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Weissman writes: "Crying wolf rarely pays in the long run. Not for Washington's never ending war on terror. And not for those of us trying to build a progressive opposition that people can trust to rebuild a free and decent society."

The Constitution. (photo: UIG/Getty Images)
The Constitution. (photo: UIG/Getty Images)


Beating Big Brother With Constitutional Kryptonite

By Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News

12 August 13

 

rying wolf rarely pays in the long run. Not for Aesop's little shepherd boy and his runaway sheep. Not for Washington's never ending war on terror. And not for those of us trying to build a progressive opposition that people can trust to rebuild a free and decent society. "Nobody believes a liar," as Aesop put it. "Even when he's telling the truth."

Lying outright is only part of our mystification. United States officials who shut down 22 embassies and consulates across North Africa and the Middle East might well have believed that al Qaeda was coming, just as many truthers believe what they say when they tell us unequivocally that al Qaeda never existed or was merely the creation of Dick Cheney, the CIA, and Mossad - the same bunch that staged or enabled the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon and Twin Towers, as truthers see the world.

Subgroups along this immense ideological spectrum cherish their own special beliefs, their own way to frame significant questions, and - contrary to Daniel Patrick Moynihan's admonition - their own facts. They also, to their credit, poke well-deserved holes in the arguments of the others, whether in official U.S. government reports, the mainstream media, or best-selling books and widely viewed websites with alternative "truths."

Whatever our political leanings, professional journalists who are not embedded in any of the established camps or anti-establishment outposts try our best to remain skeptical of them all. But there's no way to tell a story without unintentionally assuming facts or using turns of phrase that some readers will see as a dead giveaway of one terrible bias or another. So, in the interest of greater transparency, let me confess my own strongly-held prejudices as they relate to closed embassies and Big Brother surveillance.

Influenced as a novice by the journalism of I.F. Stone, I continue to believe that all governments lie as part of their job description. The most calculated lying comes from their intelligence services, whose daily work includes shaping public perceptions. I watched all this at Ramparts, the New Left monthly that helped destroy the CIA's postwar network of front groups, and I then worked closely with former CIA operations officer Phil Agee, actively exposing the Company's officers and operations. My wife Anna and I remained close friends of Phil's, though I publicly disagreed with him about his sympathy for Cuba and the Soviet Union.

Like other journalists in the field, I sometimes followed leads that I got directly or through cut-outs from various branches of U.S., British, French, and Israeli intelligence. But I kept myself honest - and drove the spooks to distraction - by refusing to run anything they told me unless my team and I could confirm it through our own investigations. I also lost the best television job I ever had because British intelligence could not figure out which agency I worked for - the FBI, CIA, KGB, or Mossad. I never worked for any of them, or any other, but the Brits apparently believed I was so skilled in my spy craft that I left absolutely no evidence of the clandestine ties they were certain I had.

This jaded background might help explain why I can't help laughing at how clumsy the Obama administration has been in its latest effort to rehabilitate the National Security Agency. Whistleblower Edward Snowden and journalist Glenn Greenwald are still revealing how the NSA spies on us all at home and abroad. But the two deadliest wounds so far have been their documented exposé of how the NSA massively and unconstitutionally spies on American citizens who have nothing at all to do with terrorism or any other alleged crime, and how the Obama administration has hidden all this from effective Congressional oversight.

To counter these charges, Washington somehow chose to dramatize how the NSA protects us from possible terrorist attacks by monitoring the communications - not of innocent Americans - but of suspected al Qaeda terrorists in North Africa and the Middle East. According to an official leak that will never face prosecution, U.S. intelligence intercepted direct communications between Nasir al-Wuhayshi, head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in Yemen, and al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahari, who gave "clear orders" to carry out an attack.

"Al Qaeda is on the rise in this part of the world and the NSA program is proving its worth yet again," the ever-ready?? Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told CNN's "State of the Union."

 

"This a good indication of why they're so important," agreed Senator Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Both senators went on to warn that any reform of the NSA could put the country at risk. As CBS News headlined their story, "Hawks use terror threat to defend NSA surveillance."

