Currently there is another round of very heated discussion in America over the “Patriot” Act and the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of communications data on everyone – both of which came into being as a consequence of the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001 and subsequent efforts to devise approaches to preclude future such attacks. The focus of current attention are the efforts of one lone US Senator – Rand Paul – to persuade the Senate to vote down or alter legislation pending in the Senate to extend the provisions of the “Patriot” Act and the NSA collection program. There are many provisions of the “Patriot” Act with which I find grave fault, but the center of the current debate has boiled down solely to the NSA collection program. Since the “Patriot” Act is law passed by Congress, the Supreme Court has chosen not to uphold objections to certain of its provisions that have so far been brought before the Court, but this does not mean that some provisions of the law are not a very real threat to American rights and freedoms.
With the communication collection program, it’s important to keep in mind that NSA is a military organization that is part of the US Defense Department, and that the “Patriot” Act’s primary agency of interest is the US Justice Department. The mission of the Defense Department is to defend the nation against foreign military threats. In the US, the military is prohibited from engaging in (non-military) domestic law enforcement activities, but in this case the military is providing information that will be employed by civilian law enforcement in the execution of its domestic mission. And since the information provided was obtained by means highly classified (“secret”) in the interest of “national security”, it cannot be revealed in an open court. Law enforcement people use it to guide them in finding the “terrorist needle in the haystack” and their associated “terrorist needles” – and then developing further “evidence” that can be revealed in open court.
This, at least, is the theory. But if this original information can’t be revealed in open court, then it also can’t be revealed to the defendant, the person charged with crimes by the state, or his or her legal counsel. So it is never revealed upon just what foundation rests the state’s case. The “national security” classification of the “intelligence sources and methods” used to generate the communications “evidence” is the “firewall” that effectively keeps the Defense Department and its military and civilian personnel, including those of the National Security Agency, out of the courtroom and thus beyond the reach of defense counsel. Sometimes it appears to the bystander that the state’s case simply arose out of thin air, which leaves all sorts of begging questions, especially those of constitutionality. It’s also important to note that the bulk communications information is retained in really huge fields of super-computers, available to anyone in the future who may wish to query it for historical, background or previously unnoticed linkage, information. And this includes the content of those communications.
As with most “controversies” these day, each side has quickly formed an opinion that is most in line with its respective herd, and then has filtered out facts and opinions that are at variance. Counter-arguments quickly become drowned out by the demand, “I only want my truth!”
(Perhaps I should say that for many decades I have had frequent professional contact and associations with NSA and some of its personnel, and that my own mother, now deceased, was a life-long dedicated career professional employed by the agency from its inception to her retirement. My concern is not with NSA or its employees, but rather with the way its mission capabilities are being systematically altered from the original intent. I also know that the average citizen grossly underestimates those capabilities.)
There have been many arguments presented by both sides either for or against the NSA bulk collection program, but one of the most popular arguments supporting the program is to belittle the problem by equating NSA databases to all the information on individuals that is now gleaned by commercial companies operating on the internet. This is an easy, but very dangerous, comparison to make. The notion that there is nothing different in the “privacy” aspects between companies like Google or Amazon and the federal government acquiring and retaining all sorts of personal information about American citizens is more than just ignorantly naïve; it’s just willfully asinine.
What USE is made of that information?
Companies And Government
Commercial companies can use that information to try to get you to willingly spend your money on their products and services. If you have your own brain, you can simply ignore such attempts.
But government has the ability to destroy your reputation unwillingly, arrest you, charge you with crimes, compel you to do things, seize your property, silence and blackmail you, tie you up in court, confiscate your money, bankrupt you, deny your rights including the right to vote, induct you into the military for service in war, separate you from your family, take possession of your children, send you to prison, make you literally vanish, take away your very life – with the full enormous power of the state and its many organs. The state can, in fact, tightly control every aspect of your life, from cradle to grave. It can also destroy political opponents, paving the way to dictatorial rule – fascism.
This simple fact was the basis of both World War II and the 45-year-long “Cold” War.
