The National Security Police State and the Surveillance Society: Another Look at the Bipartisan War on Rights, Liberties and the Rule of Law

When one opposes the Democratic-Republican party's bipartisan consensus in favor of expanding the police state and surveillance society, the most common response is a totalitarian cliche: "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to be afraid of."  In other words, the presumption of Democrats and Republicans is that the exercise of inalienable rights, such as those guaranteed by the fourth and fifth amendments, is in-and-of-itself a dubious or suspicious activity.  The great irony and hypocrisy, of course, is that many of the individuals who hold such opinions regarding the activities of their fellow citizens are quick to give the state and its agents the benefit of the doubt when they engage in even the most obvious and egregious abuses of their authority.  In the name of security, we are expected to acquiesce in the face of even the most outrageous infringements of our privacy and the security of our persons, houses, papers and effects, but we are also expected to acquiesce when the government hides behind the state secrets privilege to guard against even a fleeting glance at its assassination programs or its torture regime, for instance. 

Over the course of the last decade, under the Bush administration, the FBI as well as police departments all over the country systematically conducted improper and illegal investigations and surveillance of numerous peaceful activist groups across the country.  Yet, the response is not to reign in lawless agencies and departments, but rather to provide them with even more expansive powers.  The Obama administration wants to ensure that there is no communication that can take place outside the purview of the state's prying eyes and ears.  Glenn Greenwald writes:
the Obama administration will propose new legislation to mandate that the U.S. Government have access to all forms of communications, "including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct 'peer to peer' messaging like Skype."  In other words, the U.S. Government is taking exactly the position of the UAE and the Saudis:  no communications are permitted to be beyond the surveillance reach of U.S. authorities.
Similarly, the state wants to be able to track every single electronic money transfer into and out of the country.  From the Washington Post:
The Obama administration wants to require U.S. banks to report all electronic money transfers into and out of the country, a dramatic expansion in efforts to counter terrorist financing and money laundering.
If any administration were in fact interested in countering terrorist financing and money laundering, they might rather begin by investigating their friends in the banking cartels and holding them accountable for their crimes.  But that is likely too much to ask.  From Polizeros:
Wachovia pays $160 million fine for money-laundering $420 billion in drug money. Avoids criminal prosecutions.  Western Union pays $94 million fine over money-laundering assumed drug and human smuggling money. Avoids criminal prosecutions. . . . Excuse me? $420 billion in money laundering and no one is going to prison? If this happened in a third world country we would snicker about what a corrupt, inept, useless system of justice they have. . . .
From a follow-up post at Polizeros:
HSBC USA in money laundering probe . . . of course there will be no criminal prosecutions. Gasp, that would be bad for the markets. So, it’ll be a a slap-on-the-wrist fine for HSBC and little will change.  This is what happened with Western Union, Wells Fargo and Bank of America too. Those banks were accused of laundering money for the drug cartels, paid a fine, yet no one went to prison. . . . The fix is in. But the feds do have the capacity to regulate and punish. However, they are choosing not to. In this the Obama Administration is no different from the Bush Administration.
The corporate connection to the unending expansion of the national security police state and surveillance society is too important to be overlooked.  Last month it was reported that "van-mounted body scanners" are being purchased in large quantities by law enforcement agencies across the country.  As reported by the US Pirate Party:
News of the mobile scanners has alarmed civil libertarians who worry the technology could be used to violate people's privacy without legal justification.  "If they are in fact being used on public streets, that would be a major violation of the Constitution," writes Jay Stanley of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty program. "In fact, it's hard to believe that any counsel at any government agency would sign off on allowing these vans to be used in that way."
The vice president of marketing for the company that sells the equipment, however, doesn't appear to see things that way: 
