For all practical purposes, President Bush is now a lame-duck President. If that’s the case, then why is his administration working so hard to take away even more of America’s constitutional rights and his departmental heads are ramping-up their efforts to increase the spying on Americans? The common logic is that when Bush leaves office, some semblance of sanity will return to the United States and we will continue conducting whatever “war on terror” that needs to be undertaken without violating the constitutional rights of innocent Americans. We are all hoping the 2008 elections will bring back the rule of law to Washington, and these illegal and unconstitutional programs will be dismantled. That’s what we are hoping…
But, the signals coming out of Washington speak of a different story - one that is too horrific to imagine! Based on the rush to dismantle almost off of America’s rights to privacy - and these actions and initiatives are being carried out at a dizzying speeds, it would appear that Bush has no plans of leaving office or this Presidency fully expects the next President to follow in his footsteps of tyranny and oppression. The stage is being set for these violations of our civil rights to escalate and careen out of control until eventually - perhaps within months, nothing Americans use their personal computers for will remain private. No, I’m not being melodramatic.
I’ve warned people myself that S 1959, The “Thought Crime Prevention Bill” is being partially implemented even though its still in committee and hasn’t been passed into law yet. Yesterday, a brilliant essay was a written on exactly what privacy the government is attempting to negate by Elliot Cohen, and he describes why this is happening within America. People must be noticing that none of the Presidential candidates are speaking in depth in regard the way that Americans are losing some of their most basic constitutional rights, and none are pledging to stop the constant fear-mongering that our government is using to push its policies through, nor are they pledging to stop those policies that infringe on our constitutional rights. The following Op-Ed is powerful and covers many of the issues that seem to be intertwined with S 1959:
The End of Privacy
Posted on Jan 24, 2008 (Excerpts)
By Elliot Cohen
Amid the controversy brewing in the Senate over Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) reform, the Bush administration appears to have changed its strategy and is devising a bold new plan that would strip away FISA protections in favor of a system of wholesale government monitoring of every American’s Internet activities. Now the national director of intelligence is predicting a disastrous cyber-terrorist attack on the U.S. if this scheme isn’t instituted.
It is no secret that the Bush administration has already been spying on the e-mail, voice-over-IP, and other Internet exchanges between American citizens since as early as and possibly earlier than Sept. 11, 2001. The National Security Agency has set up shop in the hubs of major telecom corporations, notably AT&T, installing equipment that makes copies of the contents of all Internet traffic, routing it to a government database and then using natural language parsing technology to sift through and analyze the data using undisclosed search criteria. It has done this without judicial oversight and obviously without the consent of the millions of Americans under surveillance. Given any rational interpretation of the Fourth Amendment, its mass spying operation is illegal and unconstitutional.
But now the administration wants to make these illegal activities legal. And why is that? According to National Director of Intelligence Mike McConnell, who is now drafting the proposal, an attack on a single U.S. bank by the 9/11 terrorists would have had a far more serious impact on the U.S. economy than the destruction of the Twin Towers. “My prediction is that we’re going to screw around with this until something horrendous happens,” said McConnell. So the way to prevent this from happening, he claims, is to give the government the power to spy at will on the content of all e-mails, file transfers and Web searches.
McConnell’s prediction of something “horrendous” happening unless we grant government this authority has a tone similar to that of the fear-mongering call to arms against terrorism that President Bush sounded before taking us to war in Iraq. Now, Americans are about to be asked to surrender their Fourth Amendment rights because of a vague and unsupported prediction of the dangers and costs of cyber-terrorism.
The analogy with the campaign to frighten us into war with Iraq gets even stronger when it becomes evident that along with the establishing of American forces in Iraq, the cyber-security McConnell is calling for was, all along, part of the strategic plan, devised by Dick Cheney and several other present and former high-level Bush administration officials, to establish America as the world’s supreme superpower. This plan, known as the Project for the New American Century, unequivocally recognized “an imperative” for government to not only secure the Internet against cyber-attacks but also to control and use it offensively against its adversaries. The Project for the New American Century also maintained that “the process of transformation” it envisioned (which included the militarization and control of the Internet) was “likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor.” All that appears to be lacking to make the analogy complete is the “horrendous” cyber-attack—the chilling analog of the 9/11 attacks—that McConnell now predicts.
It would be a mistake to underestimate the resolve of the Bush administration. But it would be a bigger mistake for Americans not to stand united against this familiar pattern of government scare tactics and manipulation. There are grave dangers to the survival of democracy posed by allowing any present or future government unfettered access to all of our private electronic communications. These dangers must be carefully weighed against the dubious and unproven benefits that granting such an awesome power to government might have on fending off cyber-attacks. (Emphasis added.)
Elliot D. Cohen, PhD, is a media ethicist and critic. His most recent book is “The Last Days of Democracy: How Big Media and Power-Hungry Government Are Turning America Into a Dictatorship.” He is a first-prize winner of the 2007 Project Censored Award.
Only selected excerpts are published and this is an Op-Ed worth reading.
Using a rationale that can only be described as bizarre, the government’s position is that if we don’t allow them (NSA, CIA, etc.) unfettered access to our private computer activities, documents, searches, and downloads, it opens-up the United States and make us vulnerable to being hacked in a “terror attack” on a massive scale.
So the way to prevent this from happening, he claims Mike McConnell, is to give the government the power to spy at will on the content of all e-mails, file transfers and Web searches.