The Greatest Generation, fully understanding from personal experience the abuses of power possible under states politically oriented to either the extreme right or the extreme left, passed citizen protection laws like the Privacy Act, the Freedom of Information Act, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, not to protect Americans from intrusions by commercial companies, but from possible oppressive abuses of the state against its own citizens. And there had been truly awful examples of such abuses in their lifetime. Those US laws were quickly copied by many other countries around the world, some even incorporating them right into their Basic Law (constitution). They require the government to go into an independent court and obtain very specific prior permission. They make it illegal to target people or groups without “probable cause” that indicates criminal activity. They prohibit the use of government databases for political purposes. They make it illegal to engage in blanket “fishing expeditions” against its citizens. They make it illegal for a government’s intelligence organs to retain in its databases information concerning its own citizens. They make it illegal to mine government databases (“data-mining”) containing information on citizens just to see what might turn up. They make it illegal for a government’s intelligence agencies to operate in secret against their own citizens.
“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.” — Fourth Amendment (Search and Seizure) – U.S. Constitution
All of these provisions are intended to reduce the state’s ability to tightly control its own population – which, of course, is the very antithesis of “freedom”. If law enforcement wants specific information held by private companies, it can obtain a specific warrant for that purpose from an independent court by showing “probable cause”. This, of course, is the way our Founding Fathers set it up. But, in reality, today things operate very differently. A whole plethora of law enforcement agencies in the US are now making routine and massive use of bureaucratic subpoenas issued by agencies in place of probable cause warrants issued by courts in order to circumvent the US Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure and engage in fishing expeditions against American citizens. (No, real life is NOT like they show on TV crime shows; the scales of justice have become enormously tipped in favor of bureaucratic expediency. America’s most potent crime fighting tool has become the fishing expedition, usually conducted from the comfort of the office.)
But why would any bureaucrat bother to do that when all they have to do is query their own computer terminal about anyone they wish? It’s illegal for police officials to query government databases for their own personal purposes, but police still do so all the time. What was all that ruckus about the IRS targeting politically conservative groups all about? And government can skirt the letter of the law by fostering the creation of companies which receive government contracts to conduct activities on its behalf that are illegal for government to conduct.
“A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.” – Edward R. Murrow (1908-65), pioneering icon of American radio and television journalism who became famous for his radio broadcast reports of World War II from Europe as well as for his honesty and integrity throughout his career.
According to officials, NSA does not peruse or conduct searches of the content of the electronic communications of American citizens, but rather just the “meta-data” pertaining to those communications. That content is, however, stored by government super-computers for possible later examination under a court-issued warrant. According to this vague view, the content is in the possession of the US government, but the US government only uses, at this point, the “meta-data” pertaining to those communications in order to ferret out “terrorist conspiracies”. Theoretically, once such conspiracies have been identified, then a closer examination of all relevant information held, including content, may be conducted under a court-issued search warrant specifically identifying the investigation target. Most Americans have grave reservations about the government reading their private communications (content), but seem unconcerned about the meta-data associated with those private communications. This is also incredibly naïve.
Meta-data are the identifying digital signatures of all those many millions of devices and their signals that now fill our society – from desk-top computers to hand-held talking toys to electronic payment cards to vehicles equipped with similar devices and GPS locators – most of which transmit their data over radio waves to nearby antenna towers for further two-way radio transmission. (The fact that the data is transmitted over radio waves, which enables its interception by anyone, theoretically places it in the public domain – a status very different from written communications handed to the US Postal System for delivery without transgression only to the intended recipient, or even from telephone conversations which are transmitted over hard wires also without transgression.) I even have a United States passport card that can be automatically queried for my identification by the Canada or Mexico border crossing station even before I get there.
To an intelligence analyst using super-computers, meta-data is enormously more useful and damning than is the content of communications – for the simple reason that it shows irrefutably actual ACTIONS, actual behavior (with date, time, location, associations, travel, links, transactions, etc.), not just what people say. (People can, and very often DO, say literally anything. But it’s always actions, behavior, that are the “proof”.) Sophisticated software used by super-computers working only with meta-data can arrive at conclusions about individuals that most Americans would never imagine is possible, even solid conclusions that may not even be recognized by those people themselves. That meta-data can even be used to predict your behavior, even before you’ve thought of doing it, based on a computer study of your past behavior, even past unconscious behavior, patterns. And all of that is possible without reading any of the content of the individual’s private communications.