AS&E's vice president of marketing, Joe Reiss, said US law enforcement agencies have also bought the machines "to search for vehicle-based bombs in the US," Greenberg reports. . . . Reiss says his company's machines are not as intrusive as the body scanners being used in airports. He told Forbes' Greenberg that the machines can't reproduce images of people's faces and bodies as clearly as airport machines.  “From a privacy standpoint, I am hard-pressed to see what the concern or objection could be," he said.  [Emphasis added.] 
And thus we return to the old totalitarian cliche: if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to be afraid of.  We can see just how insidious the expansion of the national security police state and surveillance society is.  Every single encroachment upon rights, liberties and the rule of law erodes the opposition to further encroachments.  "We've already got highly intrusive body scanners in airports, what's the harm in deploying them on the streets, or at your place of work, or outside your home?" they ask, rhetorically.  Mary Starrett of the Constitution Party is an outspoken opponent of airport body scanners.  Earlier this year, she wrote:
X rays zapping us at airports and government buildings across the country and getting under our skin . . . are being touted as another small step toward a more secure America. In truth, they represent a giant leap toward slavery . . . Full Body Scanning is unreasonable as it presupposes guilt and ignores the aspect of our law that requires a warrant for searches. This full frontal assault on the Constitution aside, “backscatter” x rays could be a health risk. . . . As if the Constitutional and health aspects weren’t enough to scare the pants off us, consider the frightening prospect for millions of law abiding citizens should President Obama’s pick for TSA chief, former FBI agent Erroll Southers get the job. Southers is on record as saying it’s not Muslim terrorists who warrant closer scrutiny but “anti-government,”“anti-abortion,” “survivalist types” who are “Christian identity oriented.”
How long will it be before anyone who holds opinions outside the Democratic-Republican Party's zone of consensus and permissible disagreement will essentially be considered worthy of "scrutiny" if not outright censorship?  In truth, we likely reached that point some time ago.  Corporate interests backing expansive anti-counterfeiting efforts recognized the effectiveness of anti-terror and national security arguments to garner support for their preferred laws years ago.  From a report earlier this summer:
For decades, there's been a brisk global trade in illegally dubbed movies, knockoff apparel and other intellectual property (IP) theft. But what is changing, according to law enforcement officials and industry experts, is who is running these enterprises. Increasingly, it is terrorist organizations and organized crime groups. "Terrorist organizations are very similar to any other criminal organization. They need to earn money," said Jim Dinkins, director of the office of investigations at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, part of the Department of Homeland Security.
It is no surprise that there is strong bipartisan support for a new bill that supposedly seeks to "combat online infringement and counterfeits."  As is typical of legislation with bipartisan support from Democrats and Republicans, the bill represents a threat to fundamental rights and liberties, in this case, the freedom of speech.  If passed in its current form, the bill could likely result in significant censorship of the internet and provide the government with the authority to target and censor groups such as the US Pirate Party.  From the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
The "Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act" (COICA) is an Internet censorship bill which is rapidly making its way through the Senate. Although it is ostensibly focused on copyright infringement, an enormous amount of noninfringing content, including political and other speech, could disappear off the Web if it passes . . .

The bill creates two blacklists of censored domains. The first is longer, and includes any sites where the DOJ decides that infringement is "central" to the purpose of the site. The bill gives ISPs and registrars strong legal incentives to censor the domains on that list. The Attorney General can also ask a court to put sites on a second, shorter blacklist; ISPs and registrars are required by law to censor those sites.

If this bill passes, the list of targets could conceivably include hosting websites such as Dropbox, MediaFire and Rapidshare; MP3 blogs and mashup/remix music sites like SoundCloud, MashupTown and Hype Machine ; and sites that discuss and make the controversial political and intellectual case for piracy, like[Emphasis added.]
The so-called "war on terror" continues to be a highly effective cover for the war on rights, liberties and the rule of law being prosecuted by the Democratic-Republican two-party state and ruling corporate-political class.  Do you feel any safer?

1 comment:

Wimpie said...

You have the unconditional RIGHT to opt-out of the naked body scanners!
Click on my name above or go to:
for important radiological safety and privacy information and actual images from this technology, not the lame images that TSA is propagating.