We here at Irregular Times have spent the first days of this year sounding the alarm about Barack Obama and the FISA Amendments Act. It’s not because we’re anti-Obama malcontents looking for something to be upset about. It’s because we’re pro-liberty, pro-Constitution, pro-independence, pro-individuality.
The ability to live a truly irregular life goes away when you know that someone is always watching you, or that there always could be someone watching you. That was one of the points of of the character Big Brother in George Orwell’s book 1984.
During George W. Bush’s term in office, we’ve noted the growth of an immense spy network. The military and the civilian federal government have cooperated with local law enforcement agencies to infiltrate and keep notes on peaceful political groups across America. The military has developed programs to encourage Americans to spy on their neighbors.
The Patriot Act has been used in the creation of National Security Letters demanding that private commercial databases, such as information about credit card use or even lists of books checked out of the library, be given to the government, and that the seizure of Americans’ private information remain secret. The widespread use of this power to search for information about people not known to have any links to terrorism, for purposes not at all related to anti-terrorism, has been documented.
The FBI has announced that it will allow agents to investigate people without any suspicion of criminal behavior, and that religion and ethnicity will be used as grounds for targeting. The Secretary of Homeland Security has been granted the power to completely ignore the laws of the United States within a long stretch of territory within the United States. The Director of National Intelligence has turned military spy satellites against us, authorizing them to watch American citizens within the United States instead foreign enemies overseas.
The government has developed technology to use Americans’ cell phones as bugs, using the phones’ microphones to listen in, even when the telephone is turned off. The government’s bugs have even grown wings, flying like insects with a particularly political curiosity, having been spotted hovering around protests in Washington D.C.
The worst of it is the FISA Amendments Act, a law that gave retroactive amnesty to telecommunications companies that helped the Bush White House spy against Americans. The FISA Amendments Act gives the Executive Branch the power to spy on whatever it wants whenever it wants, through electronic communications networks, and through physical entry into our homes and places of work. The FISA Amendments Act contains safeguards, as its defenders are quick to point out, but what the law’s defenders never point out is that the FISA Amendments Act gives Executive Branch officials the power to ignore those safeguards at whim and without having to explain why they are doing so. It all remains secret too, so that the government could be tracking you on the Internet or placing listening devices where you live and work, and you’d never know it.
Independent, corroborating evidence that the powers of the FISA Amendments Act are being used to spy on law-abiding Americans, and not just suspected terrorists, has now come from whistleblowers from within telecommunications corporations, the military and the National Security Agency. The government appears to be using its powers to resurrect the Total Information Awareness system, grabbing all the private communications and personal data from Americans that it can.
This is not a partisan issue. There were faltering attempts to establish a more limited version of Total Information Awareness under President Bill Clinton, and now under Barack Obama, the spying is continuing.
Yes, you read that right. President Barack Obama is continuing the Big Brother spying programs. He, and his Attorney General, and his Director of National Intelligence have said that they want to keep the powers of the FISA Amendments Act. As a senator, Barack Obama even voted in favor of approving the FISA Amendments Act in the first place.
Think – have you read anything in the last week indicating that President Obama is ending even one of George W. Bush’s programs to spy against the American people? You may have assumed that Obama is undoing these programs, because he seems like such a nice guy, but all evidence is to the contrary.
All this is a matter of public record. Look back through what we’ve written over the years, and you’ll find it all – sourced, even. Yet, you could probably gather all the Americans who are researching and writing about this problem into someone’s living room – and almost none of them would be professional journalists.
There’s ample opportunity for Americans to read about these problems too, but they’re not. As we’ve been trying to do our part here at Irregular Times to sound a warning about the continuation of the government’s massive spy programs against the American people, we’ve found that most of the response we get is no response at all.
Most Americans seem to believe in a government of people, not of laws. They were outraged, not so much by George W. Bush’s crimes and unconstitutional acts, but by George W. Bush himself. Now that Barack Obama is President, they presume that things will get better, because Obama has a compelling personal narrative. They forget how much they loved George W. Bush at first, too. No President has enjoyed popularity ratings as high as those that George W. Bush enjoyed.
As you ought to have noticed, I find Americans’ focus on who the President is, rather than what the President does, to be intensely irritating. For the moment, however, let’s indulge Americans’ tendency to follow politics as if it were a story on Entertainment Tonight. Perhaps you like Barack Obama. Perhaps you trust Obama. Perhaps you think that Obama has so much integrity that he can never do wrong.
What about the next President? Will you be able to trust the next President, you know, the one that comes after Barack Obama? If Barack Obama does not dismantle the Big Brother spying apparatus during his presidency, he will pass that apparatus on to someone else – someone that you might not feel as inclined to trust.
America once had a system of government in which the people depended upon having trust in their leaders. Under that system, America was ruled by a king. Many Americans seem to be craving that kind of system again.
This is the warning that Americans are not in the mood to hear. I think that we’ve done all that we can here at Irregular Times to sound the warning in a way that ought to make the threat clear, if people care about things like the rights they are guaranteed under the Constitution. I am sad to say that I’ve seen little reason to believe that Americans do care very much about the Constitution.
There’s nothing more to say about this, and so for now, there’s nothing more I will say. I’ll come back to this topic, because it’s going to continue to be of central importance in the way we live and what our nation becomes, but for now, my hand is tired of ringing the bell in a crowd of people with earbuds firmly implanted, listening to Kelly Clarkson singing her new #1 song on their MP3 players: My Life Would Suck Without You.