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Censored, Surveilled, Watch Listed and Jailed: The Absurdity of Being a Citizen in the American Police State

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In the American police state, the price to be paid for speaking truth to power (also increasingly viewed as an act of treason) is surveillance, censorship, jail, and ultimately death.

However, where many Americans go wrong is in assuming that you have to be doing something illegal or challenging the government's authority in order to be flagged as a suspicious character, labeled an enemy of the state, and locked up like a dangerous criminal.

In fact, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, all you really need to do is use certain trigger words, surf the internet, communicate using a cell phone, drive a car, stay at a hotel, purchase materials at a hardware store, take flying or boating lessons, appear suspicious, question government authority, or generally live in the United States.

With the help of automated eyes and ears, a growing arsenal of high-tech software, hardware and techniques, government propaganda urging Americans to turn into spies and snitches, as well as social media and behavior-sensing software, government agents are spinning a sticky spider-web of threat assessments, flagged "words," and "suspicious" activity reports aimed at snaring potential enemies of the state.

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It's the American police state's take on the dystopian terrors foreshadowed by George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and Philip K. Dick all rolled up into one oppressive pre-crime and pre-thought-crime package.

What's more, the technocrats who run the surveillance state don't even have to break a sweat while monitoring what you say, what you read, what you write, where you go, how much you spend, whom you support, and with whom you communicate. Computers now do the tedious work of trolling social media, the internet, text messages and phone calls for potentially anti-government remarks--all of which is carefully recorded, documented, and stored to be used against you someday at a time and place of the government's choosing.

While this may sound like a riff on a bad joke, it's a bad joke with "we the people" as the punchline.

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The following activities are guaranteed to get you censored, surveilled, eventually placed on a government watch list, possibly detained and potentially killed.

Laugh at your own peril.

Use harmless trigger words like cloud, pork and pirates: The Department of Homeland Security has an expansive list of keywords and phrases it uses to monitor social networking sites and online media for signs of terrorist or other threats such as SWAT, lockdown, police, cloud, food poisoning, pork, flu, Subway, smart, delays, cancelled, la familia, pirates, hurricane, forest fire, storm, flood, help, ice, snow, worm, warning or social media.

Use a cell phone: Simply by using a cell phone, you make yourself an easy target for government agents--working closely with corporations--who can listen in on your phone calls, read your text messages and emails, and track your movements based on the data transferred from, received by, and stored in your cell phone. Mention any of the so-called "trigger" words in a conversation or text message, and you'll get flagged for sure.

Drive a car: Unless you've got an old junkyard heap without any of the gadgets and gizmos that are so attractive to today's car buyers (GPS, satellite radio, electrical everything, smart systems, etc.), driving a car today is like wearing a homing device: you'll be tracked from the moment you open that car door thanks to black-box recorders and vehicle-to-vehicle communications systems that can monitor your speed, direction, location, the number of miles traveled, and even your seatbelt use. Once you add satellites, GPS devices, license-plate readers, and real-time traffic cameras to the mix, there's nowhere you can go on our nation's highways and byways that you can't be followed.

Attend a political rally: Enacted in the wake of 9/11, the Patriot Act redefined terrorism so broadly that many non-terrorist political activities such as protest marches, demonstrations, and civil disobedience were considered potential terrorist acts, thereby rendering anyone desiring to engage in protected First Amendment-expressive activities as suspects of the surveillance state.

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Express yourself on social media: The FBI, CIA, NSA, and other government agencies are investing in and relying on corporate-surveillance technologies that can mine constitutionally protected speech on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in order to identify potential extremists and predict who might engage in future acts of anti-government behavior.

Serve in the military: Operation Vigilant Eagle, the brainchild of the Department of Homeland Security, calls for surveillance of military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, characterizing them as extremists and potential domestic terrorist threats because they may be "disgruntled, disillusioned or suffering from the psychological effects of war."

Disagree with a law-enforcement official: A growing number of government programs are aimed at identifying, monitoring, and locking up anyone considered potentially "dangerous" or mentally ill (according to government standards, of course). For instance, a homeless man in New York City who reportedly had a history of violence but no signs of mental illness was forcibly detained in a psych ward for a week after arguing with shelter police.

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John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead's aggressive, pioneering approach to civil liberties has earned him numerous accolades and (more...)
 

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