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writing for godot

Surveillance State Prepares for the Revolution

Written by Michael Potash   
Wednesday, 12 September 2012 04:57
Who was monitoring my computer as I wrote this article? Who is aware that you have it on your computer screen now and to what list have you been added for accessing it? Why are your emails, Facebook activities, text messages, financial transactions and other personal information being monitored, analyzed and stored in government data storage facilities? Were you ever a target of the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program? How would you know? Frank Church, A U.S. senator and chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations from 1979 to 1981 spoke about the unchecked powers of the NSA, giving this prescient warning in a written report:

“The National Security Agency’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American People and no American would have any privacy left [...] There would be no place to hide. If a dictator takes over the United States, the NSA could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.”

Mr. Church, that day has come. Wrapped in the façade of the ‘War on Terror’, an Orwellian surveillance state already exists in the U.S. – developed not to deal with the threat of rogue Islamist terrorists, but a steadily growing body of U.S. citizens – jobless, homeless, disenfranchised, disillusioned, heavily indebted, poor, and hopeless - for whom the failed state is our own.

Since the Bush administration, the NSA has been engaged in exactly the thing Senator Church warned against, supported by a conscripted telecom industry with full prosecutorial immunity. A New York Times article from 2010 informed us that the Obama administration was introducing legislation “to mandate that all services that enable communication, including encrypted e-mail transmitters like Blackberry, social networking, websites like Facebook, and software that allows direct pure-messaging like Skype, be designed to ensure government surveillance.” Since then, the proposed monitoring has been well implemented.

But the surveillance state does not stop at verbal communication. Video cameras are now widely deployed in all kinds of public and private spaces, allegedly for our own good. Maybe you’re sympathetic to the NYPD’s secret surveillance of Moslem American citizens in New Jersey (None suspected of anything.) You may be less sympathetic to this: During the 2004 Republican National Convention, the NYPD archived thousands of hours of video surveillance capturing Americans doing nothing more than exercising their First Amendment right to free speech. Many of the images were subsequently published by the New York Times as an “unofficial archive of police videotapes”. Anyone caught on video could easily wind up on the NYPD’s ‘watch list’ and have their image incorporated into a COINTELPRO – type dossier. Since then, the FBI has announced the Next Generation Identification Program (NGI), set to be deployed in 2014. The system will integrate facial recognition with other biometric data such as DNA, iris scans, and voice recognition to enable them to identify ANYONE, even in a crowd, wherever they go. Won’t they have to arrest you to obtain a mug shot? No. They have access to your driver’s license photo as well as the photo on your Facebook account. Of course, you’ll be unaware of these activities as they’ll be conducted in secret – unless they arrest you. Should that happen, there is now legal precedent for you to be stripped of your constitutional rights on the government’s say-so. No Habeas Corpus, no charges, no trial, no due process. You can be taken off the streets without as much as a phone call to your spouse. You can be passed off to another government to be tortured via a process euphemistically called “extraordinary rendition’. Actually, at the president’s discretion, you can even be killed – but that’s unlikely so don’t worry.

Perhaps you think this is all speculative – a hyperbolic illustration of what could happen. Take the example of Maher Arar, a telecom engineer with dual Canadian and Syrian citizenship who lives in Canada. In 2002, Arar was detained at JFK airport in New York on his way back to Canada from a family vacation in Tunis. The U.S. held him in solitary confinement for two weeks without charges and without access to a lawyer. From there, he was rendered to Syria where he was tortured and held for a year until he was eventually released to Canada. The Syrian government eventually admitted that Arar was guilty of nothing. The Canadian government agreed and settled the matter out of court for $10.5 million and a formal apology for the Canadian role in the matter.

Even if we ignore the fact that the surveillance apparatus defiles our constitution, we are compelled to ask: Why, especially in this era of cost-cutting, is the U.S. government spending billions of our tax dollars following us around and monitoring everything we say and do? We’ll be reminded about the terrorist attacks of September 11th and told that all this is necessary to identify and disrupt terrorist plots. But does this argument hold water? There were a few authentic terrorist plots. Those were well-begun and foiled only when they were blatantly botched by their inept perpetrators. They would include the ‘Underwear Bomber’, the ‘Shoe Bomber’, and the guy with the smoking truck in Times Square. And then, there were all the rest; following the same pattern of contrivance and entrapment by law enforcement. The basic recipe is always the same: Find an individual who’s angry at the U.S. government (gee, that’s a short list!). The subject should be pliable – perhaps not having all his screws tightened down. Suggest a plot to him. This will be necessary since he’ll have none of his own when you approach him. He’ll also be completely without resources to actually conduct a terrorist plot so you’ll have to be helpful. Suggest a plot that’s really ghastly for maximum effect on the public psyche. This will require materials and expertise that he doesn’t possess so again, you’ll have to be helpful. Provide ersatz explosive devices and assign the rube a function. “Take these and stand under the bridge”. Blam! You’ve disrupted another terrorist plot and scored another victory for the good ol’ U.S. of A.

