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home : opinion : opinion February 5, 2016

4/3/2013 9:50:00 AM
USAPA II: The Patriot Act and the silent surveillance of the U.S.
By Cezanna Singleton

Why have we relinquished control over such large swaths of our lives, what is this compulsion to disavow freedom? Trusting in the words of a demagogue who originally ran upon a platform of transparency of government, (some of us see how we have been duped...again) we have received instead more secrecy.
President Obama who again and again espouses freedom and security, stabbed the freedoms inherited from our forefathers in the back, by breathing ever more life into this nasty bit of legislation; the Patriot Act II. What can we possibly hope from such an esoteric government which openly signs laws which gag freedoms of speech, ties up liberty; and states that it has the right to kill us or detain us indefinitely, without rights to due process?
Originally the Patriot Act was signed into law by a Congress which was given 15 minutes to read the 315-page document with all its obfuscated legalese. Thus was born the Patriot Act. Thus they gave 16 Intelligence Agencies nearly Carte Blanche to subvert portions of our Constitution: against which stricture was intimated within the Constitution by the founding fathers, with such prescience of mind.
Who are we entrusting with our security and privacy, our "Rights of Man"? Just who, are we allowing to undermine the underpinnings of our free society? The 16 secret Intelligence Agencies? Our Congress? Our President? Who is watching? And who is watching the watchers to make sure that what goes on in the dark is transparent?
Do "We the People" "allow" our government to do anything anymore, or are we rather just the chaff from the summer wheat, which inevitably is to be burned away after the threshing? Assuredly we still claim the right to vote a politician out of office, but what about the laws they enacted that we will never see, those they signed into law in the back rooms; those unhallowed writs are inviolate.
Do we actually need the expanded powers of the Patriot Act? Consider this: of all the FBI's NSL (National Security Letter) investigations referred to U.S. attorneys in 2001, following 9/11, 66 percent resulted in prosecutions. In 2009 those same NSL's netted 21 percent prosecutions. That means that 79 percent of the information collected (still retained by the way) was dismissed by Federal Prosecutors.
In plain English an NSL is unmitigated permission granted to bureaucrats to collect and decipher a citizen's private data, which will then be held in perpetuity (for the sake of future generations?).
The ACLU states that every time an NSL recipient has challenged the order in court, the government has ultimately rescinded its demands for records. Yet so many of these NSL's go unchallenged by the recipients, indeed it is found that telecommunication companies, banks, credit companies and others often go far beyond the call of duty. These companies are literally gushing information in their desire to please (fear?) these autocratic bureaucrats.
What we have, folks, with the advent of the Patriot Act, is a system where too many people have been spied upon by too many government agencies, and too much information has been collected on too many innocent Americans. For the most part, the history of intelligence abuse in the U.S. suggests that such a large database will itself increase the risk of abuse; as surveillance, like taxes, is an exponentially expanding beast. Historically, abuse of Intelligence surveillance has often evolved into extra-judicial use, to intimidate or harass political dissenters, dissidents, journalists, and even Judges and Legislators.
Once upon a time, when media companies hadn't been subsumed by the monopolistic interests of omnivorous oligarchs, reporters investigated, had guts, covered the World in all its unflattering a word, told the truth...spoke freely (O' veritas, where hast thou fled). In those admittedly turbulent times, we had quotes like these " a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand and stabs you in the back with the other," C.P. Snow NY Times 1971.
There are 16 known Intelligence Agencies operating in the U.S., any of which can use the NSL to extract information. Increasingly, the sweeping efforts of these agencies are used to preemptively identify the miniscule number of dangerous needles in the proverbial haystack. All data collected at all times is kept, meaning, not just the needles but also every bit of straw, is kept in cloud storage (the ethereal regions of computer memory banks).
Here we have a case of government doing Big Business whilst charging us poor schmucks with more taxes to pay for more surveillance. I wonder if in reality they are trying to patent the information they are reaping, by binding the recipient with a non-disclosure agreement (Gag Order) to expand their nefarious profit margin.
Do we actually feel more secure in our freedoms, because of these invasions of our rights? Have we become so blind to the definite and measurable culture of surveillance that we just smile and wave to the security cameras every five steps we take? Do we actually believe that the drones flying 65,000 feet above are run by benevolent beings that are incorruptible and infallible?
We want to believe, and forget. Believe...hope...and forget that the government doesn't lie to us. Who do we believe when officials say that the government does not target U.S. citizens? Attorney General Eric Holder said, "The regime has the power to kill any citizen they so choose without charges or trial." The "right"? The moral obligation? The unassailable right?
Doing research on this article, I wanted to know who was monitoring the traffic cameras at the Safeway/Hwy 150 intersection in Chelan. Well I can tell you who it's not, it's not the sheriff, nor the PUD, it's not the State Patrol nor does the City have a clue. Who is monitoring I ask? What I do know, is that these cameras are not making our community safer. They are either invading our privacy or preparing us to feel that that type of surveillance is the normal responsible behavior of the state, get used to it! These cameras do not make us safer, does USAPA II?
You decide...No, really...Decide!
Cezanne Singleton is a private citizen who lives in Chelan.

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