Sunday, June 20, 2021
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HomeWorldMake Way For The Snitch State: The All-Seeing Fourth Branch Of Government

Make Way For The Snitch State: The All-Seeing Fourth Branch Of Government


“It is just when people are all engaged in snooping on
themselves and one another that they become anesthetized to
the whole process. As information itself becomes the largest
business in the world, data banks know more about individual
people than the people do themselves. The more the data
banks record about each one of us, the less we
exist.”—Marshall McLuhan, From Cliche To
Archetype.

We’re being spied on by a domestic
army of government snitches, spies and
techno-warriors.

This government of Peeping Toms is
watching everything
we do, reading everything we write, listening to everything
we say, and monitoring everything we spend.

Beware of
what you say, what you read, what you write, where you go,
and with whom you communicate, because it is all being
recorded, stored, and catalogued, and will be used against
you eventually, at a time and place of the government’s
choosing.

This far-reaching surveillance has paved the
way for an omnipresent,
militarized fourth branch of government
—the
Surveillance State—that came into being without any
electoral mandate or constitutional
referendum.

Indeed, long before the National Security
Agency (NSA) became the agency we loved to hate, the Justice
Department, the FBI, and the Drug Enforcement Administration
were carrying
out their own secret mass surveillance
on an
unsuspecting populace.

Even agencies not traditionally
associated with the intelligence community are part of the
government’s growing network of snitches and
spies.

Just about every branch of the
government—from the Postal Service to the Treasury
Department and every agency in between—now
has its own surveillance sector
, authorized to spy on
the American people. For instance, the U.S. Postal Service,
which has been photographing
the exterior of every piece of paper mail
for the
past 20 years, is also spying on Americans’ texts, emails
and social media posts. Headed up by the Postal Service’s
law enforcement division, the Internet
Covert Operations Program
(iCOP) is reportedly using
facial recognition technology, combined with fake online
identities
, to ferret out potential troublemakers with
“inflammatory” posts. The agency claims the online
surveillance, which falls outside its conventional job scope
of processing and delivering paper mail, is necessary to
help postal workers avoid “potentially
volatile situations
.”

Then there are the fusion
and counterterrorism centers that gather all of the data
from the smaller government spies—the police, public
health officials, transportation, etc.—and make it
accessible for all those in power. And that doesn’t even
begin to touch on the complicity of the corporate sector,
which buys and sells us from cradle to grave, until we have
no more data left to mine.

It’s not just what we
say, where we go and what we buy that is being
tracked.

We’re being surveilled right down to our
genes, thanks to a potent combination of hardware, software
and data collection that scans our biometrics—our faces,
irises, voices, genetics, even our gait—runs them through
computer programs that can break the data down into unique
“identifiers,” and then offers them up to the government
and its corporate allies for their respective
uses.

All of those internet-connected gadgets we just
have to have (Forbes refers to them as “(data)
pipelines to our intimate bodily processes
”)—the
smart watches that can monitor our blood pressure and the
smart phones that let us pay
for purchases with our fingerprints and iris scans
—are
setting us up for a brave new world where there is nowhere
to run and nowhere to hide.

For instance, imagine what
the government could do (and is likely already doing) with
voiceprint technology, which has been likened to a
fingerprint. Described as “the next frontline in the
battle against overweening public surveillance,” the
collection of voiceprints is a booming industry for
governments and businesses alike. As The Guardian
reports, “voice
biometrics could be used to pinpoint the location of
individuals
.”

We are now the unwitting victims
of an interconnected, tightly woven, technologically
evolving web of real-time, warrantless, wall-to-wall mass
surveillance that makes the spy programs spawned by the USA
Patriot Act look like child’s play.

Fusion centers.
See Something, Say Something. Red flag laws. Behavioral
threat assessments. Terror watch lists. Facial recognition.
Snitch tip lines. Biometric scanners. Pre-crime. DNA
databases. Data mining. Precognitive technology. Contact
tracing apps.

These are all part and parcel of the
widening surveillance dragnet that the government has used
and abused in order to extend its reach and its
power.

The COVID-19 pandemic has succeeded in
acclimating us even further to being monitored, tracked and
reported for so-called deviant or undesirable
behavior.