And the state can now even put people in prison, not for anything they did, but for something they “intend” to do – such as travel to a country where bad guys are operating (which soon will be a quarter of the globe). Just how far a leap is it from this point to the omniscient and judgmental “thought police”? One wonders how we can do this with “bad guys”, but not with “good guys” – who willingly ignore warnings and common sense to travel to places where they have a known high probability of being kidnapped by bad guys and immediately present an enormous set of very dangerous and costly problems for their government. How can you put someone in prison for an intent that is not a crime for another person?
The average prison sentence handed out to those accused by the FBI of “intending” to travel to areas where they could possibly link up with bad guys is 13 1/2 years. But this only applies to males who are not working for the FBI and never actually travel to such areas. If you’re a female employee of the FBI and actually travel to such areas, you can expect far more lenient treatment. A Czech-born American woman hired by the FBI as a translator and handed a Top Secret security clearance in 2014 actually defected to Syria via Turkey to marry a wanted jihadist shown in videos holding a severed human head. Eventually realizing how stupid such an action was, she later returned to the US and was given a sentence of just two years – not for traveling to Syria but for lying to the FBI. It really pays to be a woman and have a self-serving FBI and Department of “Justice” deciding your fate. You can even count on them to obscure your face in photos of a convicted felon. It’s what we still ludicrously call “all equal under the law.”
Our society, even our legal system, is now full of inexplicable contradictions. Why can a citizen who lies to police go to jail for “obstruction”, but police lying to a citizen is just using another legal “tool”? Why can police seize and retain property owned by people charged with crimes, even if they are never convicted, while citizens doing the same would be guilty of criminal theft? Such “legal” practices were hallmarks of the 20th century’s most despicable Nazi or Communist police states.
Most data content today is transmitted via rather good encryption methods, which reduces its vulnerability to interception and examination by nefarious others. Some of those encryption methods are challenging even for NSA (which then often seeks to acquire the keys to such encryption tools from the companies that develop them). However, quantum-computing will soon make the most sophisticated encryption possible today, even that conducted by NSA for its own security, useless. Quantum-computing will also be able to do things with meta-data that we can’t even imagine today, but the high cost of such technology will, at least initially, limit its availability to nation states. It’s highly likely that one of the very first users of the technology will be the US National Security Agency.
The State Versus Apple
But before that happens, there is still the matter of protecting personal privacy from government intrusion, not just by intercepting communications over radio waves or internet cables, but also accessing private information stored in physical devices. In January 2016 the US Department Of Justice went to the US District Court in Los Angeles on behalf of the FBI to obtain a warrant that compels the Apple company to assist in defeating an iPhone’s advanced security and encryption mechanisms. The government has a valid justification for gaining access to the information contained on the phone in its possession because it was used by one or both of the terrorists who undertook the mass killings in San Bernardino in 2015 and may contain information about associated terrorists or enablers. Why the government, with a valid terrorism case, went to an open court to obtain the warrant is unclear; in this particular case the Justice Department (or its FBI) could have used the “Patriot” Act to (1) obtain a valid search warrant from the secret FISA Court, and (2) task either NSA or CIA or both to defeat the security aspects of the iPhone – all in secret without public knowledge. It’s possible that the government was also seeking a public debate on the larger issues involved here. Or it’s possible that these government agencies did not possess the capability to defeat the phone’s security. At any rate, the US District Court granted the warrant, but the Apple company decided to appeal the court order, and other major technology companies have joined the Apple side of the issue. According to the New York Times, “ …. the company’s chief executive did not back down. He issued a sharply worded statement … saying he planned to fight the order. He said the Obama Administration was not only creating a dangerous precedent but was demanding the creation of a dangerous tool — a skeleton key that could be used by hackers and totalitarian governments. “Once the information is known, or a way to bypass the code is revealed, the encryption can be defeated by anyone with that knowledge,” [he] said. “The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices.”
