Farewell To Privacy. Hello To Arms

Fr

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

The Courts and Congress have come to believe there is reason for fear.  Enemies are everywhere.  Those who wish to do us harm are in our homes.  They talk to us on our telephones.  Some sashay in through our computers.  “Evil doers” are ubiquitous in the United States.  Our open society places the public at risk.  We, the people, must defend ourselves.  Thus, the Supreme Court and Congress have given the government and us the means.  The highest judicial body in the nation has made it possible for the common man to protect himself with a pistol; Legislators provided the President ethereal firearms.  Indeed, individuals and the Commander-In-Chief were bequeathed more than either had asked for.  In 2008, we have entered the Summer of Separation.  In the United States we say, “Farewell to privacy.  Hello to arms.”

Absorbed in fear, Americans have detached themselves from the original intent of the United States Constitution.  We the people have embraced weaponry and rejected our right to privacy.  The populace, with assistance from Congress willingly chose to forfeit the Fourth Amendment.  authentic freedoms were  disemboweled.  If the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act  (FISA) stands, and there is no reason to think a Bill signed into law by the President of the United States and each House of Congress would not be fully implemented, the press and the people will no longer have unfettered access to information.  Nor can they disseminate data without intense scrutiny.  Chris Hedges, a twenty year veteran Foreign Correspondent for The New York Times, speaks to a truth that he lived and now fears will die.

The new FISA Amendments Act nearly eviscerates oversight of government surveillance.  It allows the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to review only general procedures for spying rather than individual warrants.  The court will not be told specifics about who will be wiretapped, which means the law provides woefully inadequate safeguards to protect innocent people whose communications are caught up in the government’s dragnet surveillance program.

The law, passed under the guise of national security, ostensibly targets people outside the country.  There is no question, however, that it will ensnare many communications between Americans and those overseas.  Those communications can be stored indefinitely and disseminated, not just to the U.S. government but to other governments.

This law will cripple the work of those of us who as reporters communicate regularly with people overseas, especially those in the Middle East.  It will intimidate dissidents, human rights activists, and courageous officials who seek to expose the lies of our government or governments allied with ours.  It will hang like the sword of Damocles over all who dare to defy the official versions of events.  It leaves open the possibility of retribution and invites the potential for abuse by those whose concern is not with national security but with the consolidation of their own power.

Trepidation has long been a tool for intimidation.  A frightened fellow or female will happily adopt a policy or a pistol to relieve apprehension.  Perhaps, that it why after the events of September 11, 2001, Americans, panicked and the power elite prospered.  As the Twin Towers fell, the people cried out for protection.  Congress gleefully approved the Patriot Act; and as a nation, we pursued a course of action that was and is contrary to Constitutional principles.  Even early on, Americans said,  “Farewell to privacy.  Hello to arms.”

As the war thundered on, the public worked to avoid greater anxiety.  People purchased more guns for personal safety sake.  They feared the government might not be able to shield them from all potential harms.  Indeed, this attitude has been ubiquitous in American history.  The Wild West outlook often overrides logic or Constitutional law.  In America, there have been many Summers of Separation.

When humans think weaponry is the solution, as they do in a country where there are ninety guns per every one hundred U.S. residents, they will grab a pistol when faced with any problem.  The availability of petroleum has become a paradox.  Prices for fuel and food are high.  The cost for shelter is higher.  Homes are in foreclosure.  Job security is but a myth.  Employer provided benefits are elusive.  The cost for Health Care coverage is out of reach; yet, the gun that could end it all is close.

Immigration is also an issue that irks many in America.  When migrants flee to the States in search of financial freedom, the native-born feel further threatened.  The divide between the races causes much resentment.  Income inequity offers reason for rage.  Economic slavery causes tempers to rise.  In 2008, the effect of all these predicaments troubles the populace.   The American public is aggravated.  Currently, people feel less safe, less strong, and more scared.  Millions ponder.  Force can seem the great equalizer.  Hence, gun ownership is great.  The Small Arms Survey, released in August 2007 reveals Americans have a ready arsenal.

With fewer than five per cent of the world’s population, the United States is home to roughly 35-50 per cent of the world’s civilian-owned guns.

The report went on to state that the common folk are better equipped with weaponry than law enforcement or the military might be.  Civilians who reside in cities, suburbs, and those who dwell in the countryside possess the vast majority of total firearms owned in the United States.  Citizens in a country built on might will use firepower to retain what they believe is their right. If they are refused the privilege to pack heat, Americans will seek recourse by any means.