Critics in Congress immediately saw the sham. What did an overseas intercept have to do with the bulk surveillance that the NSA is conducting within the United States? But most senators and representatives remained wary. Crying wolf and 9/11 fear mongering do work in the short run. The clearest exception was the principled Tea Party Republican Justin Amash, who in late July had joined with Liberal Democrat John Conyers to introduce an amendment that would have severely limited NSA surveillance authority.

The recent terror threats proved the need to safeguard - not infringe upon - Americans' privacy rights, Amash told Fox News. "It's precisely because we live in this dangerous world that we need protections like the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution," he said. "The framers of the Constitution put it in place precisely because they were worried you'd have national security justifications for violating people's rights."

From the beginning of this debate in June, I have argued that we should reject as horse feathers any effort to balance freedom and security. The reason is obvious: "Once we empower government to balance our freedoms against the threat it poses to them, the national security bureaucrats and their helpers in the police and intelligence services will have won. Game over! We lose yet again and our freedoms become even more marginal to any meaningful exercise of democratic power."

Amash takes a different tack, but credits the framers of the Constitution with similar reasoning in writing the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. "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."

Activists on the Left proudly recited the free speech and free press provisions of the First Amendment even before the founding of the American Civil Liberties Union. Not to sound too revolutionary, I think the time has now come for us to join Amash and others in the Tea Party in proclaiming the virtues of the Fourth Amendment. It is our Bill of Rights, too, and as the NSA knows, guaranteed protection against unreasonable searches and seizures is Constitutional Kryptonite that could destroy Big Brother's surveillance state.



Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

 

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+3 # Walter J Smith 2013-08-12 06:57
Yes, "...the time has now come for us to join Amash and others in the Tea Party in proclaiming the virtues of the Fourth Amendment. It is our Bill of Rights, too, and...."

And we should dismiss as horse feathers such windy rhetoric as: "...as the NSA knows, guaranteed protection against unreasonable searches and seizures is Constitutional Kryptonite that could destroy Big Brother's surveillance state."

To suppose a culture now owning upwards of 55% of the official US budget can be dismissed with just another cat fight about the Constitution is to radically overestimate the hold the Constitution holds on us all; it is also to radically underestimate the power of the very unofficially & well-funded lobby of that very same national insecurity state.

Be well, and good luck plucking the horse feathers.
 
 
+10 # dickbd 2013-08-12 12:58
I agree. The CIA and other intelligence agencies have become a secret government within our legitimate government--whi ch is too secretive itself for my preferences!

Secrecy is certainly the enemy of a legitimate democracy, and Truman did us no favors when he established the CIA and put the country on a permanent war-time footing.
 
 
+27 # fiddler1 2013-08-12 07:09
Amen! I'm not a Tea Party fan, but even a broken clock is right twice a day. If we don't start standing up, my fear is we won't be (legally) able to. A scary thought.
 
 
+13 # Milarepa 2013-08-12 07:36
Good luck with the Kryptonite, sir.
 
 
+12 # Roger Kotila 2013-08-12 08:07
I fully agree with Mr. Weissman's analysis except I have proposed that we must take it a step further on the grounds that we have already "lost" America. Our Constitution is not being enforced. Why? There are no more checks and balances. All 3 branches of government are corrupted.

There's nowhere to go with a corrupt Congress, corrupt Executive branch, and an ideologically reactionary Supreme Court.

So what to do? In "America's Secret Surveillance Empire Exposed: A violation of the Earth Constitution?" (June 27, 2013)at www.dwfed.org I argue that we must now move to a higher level of activism beyond trying to "fix America" -- a critical goal that is growing increasingly difficult without outside help and a more powerful set of strategies.

The Earth Federation Movement's Earth Constitution shows a path that gives activists a new tool to combat the fascism that has captured America. It is a strategy that recognizes that our loss of "inalienable rights" will require a worldwide response if we are to overcome the power of Big Money, multinational corporate rule, and secret agencies.

The flawed United Nations Charter renders the UN helpless in a situation like this. The EFM's Earth Constitution deserves careful study by activists as a new tool available immediately. See www.earthfederation.info for Earth Federation News & Views.
 