The US government – the Justice Department and the federal court judge – is trying to compel one of the world’s most successful private corporations – Apple – to create something that does not now exist, and in so doing, to even weaken its own quality product and undermine the company’s promises to its global customers. If you create software that can by-pass the security protocols of one iPhone, you have created a template that contains 98% of the code to do the same with all iPhones and similar devices. All that’s needed is the last 2% needed to make the code universally applicable – a challenge that would be quickly embraced by most of the world’s best hackers.
With many tens of millions of people all over the globe, in many different countries, using similar phones, the matter indeed does have far greater impact than just one phone in California. Even the court case itself sets a very far-reaching precedent, especially since a judge did issue the order to Apple. For example, if Apple complies with the government’s request, what is to stop the government of China from petitioning the US Government or US courts for the key to breaking into a similar phone in its possession? Law enforcement in the US tends to view the world only from its own vantage, but the real world is a lot bigger and more complicated than that. US law enforcement wants to make its job for the state as easy and effortless as possible, but a dissident in Iran is more interested in protecting information that could cost him his life under a different state. And someday the characteristics of United States law enforcement could very well be indistinguishable from those of Iran.
Just consider how so very blurred the lines have already become between “terrorism” and “crime”, between “national defense” and “domestic law enforcement”; when everyone agrees that we must combat terrorism by all means, even through state-targeted killing, kidnapping, torture and indefinite imprisonment, why wouldn’t others jump on that bandwagon to ease their own task? Despite its protestations that it seeks only the key to one iPhone, the federal government is an active participant in the blurring. Even as the judge issued his order to Apple for an iPhone involved in a federal terrorism case, the state of California had 15 other iPhones involved in domestic criminal cases which it wants Apple to also open under the precedent set in the federal terrorism case. Manhattan (a borough of New York city) has 205 such phones. All other domestic law enforcement entities can be expected to immediately follow this example. This single after-the-fact federal terrorism investigation case is deliberately being used to open very far-reaching domestic criminal investigation avenues at all levels of government. On 19 February 2016 PBS broadcast a Charlie Rose interview concerning this very topic with a top law enforcement official and a top counter-terrorism official at the table; both were making the exact same case in opposition to Apple, i.e., in the minds of these two experts, serving their own interests, there is no difference between criminal prosecution and terrorism prevention. But there is. Even if you listen very carefully to the terms used, you can’t tell if officials are talking about a military force waging a war against an armed foreign enemy or about law enforcement waging a war against suspected unarmed domestic criminal activity. It’s all the same. So what’s permissible against a foreign enemy becomes permissible against domestic citizens, too. But that is NOT what it says in the US Constitution’s Bill Of Rights.
This sort of “evolution” was guaranteed when NSA set up an office inside the FBI in 2002 to help the FBI prevent foreign-based terrorism. (Based on my discussions at that time with some FBI members, NSA went to a bureaucracy of people who were just discovering the internet.) While not so successful in its original purpose, it wasn’t long before the FBI, and others, realized the potential of such tools to assist in other areas that had nothing to do with terrorism, primarily through heretofore illegal “fishing expeditions” in national defense intelligence databases that also happened to contain information about US citizens, which itself had heretofore also been illegal. The trick was to get the government lawyers working on “re-interpreting” citizen-protection laws, and then training agents on how to keep the original source of the “evidence” out of the criminal courtroom. Then individual state law enforcement agencies wanted to play the same game. Knowledge of the technology and how to employ it quickly migrated to every police department in the country. Now everyone is talking off the same sheet – a sheet that didn’t even exist in 2001, and they don’t even recognize that what they are talking about was illegal in the US until quite recently. These things “evolve”, and already have. They desperately need someone with both wisdom and brains applying brakes and striking a balance that tilts on the side of the rights of American citizens (and dissidents in Iran) while also enabling the state to do as much as reasonably possible to preclude future terrorist attacks. One major problem is the absence in either the popular vernacular or in legal precedent of any clear unambiguous definition of “terrorism”. Another major problem is that technology is moving so fast that laws are WAY behind the curve, and many people in Congress are only interested in “me” and “now”, love that heavy-handed “safety and security” stuff, and have zero concern for what happens tomorrow.