Special-forces policeman Heller, a resident of Washington District of Columbia certainly did.  The lawman, aware that anyone on the street might be armed sought solace in a piece of hardware.  Mister Heller applied to register a handgun he wished to keep at home; the District denied his request since, at the time, the District of Columbia forbade civilian handgun ownership.  Disgruntled, and prepared for battle, as Americans often are, Officer Heller filed a legal suit.  He stated his Second Amendment Rights were violated.  The Supreme Court agreed.

A review of the actual Second Amendment which states Americans have the Right to “bear arms in times when a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free State,” or research might have led the Justices to decide otherwise.  Nonetheless, in a summer steeped with separation from acumen, the Supreme Court ruled civilian gun ownership is a right.

The Administration, policymakers, and pundits think the decision wise.  After all, it is a dangerous world.  Americans need to be prepared to fight the ominous foe  Fifteen years ago,   near half of American households understood this.  People built arsenals.  Thirty-one percent of adult Americans owned a firearm in 1993.  Still, that armory was not enough to protect the citizenry from attack.  Years later, the munitions stored,  while likely larger, were no better protection.

Crimes occurred outside the home, on the streets of any given community and , just as predicted, some transgressions traumatized those within four walls. Few Americans ponder the weightier aspects of artillery in the American home.

Earlier this year (1997), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a mind-boggling report showing that the U.S. firearm-related homicide rate for children was 16 times higher than the combined rate for children in 25 other industrialized countries.  Meanwhile, the U.S. child rate of firearm related suicide was 11 times higher. . .

Last year, Congress nearly slashed the budget for the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC), which collects and monitors firearm injury data and funds related research as part of its mission.  As a result of new funding mandates, CDC this year has been forced to dramatically reduce its firearm-related injury research, and CDC-funded gunshot injury surveillance programs will come to an end in several states.

All this comes at a time when gunshot injuries are expected to soon outstrip automobile accidents as the number one cause of injury death in the U.S., costing an estimated $20 billion yearly in medical costs and lost productivity.  Surprisingly little medical research monitors the kinds of firearm injuries that occur or the types of guns used.  While the CDC samples unshot injury data from 91 hospitals around the country, there is no comprehensive national surveillance system to accurately track how many people are wounded by guns each year..

Surveillance is the sham used to explain what Federal officials think a greater priority.  Those who have more power than a weapon might wield understand the statistics on civilian gun wounds would not please or appease Americans.  Information on gun injury might shift the fear factor.  If the people are to remain focused on foreign forces, then FISA, the Bill that keeps on giving to the politically powerful, will remain safe, and after all, is that not the truer issue.  As foreign correspondent Christopher Hedges reminds us . . .

It (the law) is about using terrorism (at home or abroad) as a pretext to permit wholesale spying and to silence voices that will allow us to maintain an open society.

Thankfully, when prized pistols are in question, it is easy to silence voices of dissent.  Physicians were not asked to speak before the Supreme Court shot down a ban on gun sales.  Had they had the opportunity Americans and the Justices might have heard  . . .

Doctors worried by Supreme Court gun ruling

By Maggie Fox

Reuters

Wed Jul 9, 2008 7:44pm EDT

Washington (Reuters) – Last month’s Supreme Court ruling striking down a strict gun control law in the U.S. capital will lead to more deaths and accidental injuries, the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine said on Wednesday.

They joined a growing clamor from medical doctors, especially emergency room physicians, who fear a surge of accidental deaths, murders, and suicides if handguns become more easily available than they already are.

The ruling struck down a law in Washington that forbade personal ownership of handguns.  The court made explicit, for the first time, that Americans had rights as individuals to own guns.

It won praise from President George W. Bush, Republican presidential candidate John McCain and guns rights advocates (and the presumptive Democratic nominee, Barack Obama)

Justice Antonin Scalia, who voted with the 5-4 majority on the decision, said citizens may prefer handguns for home defense because they “can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police.”

Perchance, Justice Scalia would be comforted to know, that with thanks to his cohorts  in the Legislative Branch, when a city dweller or a rural resident telephones for assistance, he or she can be comforted by the thought the authorities are very close by.  Indeed, public officials may be plugged into the individual’s phone, and computer.  In the Summer of Separation, as powerbrokers in one part of Washington said , “Hello To Arms,” those on the other side of the Hill proclaimed, “Farewell To Privacy.”

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act established thirty years ago was all but rescinded.  The court system created to help public officials in a crisis is no longer needed to swiftly serve warrants when an investigation is requested.  The Constitution has been compromised.

