Surveillance

“You can’t spell Dianne Feinstein without NSA” – Daily Kos

 

Yes, it’s that time again.  The Patriot Act, which has been keeping us completely safe from terrorism since 2001 although at the minor cost of turning us into a surveillance state, is up for renewal on June 1st.  Well, at least the most egregious part of it, Section 215, which has been used to justify the NSA’s mass collection of data on all US citizens.

Sigh.  I sit here marveling that now, two years after Edward Snowden’s release of top secret NSA files revealed that all American citizens were the subject of continual NSA surveillance, nothing has happened!  I can understand that a certain subset of Americans can believe that the citizens should have no right of privacy in the face of government monitoring to protect them from the Forces of Evil, against which there can be no other protection than 24/7 surveillance of all our activities, if anything even more intrusive than Orwell’s telescreens.

I weep bitter tears over learning that Rand Paul, in virtually all other areas of thought a foam-spewing lunatic, is the only American politician likely to be running for President next year who has any reservations about the NSA’s surveillance.  Alas, Babylon!

For an interesting take on surveillance for those who want their information in audiovisual form, here’s a YouTube clip of a John Oliver program.  The first half is a pretty good summary of NSA’s efforts, and the last half is a splendid interview with Edward Snowden that i highly recommend.

The latest news in the surveillance area, though, is not from NSA files released by Snowden’s proxies.  Oh no. Turns out that last January USA Today broke a story about how back in 1992 under the first President Bush the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) began a secret program of bulk surveillance of American telephone calls to over a hundred foreign countries that continued under Presidents Clinton, Bush II, and Obama until 2013 when, in a panic over Snowden’s revelations of NSA bulk collections, Attorney General Holder secretly ended the secret program, about which a very high level of collective amnesia is now prevailing inside the DEA. The total number of countries to which American calls were monitored is unclear except that it was over a hundred, and there are vague recollections that Canada, Mexico, and all of Central and South America were involved, as well as scores of other countries too numerous to mention. Oh, and it turns out that the DEA turned over information it gathered to a wide variety of other agencies. Here’s a Guardian article that outlines the sordid story.

Why do i keep harping on all this surveillance?  The obvious answer is that i hope to spur more citizens to be concerned enough about it to start squealing to our politicians, even those like Big Sister Feinstein who want all their constituents continually monitored and are doing everything they can to bolster the NSA’s activities.

Alas, now that American confidence in its government has plunged to all-time lows, too many of us apparently feel it’s hopeless to even try to stop this spiral down into a police state. I hope i’m wrong.

Meanwhile, I suspect that Obama has not got around to closing Guantánamo because his advisers have argued that when i become an annoyance of sufficient magnitude, they’ll need a place to put me.

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