspect Dr. King of terrorism too when they monitored his private conversations in 1960’s? Eavesdropping on Internet communication began long before 9/11, in 1990’s, soon after the spread of Internet based communication and as soon as the required software was developed for them, though it was probably not as vast and massive as it is now and wasn’t as publicized or well known as now.

Throughout the years, though, leaks have surfaced as to its existence, especially, recently. As each such leak surfaced and shed light on it, the Congress moved to make legal what was previously done illegally. Whereas in the past, they had to get a court order to obtain private communication logs, the latest after-the-fact modification changed the law to relieve the government from the requirement that they first get court order in cases when the communication is with someone who’s overseas. For domestic ones, they still had to go to court which itself is a secret process with some secret judge in secret location, completely away from public scrutiny.

But, what the latest exposé by Glen Greenwald of Guardian and Washington Post shows is that communications of millions of Americans are seized routinely, en mass and in bulk and indiscriminately without regard to the above requirement, putting all kinds of private communication, including emails, photos, chats and text messages in the hands of government officials who could listen in, read and view those personal and private communication, without having any cause or suspicion of breaking the law. That is exactly the kind of thing that is explicitly and unambiguously forbidden in the Constitution. So, now, suddenly, it’s okay to disregard that part of the Constitution, too? And, I’m supposed to feel good because it’s for my safety when I know there is a far higher chance in this country of getting killed by the police or security agents than terrorists, not to mention the risk of dying from cancer causing produce genetically engineered by Monsanto?

When Obama and others, including not surprisingly Republican war hawks who came to the Administration’s defense – which should make liberals wonder if they ever wake up from their slumber – are all lying when they say this vast dragnet is “lawful”. Senator Feinstein was right when she said this was “nothing new”. But, she clearly and deliberately was lying when she said it was “lawful”. So was Obama when he said in domestic cases they still get a warrant. How can you get a warrant for acquiring what you already have in your possession which you keep obtaining indiscriminately and everyday? It’s like the cops coming to your house and searching everywhere and taking whatever they want without a warrant and when they get caught, they say they get a warrant when they decide to get possession of your personal belongings, even though they just hauled away whatever they wanted without one and keep doing it. This isn’t even a simple lie. It’s a massive fraud and a mass deception. The lie itself is as big as the unlawful dragnet. I want liberals to tell me what exactly is liberal about any of this?

We got here because in each step of the way, as they encroached on our rights and our dignity, we remained silent. And they will continue if we continue to stay silent. As the process continues, it’ll be harder and harder to oppose and dissent, as it’ll get that much harder to report, reveal and speak the truth. As we sit and watch them go after reporters, journalists and whistle blowers, which this Administration has done more than any other in the history of this country in the name of prosecuting leaks, we’re sinking deeper into the hole they’re digging for us, making it that much harder for us to climb out of it. The longer we wait, the worse it gets.Image

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