Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Reining in the spies

Enemies foreign and domestic: Reining in the spies

By Mike Krauss
Bucks County Courier Times

The Declaration that went out from Philadelphia to the world in 1776 proclaimed a government of the people, and that the purpose of American government is to secure the rights of the people.

But increasingly the United States seems more a people of the government, and the only thing the present American government seems interested to secure is more power.

The first Americans understood the great danger to the rights of the people: the very government they were creating. They understood that all governments use whatever power they have. So they balanced the necessity of government by subordinating it to the will of the people and building into the government limits to its power.

And it worked pretty well, up until the Bush and Obama administrations.

Under the cover of a never ending war on a concept — terror — the control freaks (sometimes referred to as fascists) among those elected to office have done what control freaks always do — seek more control.

One by one the rights of the people and protections from government that are essential to freedom and liberty have been subverted: the due process of the law, habeas corpus, th right to peacefully assemble and protest (“petition”), the right to be confronted by accusers and see the evidence in open court — all have all been subverted.

The executive branch now uses its power to arrest without warrant and imprison indefinitely whoever it chooses. The executive asserts the right to order the execution of American citizens in secret, without judge, jury or trial.

And now we know that everything Americans communicate to another living person is recorded, stored and analyzed by the government’s National Surveillance Agency.

First we learned that all our phone calls and email are monitored. On the 4th of July it was reported that a photo is taken of every piece of mail handled by the postal system: meaning names, addresses and return addresses are noted.

The government knows more about you than your mother, father, spouse, partner or priest.

“But wait,” say the incredibly gullible, “the government will never go beyond taking note of all our private communication, will never look at my life, they’re just looking for the bad guys.”

Oh please.

A president will never want to know exactly what a political foe or potential major donor is saying to his or her friends, family, business partners or allies?

Some high ranking bureaucrat in the vast National Surveillance Agency will never be curious about what kind of valuable investment information can be had from taking a look at what the Federal Reserve Chairman is thinking, before it is announced?

Or that it will never occur to employees of the private company that collects all this data, that the company is in fact the greatest and most powerful private detection agency of all time, and go into business selling the data collected?

It is only a matter of time before all of these abuses and more occur, if they have not already.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, only a handful of members of an increasingly irrelevant Congress have raised the alarm, even after they learned that the head of this domestic spy ring lied to them about it.

The spymaster later admitted his testimony had been “erroneous.” Seems he confused the two laws that set up all the spying.

Which is like the CEO of General Motors saying he forgot the difference between the gas pedal and the brake.

So he lied to Congress or he is incompetent. Take your pick.

What can be done?

First, this national spymaster must go. Second, the entire Patriot Act needs to go, to be repealed and replaced with a law that provides the necessary tools to protect the nation, but with the limits on that power and the protection of the rights and liberties of citizens without which this nation ceases to be a democracy. Third, Congress must put an end to secret decisions made in secret courts by secret people accountable only to other secret people.

Finally, the Secret Keeper in Chief needs to remember his oath of office, to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” and reign in a domestic spy agency more vast and frightening than anything ever imagined by the Nazi Gestapo, the Soviet KGB or East German Stasi.

But will he?