Of course, when your trade is national security, you always have an ‘out’. Should anyone have the audacity to ask “Where’s the beef!?” you can always reply: “We foiled 4 terrorist plots just this morning – but we can’t discuss it – you know - secret.” Such plots, real or imagined, fuel the argument for the continued expansion of the surveillance state. One might also point out that we are kept in fear by the same corporations that profit from the sale of security systems, which is true. G.E. owns NBC and also makes airport passenger screening equipment. Heard any good news on NBC lately? But really, this goes far beyond creating a windfall for the manufacturers of security technology. Something very disturbing is going on here and recent events in Austin Texas provide some insight.

On December 12th 2011, members of Occupy Austin joined in solidarity with other protestors to block a street entrance to the Port of Huston by making a human chain. One of the Occupy members suggested and provided the hardware to implement something called a ‘Sleeping Dragon’ – a system of PVC pipe allowing people to chain their hands together within. As it turns out, the facilitating member (1.) was an infiltrator – an under-cover police detective from the Austin P.D. without whom the ‘Sleeping Dragon’ would have not materialized, and, (2.) The apparatus constitutes what is known as a ‘criminal instrument’ – classifying the protestor’s actions as felonious. As with the aforementioned terror plot cases; a criminal situation was created and then maximized by law enforcement – in this case, to inflict maximum damage on people in the non-violent Occupy movement. Why?

Let’s examine the police-to-protestor ratio at two similar classes of events: Tea Party protests and Occupy protests. We’ll enhance the illustration by considering only the Tea Party protests to which members came armed. There is no equivalence for the Occupy protests as none of the participants are ever known to be armed. In most if not all of the Tea Party protests, there was forewarning that protestors would be carrying weapons. It is striking that at the armed protests, dozens of Tea party members are overseen with all the intensity of mommies at a playground by scant numbers of law enforcement. When Occupy gathers in a constitutionally protected expression of free speech, armed with nothing more lethal than a sign, the police to protestor ratio at times has been greater than 1 to 1 – More police than protestors! Clearly, our corporate establishment harbors both fear and resentment of the Occupy movement. On several occasions, they have also demonstrated a willingness to license lawless violence by police to suppress it.

This is actually not a new phenomenon. During the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, the police response to about 10,000 street protestors opposing the Vietnam War was to riot. That’s right – not contain a riot, but to riot themselves – resulting in a pitched street brawl between themselves and protestors. Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley commented: “The police are not here to create disorder; they’re here to preserve disorder.” Apple Corporation, in recognizing an increasing propensity for police to behave this way, decided it was an opportunity to profit. They have now developed technology to allow police to block wireless devices from transmitting audio, still images, or video from wireless devices. The need for such technology is self-evident. If police PLAN to violate the law as well as PLAN to characterize their behavior as a necessary response to protestors, they sure as Hell won’t want anybody disseminating evidence to the contrary in real time – inviting further scrutiny by the mass media. There are already laws in place prohibiting people from making cell phone recordings of police doing police work. ‘Nuff said.

We, as citizens, have to understand something that never occurs to most people. When we read “To Protect and Serve” on the side of a police cruiser, we assume that they mean ‘us’. In most cases, it does – but only when we assume the role of the protected class. But what happens when, in the exercise of your constitutionally protected right to free speech, or, in an act of peaceful civil disobedience, you happen to be in opposition to the protected class? That’s when you get a real lesson in civics! Police, as all militias, follow orders. That’s the nature of the beast. They would entropy into chaos if they did not. Therefore, one must ask: “From whom do they ultimately take their orders?” The ultimate authority over police is generally the mayor, or perhaps, the governor. In the case of the nation’s armed forces, it’s the president. True; mayors, governors, and presidents are elected by the citizenry. But whom do they represent? It’s not the Occupy protestors; nor the vast majority of Americans lately termed ‘The 99%’. That’s not saying interests never intersect – they often do. But when there’s a parting of the ways, the rights of ordinary citizens take a back seat to the demands of those who call the shots to mayors, governors, and presidents - those we now call ‘The 1%’. And the 1% is justifiably getting more concerned and more defensive every day. This directly relates to the current state of Capitalism – particularly in the United States.