It’s worth repeating that NSA is a military agency of the Department of Defense with a foreign defense mission – that is being used as a law enforcement arm of the Department of Justice with a domestic policing mission. The lines have gotten so blurred and the definition of “terrorism” so broad in just the last ten years that now almost anything is fair game. As soon as NSA technology migrated to normal domestic law enforcement, a lot of contractors saw a whole new and very lucrative market for their toys. Now most police departments are using their own similar tools on a smaller scale – everything from mass recording of vehicle license plates for later photo searches, phony cell towers that scoop up all phone conversations in an area, massive facial recognition photo databases of crowds of people, inside and outside surveillance cameras everywhere directly accessible by police departments, surreptitious software that turns your home computer’s camera into a secret surveillance device or remotely copies every keystroke you make on that computer, GPS tracking of everyone’s vehicles and cell phones, camera equipped drones, massive cross-searches of huge government databases, etc.. Most of this population control stuff is justified and often funded on the basis of “terrorism”, but the minute it’s placed in operation the target shifts to routine domestic law enforcement. And all without NSA. It’s difficult for the objective person to conclude that these tools, taken together, do not constitute the building blocks of the Ultimate Police State.
It gets worse. Several federal law enforcement agencies associated with border security over a 31-month period between 2012 and 2015 incredibly lost 589 cell phones (in addition to 165 firearms and 1300 badges). Officials of these agencies (some even previously unknown to the American public) professed to be unconcerned about the cell phones lost by their incompetent employees because the phones had been encrypted with sufficient protocols “to prevent them from being used for nefarious purposes” or, presumably, from being accessed for sensitive information they contained. Of course, the minute that software is created to by-pass such protocols, that software will propagate like a virus. These are some of the same bureaucrats who do not want citizens to have the same protections they themselves currently enjoy, and are even stupidly fighting to throw away their own security defenses. (Are all those new tools coveted mainly to compensate for abject incompetence, or stupidity? The iPhone in question is actually the property of a county government in California, not of the terrorists who used it, one of whom was a government employee. The terrorist pair physically smashed their own two phones beyond any possibility of data recovery, so, naturally, the phone that belonged to the government, which they did not damage, is the one with all the secret information in it. Brilliant “thinking”! Isn’t it a bit of a stretch to accept that a trained and dedicated terrorist would keep incriminating data on a device that belonged to the government that was his “enemy”? Is the Justice Department and the FBI really pursuing this “terrorism” case for its “terrorism” value, or for its far broader domestic “law enforcement” value?)
These days very many citizens keep their whole lives on their little talking toys; if the government has the keys to get into them, what is to stop criminals from getting those keys and stealing everything you’ve managed to acquire and ruining your life in the process? It’s an absolute certainty they will, and fast. Our unaccountable bureaucrats can’t even protect highly classified national defense information. If they can’t protect their own sensitive information, what makes anyone think they’ll protect your sensitive information? And when they don’t, who polices them?
If the FBI forces Apple to comply with its demands, why would anyone continue to buy Apple phones, or any similar device made by American companies, when they can buy more secure devices from a wide range of foreign copy-cat competitors beyond the reach of FBI’s demands? If Apple can’t compete with foreign competitors, why would Apple NOT move its company off-shore, to a country that offers its citizens better privacy protections from government intrusions – protections that were originally born in America? Is a short-sighted and self-interested FBI’s objective simply to destroy one of America’s best and most innovative industries? Is this just another case of “dumb and dumber” Baby Boomer government?
“When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.” – Thomas Jefferson
The last time the US government won a similar case – in 2013 against a much smaller American company (Lavabit) simply offering secure e-mail service – that company complied, and then shut down its servers, fired its employees, closed its doors and ceased doing business. This provided an opening to a smart young Russian named Pavel Durov to create a similar privacy service he called Telegram. Durov had earlier created a Russian Facebook-type site which contained an anti-government account the Russian government demanded be closed down. When he refused to either close the account or hand over information about its members, he was ousted from his own company under government pressure, and immediately fled Russia. Telegram was his next project, and it is now used by over 100 million people world-wide, beyond the reach of the either the US or the Russian governments. Unfortunately it was also used by terrorists to coordinate their 2015 attacks in Paris – even though the leader of those attacks had long been on international police radar, was quite public in advertising his terrorist exploits, and often traveled freely between western Europe and the Mid-east. Police officials now blaming their inability to get into a device is a cheap red herring to deflect their failure to prevent the attacks using a wide range of other traditional, and completely legal, police means readily available.
