Lately it seems that even the most ardent Tea Party conservative and the most radical Occupy Movement progressive can agree upon at least two things.
First, Big Brother is very likely monitoring your phone calls, reading your emails, text messages, and social media posts. Second, the “dog ate my homework,” excuse offered by the IRS and Lois Lerner et al. regarding her emails is not just untrue, but some of the worst kind of all the kinds of BS that exist. While obviously untrue, the offered excuse is egregious and done so in our collective face, so to speak.
Whether or not these practices are acceptable to the individual being surveilled and lied to is another matter entirely. However, with the news in the last few years of PRISM, the Associated Press phone log scandal, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act amendments, and warrantless wiretaps, it is growing increasingly difficult to deny the practices exists.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File
Many in alternative media have been discussing Fusion Centers for almost a decade. And while this apparatus has been growing, there have been other laws enacted by the United States Congress that seem to encourage those seeking redress to do so in untraditional ways.
The American social movement and accompanying protests have been the key to reform and progress in this land since the early 19th century. In the last few years it has become apparent that the only acceptable method of petition for redress of grievances is via the least effective means possible: social media. Accordingly, authority actually loves being criticized on social media. Those doing the bashing are alone in front of their computers - they are easy to monitor and are not gathered with others, holding signs, and protesting in front of government buildings.
While the public and media uproar regarding agents of the United States Government conducting blanket, warrantless surveillance upon the citizenry seems to be a recent phenomenon, the mechanisms enabling the practice go back many years.
Many left-of-center civil libertarians enjoy pointing out that section 215 of the Patriot Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush, clearly violates the warrant and probable cause codicils of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. However, in terms of the citizen’s expectation of privacy, the overall effect of the Patriot Act would have been nowhere near as severe were it not built upon the provisions of President Bill Clinton’s Telecommunications Act of 1996. This legislation arguably made the phone company and the National Security Agency one and the same.
The NSA's massive new data center in Bluffdale, Utah, uses million of gallons of water daily (Associated Press).
Any reader of recent American history is aware of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s practice of conducting electronic surveillance upon people they simply just don’t like. Going back a half century - before Facebook was even thought of - people like John Lennon and Martin Luther King, Jr. had their mail intercepted, opened, and read as well as their phones tapped as retribution for the crime of voicing unpopular opinions. This was done at the direction of the administrations of President Lyndon Johnson (a liberal Democrat, for those youngsters having yet to read recent American history) and the somewhat conservative Republican President Richard Nixon.
Doubtless some readers will ask, “What is a Fusion Center?”
Imagine a cubical farm not unlike that which you find in a call center, an insurance company’s sales office, or an Information Technology department. The outwardly visible difference being that all of the workers have a badge upon their belt, some have a firearm, and all the polo shirts have an emblem upon the breast. The emblem is usually that of a state police agency.
While these facilities are primarily staffed by state police employees, they are primarily funded by federal grants from the Department of Homeland Security. When you email, tweet, text, or post a message that contains one of more than 300 key words, your local Fusion Center agents receive notification and begin reading, evaluating, and cataloging all of your emails, tweets, texts, and posts. Many of these key words are as innocuous as, “exercise,” “airport,” “snow,” or even, “social media.”
For example, if this author were to send a text message to his sweetheart that reads, “going to exercise, then pick up a friend at airport,” that text would be viewed at the local Fusion Center in Decatur, Georgia. This location received the Department of Homeland Security’s, “Fusion Center of the Year,” award for 2012. The Decatur Fusion Center is only one of 77 such facilities currently in operation in the land of the free and home of the brave.
Many people argue, “if you’re not doing anything wrong, what are you worried about?”
The former Technical Director of the National Security Agency, Bill Binney, responded to this argument in an interview aired on Nov. 8, 2013, with the concise, emphatic, and almost patronizing rebuttal of, “Yes, that’s irrelevant. It really is."
As anyone can attest who has ever been accused of a crime that they did not commit, or been the subject of a law enforcement investigation, he is indeed correct. Binney left the agency as a whistle blower after 36 years there, “because they were spying on every person in the United States. Including me. Including Congress, judges… everybody."
Photo Credit: AP
And Binney would know. In the mid-1990s, before he was Technical Director, his job at the agency writing the computer code called “ThinThread.” This is the first generation of code that enables our government to monitor tens of thousands of gigabytes of data per minute.
Yesterday your author emailed an old family friend named Johnny Isakson. Isakson, in addition to being the junior United States senator from the great state of Georgia, has also been very active on social media the last two weeks regarding Lois Lerner’s lost e-mails.
Now while not being electrical engineers, computer science graduates, nor network administrators, both Isakson and I are pretty sure that once you click “send,” your email actually lives in no less than three locations. And if Enron taught us anything: email is forever. So if We the People want to know what Lerner said and when she said it, all that needs to happen is for Sen. Isakson, or any member of Congress, or any investigator to call Adm. Michael Rogers at Fort Meade and ask the NSA to dig those records out of their hard drives.
Something tells me the NSA might just have better hard drives than the IRS... or even an off-site archiving service.
Dave welcomes your questions and comments On twitter: @davepeavy Facebook: /i> Email: email@example.com
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