 
-18 # MidwesTom 2013-08-12 08:10
One of the idiotic results of the war on terror and our new no secret society is absolutely no profiling. By allowing Muslims in grow in our midst, we have introduced into our society a culture totally alien to our Judaeo Christian understanding of societal rules and obligations.

My experience in Nigeria, where the southern 2/3 of the country is overwhelmingly Christian, convinces me that once Muslims become somewhere around 20% to 30% of the population in a particular area they want their rules, which are drastically different from ours. If they do not get their way they initiate a terror campaign. Witness Nigeria, Sudan, India, China, Russia, all places where Muslims are fighting. Last week there was a video of a Syrian Rebel Commander cutting the heart out of a dead Government soldier and eating it. The Administration may back the Rebels, but I do not think that the American people would if they saw the video.
 
 
+6 # Capro-Lupo 2013-08-12 17:03
Much, Islam is a crazy, oppressive, intrusive, violent religion. But its Sufi version is not. And many Muslims behave reasonably & peaceably.

Mohamed, himself, would decry much of modern Islam, which is travesty of Mohamed's teachings and his actual way of life. He would embrace the way of the Sufi sect.

But Christianity, too, is crazy, oppressive, intrusive, violent religion. Zionist Orthodox Judaism, Zionist non-Orthodox Judaism, and non-religious Zionism also are crazy, oppressive, intrusive, and violent.

All religions, religious rules, and religious moralities are pathological. Shall we banish or imprison 98% of humanity — despite many religion-believ ers cause little or no harm notwithstanding their belief?

Ultimately, your perspective's flaw is its huge & dangerous over-generaliza tion (concerning Muslims) & bias that blinds you against the very troublous realities of Christian behavior (& likely that of Zionists, too).

Righteously, the French bemoan the huge growth of France's Muslim population, many members of which sully French culture, sap French economy, spread crime, and impair the French way of life. But the French see that France caused much of the problem by invading & occupying Islamic lands & that France cannot afford an alternative crazy stupidity that would harm unjustifiably a large, decent segment of France's Muslim population to remedy the problems caused by the delinquent Muslim segment.
 
 
+3 # reiverpacific 2013-08-12 18:43
Quoting MidwesTom:
One of the idiotic results of the war on terror and our new no secret society is absolutely no profiling. By allowing Muslims in grow in our midst, we have introduced into our society a culture totally alien to our Judaeo Christian understanding of societal rules and obligations.

My experience in Nigeria, where the southern 2/3 of the country is overwhelmingly Christian, convinces me that once Muslims become somewhere around 20% to 30% of the population in a particular area they want their rules, which are drastically different from ours. If they do not get their way they initiate a terror campaign. Witness Nigeria, Sudan, India, China, Russia, all places where Muslims are fighting. Last week there was a video of a Syrian Rebel Commander cutting the heart out of a dead Government soldier and eating it. The Administration may back the Rebels, but I do not think that the American people would if they saw the video.

I've already responded to your various exemplification s of Nigeria in your recent posts with the phrase"Remember Ken-Sarawewo"? Hung with other journalists with compliance -even urged- by Shell oil, for his exposure of their corrupt practices and environmental destruction.
This just serves to illustrate the anger generated by almost two centuries of scorched-earth colonialism but they are hardly less barbaric than the government-inst igated results of Shell Oil's infestation.
The American people- Pah -they don't give a fuck!
 
 
+15 # jky1291 2013-08-12 08:27
Sunday morning's broadcast of "Face The Nation" would have gotten an enthusiastic "Sieg Heil!" from Joseph Goebbels for following his doctrine of keep telling a lie often until it becomes the truth. It was a masterful presentation of disingenuous propaganda and misinformation fully designed to placate the undiscerning public into trusting our government and instilling fear of terrorists, who in fact are far less dangerous to us than is our corporate controlled government. They continue to ignore the 45,000 who die every year for lack of health insurance, while wasting our tax dollars debating the efficacy of "Obamacare", when they should have implemented Improved Medicare For All single payer health care financing in the first place. But, they had to sweep that under the rug in less than a week and arrest those that might bring it to their attention in the Senate Finance Committee because it had so much support that they were afraid it might diminish the obscene profits of their corporate campaign contributors while providing really affordable high quality health care to everyone in this last civilized industrialized country in the world that does not already enjoy that "privilege". But, what would we expect with corporate media controlling and delivering the message?
 
