News headlines to the contrary, there is actually more taking place right now than just the Obama administration's conveniently distracting push for military action against Syria.
We're still having our privacy rights ravaged by the surveillance state. The latest revelations confirm long-standing fears that there is nothing private from the government, which has used a variety of covert, unconstitutional tactics to gain access to Americans' personal data, online purchases and banking, medical records, and online communications. The government's methods include the use of supercomputers to hack through privacy settings, collaborations with corporations to create "back doors" for NSA access into encrypted files, and the use of strong-arm tactics against those technology and internet companies who refuse to cooperate.
still being taken to the cleaners by a fiscally irresponsible and semi-corrupt
government. Not only does Congress continue to spend money we don't have on
pork-barrel projects, but we're writing welfare checks to regimes in the Middle
East, sending billions of dollars in "foreign aid" to Israel, Afghanistan,
Pakistan, Iraq, and Egypt, among others. That aid usually takes the form of military
aid (money for weapons, aircraft, and other military hardware from U.S.
companies, as well as training at U.S. military schools) and economic aid.
Earlier this year, President Obama approved a foreign-aid package that
translates to more than $11 million per day
in military aid for Israel. As if that didn't burden taxpayers enough, you
can add a $4 million and counting printing error to the tab as a result of
problems with the new $100 bill (the first batch had blank spots, the second
batch was stolen by thieves, and this latest batch had too much ink).
we're still being terrorized by an out-of-control police state. Daily, there
are new headlines about SWAT teams breaking down doors and militarized police
shooting unarmed citizens. A 107-year-old Arkansas man is dead after a
"shootout" with a SWAT team. Then there was the 16-year-old teenager who
skipped school only to be shot by police after they mistook him for a fleeing burglar.
Or the July 26 shooting of an unarmed black man in Austin "who was pursued and
shot in the back of the neck by Austin Police" after failing to properly
identify himself and leaving the scene of an unrelated incident." Or the
19-year-old Seattle woman who was accidentally shot in the leg by police after
she refused to show her hands.
then there's the news about Friday, September 6, 2013, being Janet Napolitano's
last day as head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before she starts
her new job as head of the University of California school system. The student
government of UC Berkley is actually considering a "no confidence" vote in
Napolitano's role as president. As one of the student representatives behind
the "no confidence" vote effort noted, Napolitano "comes from a background of
surveillance and apprehension and security."
under Napolitano's leadership, the DHS managed to entrench the federal
government's power in an increasingly Orwellian America at great cost to
Americans' civil liberties. Her replacement has yet to be named, although it
has been suggested that New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, an even
more egregious offender of civil liberties, could be tapped to replace her.
we forget, the following are some of Napolitano's "greatest hits" when it comes
to civil-liberties violations. They are explored in greater depth in my new
book, A Government of Wolves: The
Emerging American Police State.
If You See Something, Say Something: In
December 2010, Napolitano created a partnership between DHS and America's
largest retailer, Wal-Mart, in order to encourage shoppers to report
"suspicious" activity to store management. Likening the initiative to "the Cold
War fight against communists," Napolitano recorded a video message to be played
at hundreds of Wal-Mart locations across the country, telling shoppers "if you
see something, say something." This blatantly Orwellian citizen spying program also
spread to other outlets including "Mall of America, the American Hotel &
Lodging Association, Amtrak, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit
Authority, [and] sports and general aviation industries."
Constitution-Free Border Control: Arguments aside over the need to control illegal immigration, the American border has become a model for the emerging American police state due in large part to the DHS. Under Napolitano's direction, the government's efforts along the border have become little more than an exercise in police-state power, ranging from aggressive checkpoints to the widespread use of drone technology, often used against American citizens traveling within the country. Border-patrol operations occur within 100 miles of an international crossing, putting some 200 million Americans within the bounds of aggressive border-patrol searches and seizures, as well as increasingly expansive drone surveillance.
