Thursday, August 1, 2013

Keith Alexander's Read The Constitution? Yeah, Right - And I've Seen Pigs Fly & Aliens Land!

At the so-called “Black Hat” (didn’t hear too many of them) Hacker convention in Las Vegas, in reply to some hecklers (“Read the Constitution!”) Gen. Keith B. Alexander insisted: “I did read it and so should you!”  At that point cheers erupted and one had to wonder what kind of crowd had really assembled as hackers – and how many were NSA plants. (Did the NSA scoop up emails indicating hecklers would appear? Hmmmm…..)

But the bottom line is that in light of the latest revelations on the NSA’s “XKeyscore” program – which according to files released by the UK Guardian:

  allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The NSA boasts in training materials that the program, called XKeyscore, is its "widest-reaching" system for developing intelligence from the internet.”

If Alexander HAD read the Constitution as he claims, there’d definitely be NO XKeyscore! Thus, since he definitely missed the memo on the Fourth Amendment, I cite it here for his educational benefit:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Note here, Gen. Alexander, that “secure in ONE’S person, papers, house, effects” implies privacy first and is 180 degrees contrary to indiscriminate. mass scooping of data without SPECIFIC warrants, issued according to specific  NAMES from a proper FISA court  (which vanished after the 1978 FISA law was re-done to comply with the Bush lawbreakers – so don’t hand me any BS about what congress did or didn’t do).  All such specific warrants, because they are specific – pertaining to particular house, particular papers, etc. must be issued per person. It can’t be via a mass assembly,  techno-engineered  “gobble up” – done by volume and without naming specific persons or reasons, or as one Guardian commenter put it: “The NSA would have us believe that it is right for them to have all our private information on hand 'just in case' we turn out to be criminals or terrorists

But “just in case,  to catch 'em later”-   doesn’t cut it (apart from the fact all citizens are to be presumed innocent under our so-called legal system)  The whole frickin’ idea of the 4th amendment was to make it difficult for government to barge into citizens’  personal belongings, homes and papers, effects – knowing that this presented the very thing the colonists who launched the American Revolution were trying to get away from.  

This is also why in a fascist dictatorship,. “personal effects” or “personal papers” have no meaning. The state, via tyrannical laws (i.e. the Enabling Act and Reich Laws in Nazi Germany) declares it has monopoly powers over every and anything that conceivably can affect the state. The latest excuse (in Nazi Germany it was “Jews”) is “Terrorists”.. They are the new boogey men, like “commies’ were in the 50s-60s.

In this milieu of the faceless total security state,  the citizen can have no privacy in his papers, effects or home whatsoever, because in the mind of the totalitarian paranoid: “What might he or she be concealing that affects the security of the state?” In this guise the state trumpets “security” which supersedes individual privacy and civil rights. The state can then seize anything, any papers or assorted effects it deems problematic, on the mere suspicion that they might compromise the state’s total hegemony. The fact the state has the capacity (technologically)  to do such, is also interpreted by the state as a license and necessity to do it – to preserve “safety”. ("How can we possibly forego such technology in our hands? For 4th amendment rights? Y'er kidding!")

Without the fundamental right of privacy enshrined in the 4th amendment, “personal papers, effects” have no meaning and  hence the 4th amendment is meaningless and I say by extension so is the entire constitution. It is clear to me from Alexander’s statement that he either regards the 4th amendment as a quaint anachronism – inhibiting his NSA from their super scoop operations, OR he regards that section of the Constitution as inapplicable. But if he does, then by extension he must regard the whole Constitution as “just a piece of paper” – because none of the other fine statements, proclamations  mean a damned thing without the basic right to privacy enshrined in the 4th amendment. What you have then is a kind of Potemkin constitution, a Potemkin nation and clearly, Potemkin Patriots.

Prof. Garry Wills has noted in his landmark book, A Necessary Evil-A History Of American Distrust Of Government, Simon & Schuster, 1999,', makes it abundantly clear why only the citizen has rights, not the government. He observes (p. 109):
“The Ninth Amendment talks of 'rights enumerated' and says 'the people' retain unenumerated ones. The rights in the Ninth are not the rights of the state, which can- strictly speaking - have no rights.

"Governments have prerogatives, people have rights - so Hamilton speaks of 'abridgments of prerogative' in the state to protect rights of citizens. What the Ninth says is that the rights enumerated as protected by The Constitution do not exhaust all rights inherent in a people. The states can retain powers, though not rights."

Hence, the term "state's rights" is bogus, in error. States (including the federal state) have prerogatives, not rights, because states exist as governmental entities not as persons-individuals.  It follows that the people then also have the unenumerated right to privacy. While said right isn’t specifically listed in the Constitution the Founders understood that as time went on new rights would emerge which they might not be able to think of (e.g. to health care). In terms of privacy, however, it is clear the language of the 4th amendment shows that privacy is presumed hence the Founders saw no need to elaborate it as a separate right.

We must conclude then that the the NSA, government mass surveillance as evidenced in PRISM and XKeyscore- with their de facto mass warrants (and specious courts that knee-jerk approved such), discloses a rejection not only of citizens’ fundamental right to privacy but any right to be secure in one’s person, papers, effects. So, screw the citizen, the gov’t has arrogated to itself the right to seize anything deemed personal or private once it’s within its purview – whether a phone record, an internet communication, email or whatever. And do it even in real time.

I think not only Gen. Alexander, but his entire outfit needs to read the Constitution again, particularly the Fourth Amendment (maybe write it all out 100 times as our elementary teachers made us do when we didn’t grasp a point.) Oh, and all those yahoos at the “Black Hat” Vegas convention that cheered at Alexander’s snarky riposte to the heckler? THEY need to do the same exercise!
See also the related Guardian story:

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