Friday, July 11, 2014

Snowden Reveals NSA Spying On Americans

In the movie Baby Boy the self-described OG named Melvin played by Ving Rhames sneers at his possible future stepson. Melvin says that everything that the younger man is currently experiencing on the streets, the older man has already seen. To him, he boasts, it's just a rerun. 
I thought of that scene when I read the latest news that contrary to what its apologists have been saying about the NSA and the associated security structure, the NSA and FBI actually are spying on American citizens with political views and/or ethnicity that are out of the ordinary. This is something that Americans have seen before with surveillance (legal and extra legal) on civil rights and anti-war or left-wing activists from the 50s through the 80s. Rinse and repeat. Additionally the NSA is NOT just collecting metadata but actual data that lays bare the lives of millions of Americans who are neither suspected of or charged with criminal activity. So when the NSA spokesmen say they don't collect the actual contents of Americans' communications they are lying. These lies were obvious. Of course if anyone ever bothers to ask the President about this I am sure he will say that he knew nothing about it and is outraged. He will launch a commission to get to the bottom of it. Maybe. Someday. He will want to be perfectly clear that no one is more outraged than him. Yada, yada, yada. Rinse and repeat. Look over here there's news about Kim Kardashian! Look over there there's news about that celebrity's love life! Buy this pill it will make you a sexual dynamo! Start this secret Hollywood diet to lose weight to fit into this dress! These are the things that most Americans care about much more than the NSA activities, unfortunately.

I'd like to share Glenn Greenwald's challenge to people who serenely state they have nothing to hide from the government. If you have nothing to hide and just can't understand why other people don't want the government snooping around their personal effects I think you're lying to yourself. Self-deception is not the worst thing. We all do it sometimes. But on the off chance that you're not lying to yourself, please drop me an email with all of your financial, employer, personal email and social media passwords, intimate communications between you and the provider(s) of your nookie (pictures are preferred), medical records, discussions with close family members, your resume, academic transcripts, job performance reviews and of course a picture of you bending over and coughing twice. We just can't be too sure these days. Don't want to do that? Think it's a little odd that someone wants that info? Don't trust me? But you must trust the NSA because they are getting all of that exact information. Without a warrant. Without your consent. Just like Snowden said they were. Who's the liar now? Hmmm. Similarly, while the NSA is casting a wide net to vacuum up sexy pictures that women sent their boyfriends or husbands, it and the FBI are specifically targeting prominent Muslim Americans. These people have not been charged with a crime.  Five of the Americans monitored were willing to step forward.
The National Security Agency and FBI have covertly monitored the emails of prominent Muslim-Americans—including a political candidate and several civil rights activists, academics, and lawyers—under secretive procedures intended to target terrorists and foreign spies. According to documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the list of Americans monitored by their own government includes:
• Faisal Gill, a longtime Republican Party operative and one-time candidate for public office who held a top-secret security clearance and served in the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush;
• Asim Ghafoor, a prominent attorney who has represented clients in terrorism-related cases;
• Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American professor of international relations at Rutgers University;
• Agha Saeed, a former political science professor at California State University who champions Muslim civil liberties and Palestinian rights;
• Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the country.
The five Americans whose email accounts were monitored by the NSA and FBI have all led highly public, outwardly exemplary lives. All five vehemently deny any involvement in terrorism or espionage, and none advocates violent jihad or is known to have been implicated in any crime, despite years of intense scrutiny by the government and the press. Some have even climbed the ranks of the U.S. national security and foreign policy establishments.
“I just don’t know why,” says Gill, whose AOL and Yahoo! email accounts were monitored while he was a Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates. “I’ve done everything in my life to be patriotic. I served in the Navy, served in the government, was active in my community—I’ve done everything that a good citizen, in my opinion, should do.”
In one 2005 document, intelligence community personnel are instructed how to properly format internal memos to justify FISA surveillance. In the place where the target’s real name would go, the memo offers a fake name as a placeholder: “Mohammed Raghead.”
There have been people who have questioned the validity of Snowden's claims or whether or not he is a whistleblower. Some of those people are quite expert in law, commerce, government or military. I respect their concerns. Truly I do. But I think that these latest revelations should end that discussion. The government is lying to its citizens. The NSA and FBI are out of control. The NSA can't be trusted with the information it has. No government could. Snowden revealed and has proved that your government was and is lying to you. He's a whistleblower in my book. The entire alphabet soup framework of security apparatuses and government agencies needs to be dismantled and brought back under strict constitutional control. I do not view this as a partisan issue. There are Republicans who are outraged by these reveals and Democrats who couldn't care less. And vice versa. A lot of Republicans like invasive overreaching busybody government as long as it's not trying to provide birth control. Although I rag on President Obama in truth this issue is something that didn't start with him and won't end with him. It's a problem that has gotten worse with each President in the 20th century but took off after WW2 and the creation of the national security state. This security state may indeed see itself as independent of whoever is in the White House. Presidents change but security interests and institutional interests, as defined by spies and law enforcement, do not. 

The bottom line is that in a free country we can't allow the government to spy on its people in this manner. Citizens who are afraid to express themselves politically, who censor private communications for fear of government surveillance, who consider other citizens unworthy of robust constitutional protections, are citizens who may have forgotten what it means to be American.

What do YOU think about these latest revelations?
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