Lawmakers are already justifying their votes for making major changes to that proven regime by saying that the bill is a reasonable compromise that updates FISA technologically and will make it somewhat harder to spy on Americans abroad. But none of that mitigates the bill’s much larger damage. It would make it much easier to spy on Americans at home, reduce the courts’ powers, and grant immunity to the companies that turned over Americans’ private communications without a warrant.

It would allow the government to bypass the FISA court and collect large amounts of Americans’ communications without a warrant simply by declaring that it is doing so for reasons of national security. It cuts the vital “foreign power” provision from FISA, never mentions counterterrorism and defines national security so broadly that experts think the term could mean almost anything a president wants it to mean.

The President is abundantly pleased.  The present Commander-In-Chief is now assured ultimate power.  Future potential Chief Executives, one of whom voted to support this conciliatory commitment to telecommunication companies, will forever retain the “right” to be spy on the citizenry.   In the Summer of Separation, cognitive and Constitutional dissonance is secure.  Congress and the courts assured us of this.

Congress cast aside the Fourth Amendment,  The Supreme Court rescinded the essence of the Second Amendment.  Our countrymen are now be free to carry a gun, and chat on an open line with the trigger cocked.  Former President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt  told us “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself.”  Perhaps, the prominent predecessor could not have predicted a day when citizens would be convinced to embrace fretfulness, to forego freedom, and to sing, “Farewell to privacy.  Hello to Arms.”

References and Rights . . .

Somebody’s watching




To view the original art, please travel to Somebody’s Watching

copyright © 2008.  Andrew Wahl.  Off The Wahl Perspective.

In his mad dash to the middle, Barack Obama joins John McCain and George W. Bush as a trampler of American privacy rights.  It looks like “The Further Adventures of Big Brother Sam” (Archive No. 0826a and 0826b) will continue, regardless of who takes the White House.

Back in seven . . .

Andrew

toon@offthewahl.com

The American Legion Reply, Part II

copyright © 2007 Jerry Northington.  campaign website or on the campaign blog.

A few days ago I wrote about my interaction with the American Legion.  I wrote at first to complain about the organizational support of FISA revision to include telecom amnesty.  The ongoing correspondence between myself and Mr. Steve Robertson of the AL continued into today.  While the correspondence has been amicable, we reached a cavernous divide in our thinking.  As of this moment much of my original and continuing concerns is not addressed.  The entire discussion is too lengthy for a diary, but I will try not to slant my coverage.  Representative parts are being chosen to the best of my ability.

My first comments to the AL were brief and spoke to the erosion of Constitutional rights if we allow retroactive amnesty for illegal acts in addition to the continued erosion of our right to privacy included in the bill.  The initial reply was soon revealed to be a form letter sent to all of us veterans who sent a reply in accordance with McJoan’s first posting.

Mr. Robertson responded to my concern about the failure to address a single one of my expressed concerns.

We only received 20 emails opposing S. 2248, so the same response to assure consistency in our official reply.  You must have been involved in some kind of an organized grassroots campaign to defeat S. 2248 in order to know that the same response was sent to others.

What a fine observation he makes.  I admit to being a political activist concerned with our Constitutional rights and wary of governmental invasion of our rights to privacy on all levels.

Then he continued saying

However, when I received another email in response, each was answered independently in an attempt to address specific concerns.

From here we continued a discussion today.

The first reply included

These measures are remedial at best however, do not provide the tools our intelligence professionals need to protect the Nation or the certainty needed by the intelligence professionals and their private partners.

To which I replied

What tools are missing?

In the same reply I asked again for factual support to the initial claim of terrorist acts prevented in past with information gained by surveillance.  My questions continued

Given the fact the government has a window of 72 hours before a warrant is required how does the current FISA act limt surveillance in any serious way?

The reply came quickly

Besides, it makes no sense to impose FISA requirements in the context of surveillance of targets located overseas.  Meeting the current emergency authorization and going through the FISA Court within 72 hours for every overseas foreign intelligence target, would quite simply overwhelm current resources and manpower, especially those linguists and analysts dedicated to covering al-Qa’ida and other foreign threat.

Maybe I am wrong but it seems to me if the Attorney General has enough information to justify surveillance that should satisfy the FISA Court without further ado.  Mr. Robertson chose to ignore that suggestion.

No real answer to most of my questions was provided.  My final piece of the conversation included my thoughts about telecom amnesty

Such amnesty is not acceptable under any circumstance if we are to hold to our democracy for the future.

 I went further to worry about the Fourth Amendment and Constitutional protection against the provision of laws with retroactive clauses.

