“Th[e National Security Agency's] capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. [If a dictator ever took over, the N.S.A.] could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.“
That dramatic warning comes not from an individual who is typically held up as a symbol of anti-government paranoia. Rather, it was issued by one of the most admired and influential politicians among American liberals in the last several decades: Frank Church of Idaho, the 4-term U.S. Senator who served from 1957 to 1981.
Whether a country is actually free is determined not by how well-rewarded its convention-affirming media elites are and how ignored its passive citizens are but by how it treats its dissidents, those posing authentic challenges to what the government does. The stories of the three Democracy Now guests (4-part special )— and so many others — provide that answer loudly and clearly.
Two Obama-loyal Democratic Senators — Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado — have spent two full yearswarning that the Obama administration is “interpreting” its spying powers under the Patriot Act in ways so “twisted” and broad that it would shock the American public if it learned of what was being done, and have even been accusing the DOJ and Attorney General Holder of actively misleading the public in material ways about its spying powers (unlike brave whistleblowers who have risked their own interests to bring corruption and illegality to the public’s attention — Binney, Drake, Bradley Manning, etc — Wyden and Udall have failed to tell the public about this illegal spying (even though they could do so on the Senate floor and be immune from prosecution) because they apparently fear losing their precious seat on the Intelligence Committee, but what’s the point of having a seat on the Intelligence Committee if you render yourself completely impotent even when you learn of systematic surveillance lawbreaking?).
….the powers of the Surveillance State are exercised almost entirely in the dark. That’s what makes it so significant that two Democratic Senators have been warning for two years now that these powers are being exercised far beyond what the statute permits, far beyond what the public can even imagine, and that the Obama DOJ is lying about it.
The domestic NSA-led Surveillance State which Frank Church so stridently warned about has obviously come to fruition. The way to avoid its grip is simply to acquiesce to the nation’s most powerful factions, to obediently remain within the permitted boundaries of political discourse and activism. Accepting that bargain enables one to maintain the delusion of freedom — “he who does not move does not notice his chains,” observed Rosa Luxemburg — but the true measure of political liberty is whether one is free to make a different choice.
Here is one of the guests mentioned in the piece above:
William Binney, a 40 year veteran of the NSA, was the ‘target’ of an FBI raid which was done as retribution for his part in filing a “(Pentagon) DOD-IG complaint” of ‘Fraud, Waste, and Abuse’ against the NSA. The raid was also a tool used by our now blossoming Security and Surveillance State to shut Binney up so that he would not say anything to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the widespread unlawful spying on Americans which has now been instituted under the noses of a passive, sheepish, and unquestioning population.
A dozen or so gun-bearing goons of the Security State burst into his home, going strait up to the bathroom where he was showering, and pointed a gun to his head.
WILLIAM BINNEY: …but after 9/11, all the wraps came off for NSA, and they decided to—between the White House and NSA and CIA, they decided to eliminate the protections on U.S. citizens and collect on domestically. So they started collecting from a commercial—the one commercial company that I know of that participated provided over 300—probably, on the average, about 320 million records of communication of a U.S. citizen to a U.S. citizen inside this country.
AMY GOODMAN: What company?
WILLIAM BINNEY: AT&T. It was long-distance communications. So they were providing billing data. At that point, I knew I could not stay, because it was a direct violation of the constitutional rights of everybody in the country. Plus it violated the pen register law and Stored Communications Act, the Electronic Privacy Act, the intelligence acts of 1947 and 1978. I mean, it was just this whole series of—plus all the laws covering federal communications governing telecoms. I mean, all those laws were being violated, including the Constitution. And that was a decision made that wasn’t going to be reversed, so I could not stay there. I had to leave.
[Then the Raid by the gun-bearing goons of the Security State]
JUAN GONZALEZ: And ostensibly, they were searching for who was leaking information to the—who had leaked information to the New York Times.
WILLIAM BINNEY: That was the pretext, yes. But I accused them of being sent there by someone outside the FBI. And that—their body language told me that I hit it right on the head. So—and I also—after a while, they were questioning me, and I couldn’t tell them anything, because I didn’t know anything that would implicate any of the four of us, so—
AMY GOODMAN: They were looking for leaks.
WILLIAM BINNEY: Well, that was the pretext, the leak on the—to give the New York Times thing. The real thing—what they were really doing was retribution and intimidation so we didn’t go to the Judiciary Committee in the Senate and tell them, “Well, here’s what Gonzales didn’t tell you, OK.” That was what it was really all about. And also, it was retribution for that DOD-IG complaint, because it was a rather embarrassing report that they gave, so…
JUAN GONZALEZ: And what is it that Gonzales didn’t tell them, in your perspective, in terms of what is happening to our national security surveillance situation?
WILLIAM BINNEY: Well, it was about—it was about Stellar Wind and all of the domestic spying.
When testifying to the Senat Judiciary Committee, the then-Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, used a program called the TSP(Terrorist Surveillance Program) as cover for the other more invasive monitoring programs which spy on American citizens (such as Stellar Winds and others) and which have now become a fact of life in our self-proclaimed “Land of the Free” *
* Remember: if you don’t move, you won’t hear the sounds of your chains rattling.