Unfortunately, there are inherent contradictions and obstacles to Capitalism which are unavoidable. Let it suffice that Capitalism is crisis-prone and that we’re experiencing such a crisis right now – a severe one. Further, as is never explained to the public, the exponential growth required by Capitalism to function is reaching practical limits which are proving insurmountable. The system is reaching the end of the rainbow and no one has a fix. The need for Capitalism to minimize labor costs and for consumers to have the buying power necessary to consume the fruits of production is a contradiction. Labor power is now purchased overseas where costs are markedly lower. Doing so creates a glut of idle labor and depressed salaries at home. That, combined with the loss of wealth from the stock market and real estate crashes, as well as a high degree of personal debt, has choked consumer demand. With a diminished call for goods and services, there’s little motivation to produce, little fuel to create jobs. The economy is in a quagmire and, along with it, capitalistic functioning. Low demand, low production, low employment – a vicious cycle. What’s a capitalist to do!?

Actually; although labor is in the doldrums, the pinnacle of the capitalist class, which vehemently rejects any and all obligations to this country, is doing exceptionally well. Their crimes and blunders have been paid for by the rest of us. Also, as true Capitalism is floundering, the real money is being made not by producing goods and services, but by ‘playing with money’ – derivatives, collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps, and other financial shenanigans, all guaranteed by the American taxpayer. The other method of maximizing their returns is to levy the costs of as much as possible onto the backs of the middle class. As Vladimir Lenin said: “There is no crisis that capitalists can’t get out of if the working class is willing to pay for it.”. Witness the assault in full-swing right now attacking labor, safety regulations, Social Security and Medicare, Head Start, low-cost education, and every other hard-won achievement that created the middle class. The oligarchs behind this assault have no instinct for moderation. They have witnessed Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria. They’ve seen the upheaval in Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain. They recall the Watts Rebellion in 1965, the Rodney King reaction in 1991 and watched Wisconsin and Chicago this year. And, though the corporate-owned media don’t cover it, there have been Occupy events every day since its inception on September 17th, 2011. The conditions for producing a second American Revolution are quickly amassing and that trajectory is continuing with ferocity and determination.

Which brings us back to the surveillance state. While the Bush administration used the 9/11 attacks to trample the U.S. constitution and create the modern surveillance state, the Obama administration not only preserved the most egregious violations, but introduced even more unconstitutional and draconian surveillance measures. Habeas Corpus has not yet been restored. The FISA court continues to facilitate warrantless eavesdropping on American citizens. The Authorization for Military Force against Terrorists resolution allows the president to have anyone killed that he declares a terrorist. Who is a terrorist? That would include anyone killed by the U.S. military – their innocence only arguable post-mortem. It includes the resurrection of the 1917 Espionage Act to silence whistleblowers pointing to horrific abuses of the U.S. government including its misuse of the military. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that allows virtually anyone to be picked up, stripped of their rights, and held indefinitely in military detention is currently being contested in the courts. First, you’re spied on, then, if the government decides you have any chance of effectively challenging the system, you disappear. Who is really attacking and destroying the United States? As John Dewey pointed out; Politics is only the shadow cast upon society by big business. Corporate America is the seat of power and commands every government body to further its interests and solidify its position.

The current political realities point only to very dire outcomes. Revolutions can occur peacefully but often do not. Absent a revolution, the U.S. will continue down a path toward neo-feudalism. Regarding the Arab Spring; No one could have predicted that the self-immolation of a street vender in Tunisia would send an entire region into revolt. So it will be in the United States. No one knows what the threshold of abuse is or when it will be crossed. The Oligarchs are well aware of this reality and are preparing using all known tactics and applying the latest technology to their cause. They want to know every thought you have; every place you go; everyone with whom you associate; every plan you make – anything that might impede their complete consumption and domination of American society or threaten their position within it. Personally, I’m sorry that this is the path we’ve been put on. As citizens, we have a vote but no voice. In the most powerful country in the world, we ourselves have been rendered powerless. We wield the skills of negotiation only to deal with an oligarchy that knows no compromise. We used to fear being consumed by the outsider. As it turns out, we will have to summon all of our resources, all of our wit, all of our perseverance, and all of our courage if we wish to resist being consumed by those we number as our own.

“Totalitarian systems always begin by rewriting the law. They make legal what was once illegal. Crimes become patriotic acts. The defence of freedom and truth becomes a crime. […] And it is always done in the name of national security. We obey the new laws as we obeyed the old laws, as if there was no difference. And we spend our energy and our lives appealing to a dead system.”

- Chris Hedges your social media marketing partner
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