The end result was an amicable parting.  No definitive or qualitative addressing of any of my real concerns was forthcoming.  Maybe some such will be part of the future, but is not part of today.

Peace.

Reminder for one and all.  I am running for Congress, DE-AL.  Please check out the website or the ActBlue page and support the effort.  Your help is needed for the effort to succeed.  Contributions of all sorts, both moral and monetary are most appreciated.

The American Legion Replied Today

copyright © 2007 Jerry Northington.  campaign website or on the campaign blog.

Originally written on February 28, 2008

The American Legion is asking its members to use their power in moving Congress to pass the Bush legislation giving full telecom immunity from prosecution for their cooperation in illegal wiretaps.  McJoan had a front page post at Daily Kos telling the sad tale.  In accordance with McJoan’s suggestion we veterans contact the American Legion, I sent an e-mail letter outlining my objections to the bill and requesting a reconsideration of their position.  A reply came to my mailbox moments ago.  Excerpts from their letter along with my thoughts and observations follow over the fold.

The letter begins with the usual platitudes:

Thank you for your honorable military service and for sharing your views and concerns with The American Legion.

I doubt they found any pleasure in my strong words about their stance.

The Department of Justice and the Intelligence Community are taking all the steps possible to try to keep the country safe during this current period of uncertainty.

The fearmongering goes right on.  Most of the uncertainty in these times is the direct result of administration mistakes around the world.  Many of the steps being taken by the Justice Department are illegal and immoral.  

These measures are remedial at best however, do not provide the tools our intelligence professionals need to protect the Nation or the certainty needed by the intelligence professionals and their private partners.

Private partners is the appropriate concern in this sentence.  The only concern is for protection of the telecoms from prosecution.  They have no real interest in providing increased intelligence capability.  There is plenty of latitude provided by laws in place today without extending retroactive immunity to the telecoms.  

(snip)

The American Legion believes S. 2248 would modernize FISA, ensure the future cooperation of the private sector, and safeguard the very civil liberties we all value.

The only liberty being protected by this extension is from prosecution and that extends to the telecoms.  Citizens are in no way served by the bill.

(snip)

Since enactment of the Protect America Act, the intelligence community has obtained information about efforts of an individual to become a suicide operative, efforts by terrorists to obtain guns and ammunition, and terrorists transferring money.  Other information obtained, thanks in large part to these new authorities, has led to the disruption of planned terrorist attacks.

I am about as likely to believe those lies as I am to accept any others put forth by the administration.  Let us see the proof or stop passing along false or misleading information.

(snip)

Currently, FISA’s requirements impair the ability to collect information on foreign intelligence targets located overseas.

Huh???  How can that be?  There are no real limits once the FISA Court issues a warrant.  In very few instances have those warrants been denied to date.

… the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment requires “probable cause” and  where the civil liberties of Americans are implicated.  However, this is illogical to require a showing of probable cause for surveillance of overseas foreign targets who are not entitled to the same Fourth Amendment protections.

So long as the interception is on American soil and may involve an American citizen I believe the Fourth Amendment applies.  I would prefer we extend the rights of Fourth Amendment protection to all communications around the world.  In that instance the FISA court could issue a warrant allowing the signal interception once the government proves the worth of the intelligence gathering in the first place.

The letter continues with lots more blah and blah about needs for intelligence gathering and is signed by Steve Robertson, Director ?National Legislative Commission.  The entire piece is one fine bit of propaganda.  Anyone interested in the full text can e-mail me for a copy.  Jerry at Northington08.com

Our nation has a history of surviving hard times as well as enjoying good times.  We are a resilient nation of diverse human beings.  Together we as a nation are the best in the world, but we must work together.  We are all in this political, geographical, and societal stew together.  We maintain our individual characteristics and yet we share a basic sameness in our humanity.

The future is in all our hands, fellow citizens.  There are definitive choices to be made today.  We, the voters, will determine the future.  I, for one, trust you will choose wisely in following your heart to support the person you feel most likely to bring a future of well being to our world.  If we can get some movement toward substantive debate and question and answer sessions that allow us to determine the exact nature of our choices, our choices will be so much more easily made as we are able to make informed decisions.

I say bring on those historians, social scientists, and natural science experts.  Let them ask real questions and let the media report the answers.  Let us see an end to the fluff and fun of what passes for interviews today.  Let us hear questions and answers of real substance for a change.  That is one change I support with every fiber of my being.  How about you?

Reminder for one and all.  I am running for Congress, DE-01.  Please check out the website or the ActBlue page and support the effort.  Your help is needed for the effort to succeed and is most deeply appreciated.