Aug 6, 2013

Further Updates From Your Surveillance State

Our march toward an omnipresent surveillance society continues, with the government and intelligence community doing everything they can to make sure their power to spy and eavesdrop on Americans continues, despite what American citizens want.

TSA Mission Creep

If you're passing through train stations, sports stadiums or bus stations you may find yourself being questioned by a branch of the TSA called VIPR (Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response). Agents wearing bulletproof vests are wandering through the crowd, pulling some people aside for questioning, searching bags, purses and back packs, all without probable cause or due process. Have these efforts ever stopped or uncovered any terror plots? The TSA won't say, citing, conveniently, the need for secrecy.

What happens if you do not consent to a search, or answer the agents' questions? Can you be arrested? Detained? Under what charge? From The New York Times:

"T.S.A. officials respond that the random searches are “special needs” or “administrative searches” that are exempt from probable cause because they further the government’s need to prevent terrorist attacks."
This rationale gives the TSA a huge amount of power. Who's making sure citizens' rights are being respected? Read the article HERE.

NSA Withholds Information From Congress

The NSA's defenders have said over and over again that there is oversight of their surveillance programs: by Congress. Members of Congress are keeping tabs on the NSA to make sure they are operating within the law.

Except this is a blatant lie.

As The Guardian (and numerous other publications) reports, Congress has been denied information it has asked for by the NSA. Information requests have been rebuffed and ignored. Without access to information, Congress cannot do its job. This arrogance is exactly why the NSA needs to be reined in, why its unchecked power needs to be scaled back. Read the story about this HERE. 

"If You Don't Have Anything To Hide, You've Got Nothing To Fear"

One of the refrains Americans have been fed by the government (and the police, for that matter) is that hey - if you don't have anything to hide, then you don't have anything to fear. So relax, these programs only affect terrorists, not you. 

This is severely faulty logic that conveniently allows our rights to be marginalized in the relentless effort to combat "terrorism", in whatever form it takes. The ACLU has a good essay about why this reasoning is so flawed. An excerpt:

The "nothing to hide" argument also has things backwards when it suggests that we are all worthy of suspicion until proven otherwise. Our system of justice treats us all as innocent until proven guilty. That applies in everyday life – when the government wants to spy on our daily activities and private conversations – as much as it applies in court. The state bears the burden of showing there is a good reason for suspicion, not the other way around. The refrain "nothing to hide" should not be a license for sweeping government surveillance.
Read the full essay HERE. It's a good read, and serves to remind us again that in order to protect the rights we have, we have to know how to stand up for them. 

Finally, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has a list of steps that need to be taken to reform the NSA's outrageous abuse of its authority given to it by the Patriot Act. Another good read, check it out HERE. 

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