With 71 checkpoints found along the southwest border of the United States alone, suspicionless search and seizures on the border are rampant. According to the ACLU: "Between October 1, 2008 and June 2, 2010, over 6,500 people -- nearly 3,000 of them U.S. citizens -- were subjected to a search of their electronic devices as they crossed U.S. borders. DHS claims it has the right to conduct these invasive searches whenever it likes, to whomever it likes, and without having any individualized suspicion."
has already pushed for the expansion of drone surveillance from border zones to
the interior of the United States. Drone surveillance has expanded on the
American-Canadian border in recent years, including drones patrolling the 950
miles of Washington state's north border. A 2010 document signed by Napolitano
and obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation via a Freedom of Information
Act request shows that DHS has begun developing plans to mount so-called
"non-lethal weapons" on drones operated by Customs and Border Protection. According
to the document, the weapons would be used against "targets of interest," described
as people or vehicles carrying smugglers or undocumented immigrants.
Fusion Centers: While
fusion centers--data-collecting agencies spread throughout the country, aided by
the National Security Agency (NSA)--were in operation prior to Napolitano's ascension
to the head of DHS, she doubled down on the program early on in her tenure, insisting
"that Fusion Centers will be the centerpiece of state, local, federal
intelligence-sharing for the future and that the Department of Homeland
Security will be working and aiming its programs to underlie Fusion Centers."
These fusion centers constantly monitor our communications, everything from our
internet activity and web searches to text messages, phone calls, and emails.
This data is then fed to government agencies, which are now interconnected--the
CIA to the FBI, the FBI to local police--a relationship that will make a
transition to martial law that much easier. As of 2009, the government
admitted to having at least 72 fusion centers. A map released by the ACLU
indicates that every state except Idaho has a fusion center in operation or
Spying on Activists, Dissidents, and
Veterans: In 2009, DHS
released three infamous reports on Rightwing and Leftwing "Extremism," and
another entitled Operation Vigilant Eagle, outlining a surveillance program
targeting veterans. The reports collectively and broadly define extremists as
individuals and groups "that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal
authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government
authority entirely." Napolitano curtly dismissed concerns by activists, journalists, and veterans groups that the DHS was targeting people based upon their
ideological beliefs. Fast forward to 2013, when it was revealed that DHS, the
FBI, state and local law-enforcement agencies, and the private sector were
working together to conduct nationwide surveillance on protesters' First
Stockpiling Ammunition: To
add fuel to the fire, DHS has been stockpiling an alarming amount of ammunition
in recent years, which only adds to the discomfort of those already leery of
the government. According to Rep. Jason Chaffetz, DHS currently has 260 million
rounds of ammo in stock, which averages out to between 1,300 to 1,600 rounds
per officer. The US Army, meanwhile, has roughly 350 rounds per soldier.
TSA: Under the direction
of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) which falls under DHS
authority, American travelers have been subjected to all manner of searches
ranging from whole-body scanners and enhanced patdowns at airports to bag
searches in train stations. Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR)
task forces, comprised of federal air marshals, surface-transportation security
inspectors, transportation-security officers, behavior-detection officers, and
explosive-detection canine teams laid the groundwork for the government's
effort to secure so-called "soft" targets such as malls, stadiums, bridges,
etc. Some security experts predict that checkpoints and screening stations will
eventually be established at all soft
targets, such as department stores, restaurants, and schools. Given the
virtually limitless number of potential soft targets vulnerable to terrorist
attack, subjection to intrusive pat-downs and full-body imaging will become an
integral component of everyday life in the United States.
Defending the NSA: In
the wake of Edward Snowden's revelations about the immensity of the NSA's
spying programs, Napolitano has defended the NSA's actions. Insisting that
there are "lots of protections built into the system," Napolitano remarked, "I
think people have gotten the idea that there's an Orwellian state out there
that somehow we're operating in. That's far from the case. No one should
believe that we are simply going willy-nilly and using any kind of data that we
reality, of course, is that we are indeed living in an Orwellian state
engineered in no small part by Big Sister herself.