Consequently, we now live in a society in
which a person can be accused of any number of crimes
without knowing what exactly he has done. He might be
apprehended in the middle of the night by a roving band of
SWAT police. He might find himself on a no-fly list, unable
to travel for reasons undisclosed. He might have his phones
or internet tapped based upon a secret order handed down by
a secret court, with no recourse to discover why he was
targeted.

This Kafkaesque nightmare has become
America’s reality.

Despite the fact that its data
snooping has been shown to be ineffective
at detecting,
let alone stopping, any actual terror attacks, the
government continues to operate its domestic spying programs
largely in secret, carrying out warrantless
mass surveillance
on hundreds of millions of
Americans’ phone calls, emails, text messages and the
like.

The question of how to deal with government
agencies and programs that operate outside of the system of
checks and balances established by the Constitution forces
us to contend with a deeply unsatisfactory and dubious
political “solution” to a problem that operates beyond
the reach of voters and politicians: how do you hold
accountable a government that lies, cheats, steals,
sidesteps the law, and then absolves itself of
wrongdoing?

Certainly, the history and growth of the
NSA tracks with the government’s insatiable hunger for
ever-great powers.

Since its official start in 1952,
when President Harry S. Truman issued a secret
executive order
establishing the NSA as the hub of the
government’s foreign intelligence activities, the
agency—nicknamed “No Such Agency”—has operated
covertly, unaccountable to Congress all the while using
taxpayer dollars to fund its secret operations. It was only
when the agency ballooned to 90,000 employees in 1969,
making it the largest
intelligence agency
in the world with a significant
footprint outside Washington, DC, that it became more
difficult to deny its existence.

In the aftermath of
Watergate in 1975, the Senate held meetings under the Church
Committee in order to determine exactly what sorts of
illicit activities the American intelligence apparatus was
engaged in under the direction of President Nixon, and how
future violations of the law could be stopped. It was the
first time the NSA was exposed to public scrutiny since its
creation.

The investigation revealed a sophisticated
operation whose surveillance programs paid little heed to
such things as the Constitution. For instance, under Project
SHAMROCK, the NSA spied on telegrams to and from the U.S.,
as well as the correspondence of American citizens.
Moreover, as the Saturday Evening Post reports,
“Under Project MINARET, the NSA monitored the
communications of civil rights leaders and opponents of the
Vietnam War, including targets such as Martin Luther King,
Jr., Mohammed Ali, Jane Fonda, and two active U.S. Senators.
The NSA had launched this program in 1967 to monitor
suspected terrorists and drug traffickers, but successive
presidents used it to track all manner of political
dissidents.”

Senator Frank Church (D-Ida.), who
served as the chairman of the Select Committee on
Intelligence that investigated the NSA, understood only too
well the dangers inherent in allowing the government to
overstep its authority in the name of national security.
Church recognized that such surveillance powers “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.”

Noting that the NSA could enable a dictator
“to impose total tyranny” upon an utterly defenseless
American public, Church declared that he did not “want to
see this country ever go across the bridge” of
constitutional protection, congressional oversight and
popular demand for privacy. He avowed that “we,”
implicating both Congress and its constituency in this duty,
“must see to it that this agency and all agencies that
possess this technology operate within the law and under
proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss.
That is the abyss from which there is no
return.”

The result was the passage
of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
(FISA), and
the creation of the FISA Court, which was supposed to
oversee and correct how intelligence information is
collected and collated. The law requires that the NSA get
clearance from the FISA Court, a secret surveillance court,
before it can carry out surveillance on American citizens.
Fast forward to the present day, and the so-called solution
to the problem of government entities engaging in
unjustified and illegal surveillance—the FISA Court—has
unwittingly become the enabler of such activities,
rubberstamping almost every warrant request submitted to
it.

The 9/11 attacks served as a watershed moment in
our nation’s history, ushering in an era in which immoral
and/or illegal government activities such as surveillance,
torture, strip searches, SWAT team raids are sanctioned as
part of the quest to keep us “safe.”

In the wake
of the 9/11 attacks, George
W. Bush secretly authorized the NSA to conduct warrantless
surveillance
on Americans’ phone calls and emails.
That wireless wiretap program was reportedly
ended in 2007
after the New York Times reported
on it, to mass indignation.