 
+8 # tswhiskers 2013-08-12 08:34
I have been concerned about far right Reps. since Bush II because they have made increasingly clear their anti-democratic biases. Unfortunately the Bush II Admin. left in place several anti-democratic institutions (e.g. the FISA court) which Obama has continued to use and strengthen. Unfortunately also, most of us will decry the loss of our privacy and other freedoms until they again come under attack and more Americans die. Then, many, incl. the press, will scream and bellow that the Govt. has not adequately protected citizens and want more protection, they may even support NSA spying at that point. I urge all Americans to think hard and to decide if they are willing to pay the price for living in a free society. As adult Americans we should all be aware that freedom and safety are often antithetical to each other. As technology has increased we have already lost some of that freedom at least since the invention of the telephone; and a great deal more will be lost as the use of cellphones, ipods, blackberries, et al. grows. There again, convenience and comfort have assailed our freedom without a murmur of dissent. Now we can all be tracked, anything can be heard and downloaded to the NSA or other similar organizations. Before you decide to buy the latest gadget, THINK! Perhaps we could all do with fewer comforts and conveniences.
 
 
+6 # reiverpacific 2013-08-12 08:37
Trouble with the analogy between the Constitution and "Kryptonite" (Superman's nemesis, right?), is that the tiny little clause "upon probable cause" in the 1V Amendment is very open to interpretation by the rulers.
And like that fictitious villainous genius Lex Luthor, 'they' will find a way to manipulate any little weak spot to their advantage, as ol' Lex found a way to bring the big hero in contact with with the only stuff that could kill him (but at least Luthor was smart).
I'm not poo-pooing the author -just getting ever more cynical as the constitution is violated and manipulated almost weekly by those who would maintain their tight grip on the steering wheel of military-indust rial power.
 
 
+8 # SundownLF 2013-08-12 09:34
Please explain why there is such rabid 'defense' of the 2nd Amendment, while the 1st and the 4th are largely ignored.
 
 
+6 # jky1291 2013-08-12 10:36
Because, unfortunately, it is becoming less and less unimaginable that the continued privilege of exercising our 1st and 4th Amendment Rights may come to totally depend on our 2nd Amendment Right.
 
 
+10 # jwb110 2013-08-12 09:59
The strange bedfellows of politics are going to totally change the face of political parties in the US. People who would never consider a TParty approach may rally around issues like right to privacy and freedom of the press. This could be the beginning of a third party to a system broken by both the Dems and the GOP.
 
 
0 # Capro-Lupo 2013-08-12 10:17
To: Steve Weissman, writer of "Beating Big Brother With Constitutional Kryptonite"

You spent many silent days and abundant words and much rambling, prolix syntax to reach your article's grey dawn enlightenment.

Compare, instead, this Tuesday, 06 August 2013 article:

DRAG-NET ELECTRONIC SURVEILLANCE & OBAMA'S AL QAEDA GAME, http://readersupportednews.org/pm-section/31-31/18784-drag-net-electronic-surveillance-a-obamas-al-qaeda-game
 
 
+5 # RobertMStahl 2013-08-12 11:12
Free Barrett Brown

&

Where is Indira Singh?

Ever read Paul Craig Roberts

Strange bedfellows, those journalists who deny there is a message, much less a messenger. Without the first amendment, what hope does the fourth have?

Besides, there is history to consider, the history of learning, such as what Barrett Brown put in his last video, totally incriminating evidence that they are using in a corrupt legal system. It, surely, would be good if you defended that one at this moment, this cusp of time, for humanity and ecology, if not for the individual.

Then again, I am sure you do not know that 'they' put a gag order on the proceedings for BB's trial. Guess who is sailing with the pirates?
 
 
+1 # EternalTruth 2013-08-12 15:26
Yay fourth amendment!

Boo surveillance state!

WTF is up with straw-man Truther bashing?!
 
 
0 # Rick Levy 2013-08-12 17:42
Climb into bed with the Tea Party? If you lie down with dogs you get up with fleas.
 

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