Some have said it’s better to make decisions under the influence of alcohol than under the influence of fear.
But in late 2001, Americans made an entire set of decisions under the influence of fear… and created a monster.
We all remember what happened: A frightened public allowed politicians, secret agencies, and militaries to spend any amount of money and build any kind of system they wanted, to “protect us from the terrorists.”
To cash in on the new zeitgeist, new TV shows practically worshiped military and police forces; thousands of churches gave themselves over to the glorification of soldiers; and corporations scrambled for government money to build these new systems.
10 years on, it’s not just the “paranoid crackpots” anymore who can see that Orwell’s Big Brother of 1984 is terrifyingly real and more sinister than even he could have imagined.
The reality is this: Americans now live under the largest and most invasive surveillance state in the history of the world. This has been confirmed and admitted, even by the talking heads of the mainstream press.
I know there have been too many stories, passing too quickly, for most people to see this in all its gory detail, so I want to clarify and simplify a bit.
First, I’ll give you a list of recent stories (all since mid-May), with links, so you can check any of them you want to. Then, I’ll give you a brief, simple summary of where Americans stand now.
- The US Justice Department Taps Reporters’ Phones.
- The IRS Admits It Targeted Tea Party Groups.
- Indefinite Detention of Americans is Upheld By Court.
- NSA’s Prism program taps in to user data of Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, AOL, Skype, and others.
- The NSA has secret backdoor permission to search databases for individual Americans’ communications.
- The Obama administration asserts a bold and broad power to collect the phone records of millions of Americans, to search for a nugget of information that might thwart a terrorist attack.
- A secret court and top secret rules allow the NSA to use US data without a warrant.
- Boundless Informant: the NSA’s secret tool to track global surveillance data.
- NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily.
- Secret laws allow the NSA to collect vast amounts of data on Americans.
- National Director of Intelligence commits perjury, without consequences.
- Secure email provider Lavabit, supposedly used by Snowden, is forced to close. ‘Law enforcers’ command them – under threat of instant imprisonment – not to talk about it to anyone.
- The “writing on the wall” convinces a Washington-based provider of secure email to shut their service.
- Government taxing agencies are instructed to hide (via “parallel construction”) that they received tips from secret surveillance systems.
- Google admits: “To improve location accuracy and for other purposes, Google and other apps may scan for nearby networks, even when Wi-Fi is off.”
- Seattle Police Cameras Collected 7 Million License Plate Numbers Last Year.
- XKeyscore: The NSA tool that collects ‘nearly everything a user does on the internet.’
- Microsoft handed the NSA access to encrypted messages.
To Sum Up
The list above contains only recent and major stories. There are many others, but I want to keep this brief.
So here’s where we stand now:
- There are no more legal protections that matter. The 4th amendment is (was) “the law of the land,” and it is very clear. But that doesn’t matter: A pile of court rulings have been given precedence, and the Constitution no longer applies.
- The US military can – if and when it wants to – arrest and imprison anyone (foreigner or citizen) for as long as they want, without a trial.
- Acts of torture (“advanced interrogation techniques”) are legal, and secret courts are in regular operation.
- The US government (through many agencies, most notably the NSA and FBI) is collecting nearly every email, text, chat, phone call, and web site surfed. This information is already being used in government prosecutions.
- Government officials lie to citizens with impunity. Citizens who lie to officials go to jail. (Ask Martha Stewart, and a thousand less-famous people.)
- You are physically tracked 24/7 by your cell phone and car license plates.
- Large corporations are helping the US government run the most complete surveillance state in the history of the world.
Is this is something you would agree to, if given an option?
Is this what you want your children or grandchildren to grow up in?
Do you think Thomas Jefferson would agree to this? Would Abraham or Moses support this? Would Jesus?
The first thing we have to do is to gain moral clarity: to be clear on the fact that this is morally wrong. Not legally wrong, but morally wrong.
Because if it is morally wrong, then it remains wrong, no matter how many high-and-mighty authorities proclaim it to be right.
In other words, you need to believe that morality is more important than legality, which is really the core of the Judeo-Christian ethic that underpins our society. (You can deny it if you want, but that doesn’t make it false.)
Once we are morally clear on this subject, the rest follows naturally. But you have to get clear on this, inside of yourself. Writers like me can provide you with facts, but no one can do your internal work for you.
So, do you think this is morally wrong? And if so, why?
Be clear about the answer to this question. It’s the starting point to the struggle for personal freedom.