Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Have Americans Become Too Blasé Over Their Civil Liberties?

"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives. Popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy -- or perhaps  both." – James Madison

Today over 100 million Americans will be snooped upon by an out of control gov't security state. This bunch will go through your emails, internet searches and may even go after credit card info without your permission or a search warrant. The Fourth Amendment to the Bill of Rights? Hell, that's a long lost memory....but ask most Americans if they even care, and they're only interested in checking their next cell message or doing a tweet.

Do Americans even know that in a recent vote, a proposed amendment to a FISA law to demand government at least ask permission before getting third party information on them was shot down? Only 12 Senators had the balls to stand up to this increasing invasion, which shows me (as a staunch member of the Guardians of Liberty section of the ACLU) just how indifferent they all are. All they care about is getting re-elected, they don't give a shit about the people's basic constitutional protections. Why should they, if the people themselves don't?

In an earlier blog, I noted David Lindorff's expose of how the Occupy movement was being spied upon, as he noted:

"federal, state and local officials from the FBI, the DHS and the many Fusion Centers and Joint Terrorism Task Force centers around the country were meeting with local financial institutions and their private security organizations to plot out a strategy for countering the Occupy Movement’s campaign"

I also noted the similarities of the above to the sinister "Total Information Awareness" (TIA) program - the brainchild of former admiral and Reagan National Security Advisor John Poindexter, up to his ears in the Iran Contra Conspiracy (though charged with seven felonies - they were all dropped on appeal thanks to a Reich Wing court) but determined to help the Civil liberties -destroying Bushies. Though the TIA was ordered shelved by congress in 2003, it is quite evident it's resurfaced under a new name. Uh....let's see, shall we call it "The Domestic Security Alliance Council"?

If you've read William Rivers Pitt's blog (linked to in my first New Year's day blog) you would see his reference to it, i.e.:

"Saturday, Naomi Wolf detailed how the savage nationwide crackdown on the Occupy Wall Street movement was coordinated with the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, local police...and a number of big banks. The information Wolf described in her article "shows a terrifying network of coordinated DHS, FBI, police, regional fusion center, and private-sector activity so completely merged into one another that the monstrous whole is, in fact one entity... the Domestic Security Alliance Council. And it reveals this merged entity to have one centrally planned, locally executed mission. The documents, in short, show the cops and DHS working for and with banks to target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens."

Do you want to know what else these people can do, who have our safety so much at heart? But who seem to forget the famous Ben Franklin quote: "Those who would sacrifice a temporary safety for liberty deserve neither liberty or safety."

How extensive are the intrusions, beyond say snatching your emails, Google searches etc.? A recent article ('Crosshairs')  appearing in Popular Mechanics documented the extent of it, and it's enough to make a real citizen puke at what we've lost.

For example, drive in any big city today, say Milwaukee, Minneapolis, San Francisco or New York, and the license plate of your vehicle will be scannned by an automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) device. It will then be logged into a database (probably for one of the 'fusion centers" of the same type set up to go after OWS protestors) then checked against police records for stolen cars and wanted criminals.

Allie Bohm, a privacy advocate for the American Civil Liberties Union quoted in the article notes:

"ALPRs tag each photo with the time, date and GPS location of the photograph. The police collect information not just about people suspected of crimes, but everyone in the camera's field of view. And they're storing all the data they collect - sometimes for years, sometimes pooling it in state and regional databases.

These systems are popping up everywhere in America; if the pace continues they will be on every single corner a decade from now, and will be the equivalent of monitoring every vehicle on the road with a GPS tracker."

And what are our illustrious reps doing about it? Not jack shit! They don't care. Hell, they've even approved miniature and larger drones to fly just outside your windows and gather information. Do we even care anymore, or are we too busy looking for the next great HDTV or X-box at Best Buy or Walmart? 

While it's true that the ALPS can be a device for the good, let's say in helping find missing persons, or fugitives, one must never forget the law of unintended consequences. Thus, the few good things the devices do are vastly outweighed by the covert nastiness of not knowing what else they're up to!  According to the PMech arrticle, "the Electronic Privacy Information Center discovered last year that U.S. Customs and Border Protection had shared license plate data collected on millions of vehicles at the Mexican and Canadian borders with insurance companies."

Meanwhile, we learn that "many police departments make their license plate reader databases available to the general public, opening up the possibility that private citizens can track each others travels with no oversight."

No biggie you say? What if a serial killer or stalker nutso were really determined to nail you?

Meanwhile, "over the past decade, vast networks of police surveillance cameras have also been trained on pedestrians in cities such as New York City, Baltimore, Detroit and Long Beach, CA."

Currently, these systems use "video analytics" to automatically alert authorities- on any "suspicious movements or behavior". You're a Bajan visiting the Big Apple for the first time and have brought your Caribbean habit of "liming" with you? Better watch it, buster, you will soon be in a fusion database ....maybe confused or conflated with a commie, dope pusher or possible T'errist!

The PMech article notes the authorities aren't satisfied with the current systems, however, and are pusing for more sophisticated facial recgonition technology that will ID faces in crowds as easy as the ALPR tags license plates.  The article goes on to note:

"As part of its $1 billion Next Generation Identification System, the FBI is currently testing facial recognition technology in Michigan and expects the system to be operational in 2014."

If it works well, look for many other locales to follow. It will be so easy then to tag and would be protestor and track him or her right back to the apartment or computer.

Oh, you don't worry because you just stay inside your apt. or dorm room and go on Facebook? Well according to the same article:

"Facebook recently allowed data-mining firm Datalogix to combine personal information from the social network's users with real world information Datalogix collects from brick and mortar stores - so all Facebook users can be tracked offline."

Let us all agree then, that we're in a "brave New world" of neverending spying and snooping. Our whore Senators and congress critters  (most of them ) have all sold us out, but they don't care....given they're part of the Neoliberal, Financial Huckster New World Order. All that matters is protecting the banksters, Wall Street operators and the gargantuan military industrial complex....from the likes of those terrible OWS protestors and certain Facebook users.

A free country with civil liberties? Hell, that was lost nearly 12 years ago, when most Americans - prompted by the Bushies Terror alert and color codes-  gave up all their liberties to shop! Now, so addicted are they to tax cuts, they won't even sacrifice those for the nation's betterment - though they expect assorted soldiers to die in no-name occupations that haven't even been paid for!


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