Nothing changed under
Barack Obama. In fact, the violations
worsened
, with the NSA authorized to secretly collect
internet and telephone data on millions of Americans, as
well as on foreign governments.

It was only after
whistleblower Edward
Snowden’s revelations in 2013
that the American people
fully understood the extent to which they had been betrayed
once again.

Even so, nothing really
changed.

Since then, presidents, politicians, and
court rulings have come and gone, but none of them have done
much to put an end to the government’s
“technotyranny.”

At every turn, we have been
handicapped in our quest for transparency, accountability
and a representative democracy by an establishment culture
of secrecy: secret agencies, secret experiments, secret
military bases, secret surveillance, secret budgets, and
secret court rulings, all of which exist beyond our reach,
operate outside our knowledge, and do not answer to “we
the people.”

Yet the surveillance sector is merely
one small part of a shadowy permanent government comprised
of unelected bureaucrats who march in lockstep with
profit-driven corporations that actually runs Washington,
DC, and works to keep us under close watch and, thus, under
control. For example, Google
openly works with the NSA
, Amazon has built a massive $600
million intelligence database
for the CIA, and the telecommunications
industry is making a fat profit by spying on us
for the
government.

Most recently, the Biden Administration
indicated it may be open to working
with non-governmental firms
in order to warrantlessly
monitor citizens online.

This would be nothing new,
however. Vast quantities of the government’s digital
surveillance is already being outsourced
to private companies
, who are far less restrained in how
they harvest and share our personal data.

In this way,
Corporate
America is making a hefty profit
by aiding and abetting
the government in its militarized domestic surveillance
efforts.

Cue the dawning of what The Nation
refers to as “the
rise of a new class in America: the cyberintelligence ruling
class
. These are the people—often referred to as
‘intelligence professionals’—who do the actual
analytical and targeting work of the NSA and other agencies
in America’s secret government. Over the last [20] years,
thousands of former high-ranking intelligence officials and
operatives have left their government posts and taken up
senior positions at military contractors, consultancies, law
firms, and private-equity firms. In their new jobs, they
replicate what they did in government—often for the same
agencies they left. But this time, their mission is strictly
for-profit.”

The snitch culture has further
empowered the Surveillance State.

As Ezra Marcus writes
for the New York Times, “Throughout the past year,
American society responded to political upheaval and
biological peril by turning to an age-old tactic for keeping
rule breakers in check: tattling.”

This new era of
snitch surveillance is the lovechild of the government’s
post-9/11 “See Something, Say Something” programs
combined with the self-righteousness of a politically
correct, technologically-wired age.

Marcus continues:

“Technology,
and our abiding love of it, is crucial to our current moment
of social surveillance. Snitching isn’t just a byproduct
of nosiness or fear; it’s a technological feature built
into the digital architecture of the pandemic era —
specifically when it comes to software designed for remote
work and Covid-tracing… Contact tracing apps … have
started to be adapted
for other uses, including
criminal probes by the
Singaporean government. If that seems distinctly worrying,
it might be useful to remember that the world’s most
powerful technology companies, whose
products
you are likely using to read this story,
already use a business model of mass surveillance,
collecting and selling user information to advertisers at an
unfathomable scale. Our cellphones
track us everywhere
, and our
locations are bought and sold
by data brokers at
incredible, intimate detail. Facial
recognition software
used by law enforcement trawls
Instagram selfies. Facebook
harvests the biometric data
of its users. The whole
ecosystem, more or less, runs on
snitching.”

As I make clear in my book
Battlefield
America: The War on the American People
, what we are
dealing with today is not just a beast that has outgrown its
chains but a beast that will not be
restrained.

Authored by Jogn W Whitehead and Nisha
Whitehead. Originally published here:
https://bit.ly/3ySi5Wv

Constitutional
attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and
president of The Rutherford Institute. His books
Battlefield
America: The War on the American People
and
A
Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police
State
are available online at www.amazon.com.
Whitehead can be contacted at
johnw@rutherford.org.
Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford
Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is
available at
www.rutherford.org.
Click
here
to read more of John & Nisha Whitehead’s
commentaries.

© Scoop Media

 



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