WhatsApp is an internet instant messaging client for smartphones based in Mountain View, California, with over 1 Billion users world-wide. In 2014 it was purchased by Facebook for over $19 Billion. In 2016 WhatApp began using sophisticated end-to-end encryption for everything transmitted via its service, informing its customers that “the only person who can see a communication is the person or group you send it to, and no one else.” Protecting private communications, “for me, is personal,” said WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum (40), who grew up in the old communist Soviet Union in what is today Ukraine. “The fact that people couldn’t speak freely is one of the reasons my family moved to the US (in 1992). Even if the FBI came knocking, WhatsApp would have no way of complying with a request to see communications sent through the app.”
Here are some simple realities. The internet is just as important to government as to all other human entities. The internet is now a piece of communications infrastructure that is absolutely critical to modern society, to the global economy and commerce of humanity on Earth. Encryption is math. Both are out there, as accessible to most people on the planet as air. As long as the internet exists, anyone or any company or any group can use math to create its own encrypted communication system that rides securely anywhere on the internet almost instantly. And this includes groups like ISIS. The US government going after Apple and its extremely popular iPhone is akin to the little boy on the beach trying to empty the sea into his hole in the sand. Furthermore, US government agencies like NSA knew full well that this “problem” was coming at least twenty years ago.
Addendum. In April 2016 the FBI dropped its case against Apple, claiming that it had employed a third party company to break into the iPhone in question, but did not reveal if any information was recovered or if the method employed could be used with other phones. The matter is therefore not settled, and is expected to be addressed in new legislation enacted by Congress. Based on Baby Boomer precedent over the past twenty years, I wouldn’t expect any such legislation to exhibit much wisdom. These pathetic people still think, or pretend, that the US faces something far worse than certain immediate nuclear annihilation at the hands of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, not a remote possibility of a few crazies with home-made bombs, and therefore needs to “protect” itself in its own police state prison.
Build it, and they will come.
Even without the content of communications, the capabilities of today’s super-computers dwarf what was even imaginable under both Nazism and Communism. Soon quantum-computing will move that state power forward exponentially – over just the next decade or so. Today’s computing technology already makes it effortless for the state to vastly exceed what either the Nazi Gestapo or the Communist Stasi could ever approach in their wildest dreams – and with only a tiny fraction of the personnel both required. Who actually controls all that incredible power? For what uses? Within what strict limits? Under what truly independent oversight? What defensive recourses are available to the citizen? Do those recourses readily place the citizen on an equitable level with the state?
Once all that data is there in the government’s super-computers (or, even worse, in quantum computers), extending over decades, over generations, some politician or bureaucrat WILL down the road use it, and for purposes never imagined by its creators or intended by those who authorized it. This is an absolute guarantee, repeated millions of times throughout human history. We have an excellent example of this in our own NSA – a military organization within the Department of Defense originally created to help defend the nation from foreign military aggression. Today that agency is used much more to support criminal investigations of the Department of Justice, i.e., a national defense mission has been “evolving” into a law enforcement mission, even though the US military is theoretically prohibited from engaging in domestic law enforcement activities. “We don’t need to have a file on you. We can instantly build a life-long file on you whenever we want one. And, because it’s secret, we don’t have to tell you how we did it or even what it says. And this will make it impossible for you to refute whatever we say.” Based solely on human nature, that day WILL come.
“People talk loud and long, in order to say as little as possible. The really true and interesting things are the intrigues in the background, about which not a word is mentioned.” – Franz Kafka (1883-1924), German-language writer of fiction, mostly unknown during his lifetime, now considered one of the major figures of 20th century literature.
Does It Work?
Is it effective? This high-tech methodology has been in place for more than a dozen years. Proponents keep saying over and over that it is necessary “to keep America safe”. But “safe” from what? In 2015 officials of the Justice Department, responding to questions in Congress, testified that they could not identify one single case where the methodology was instrumental in the prosecution of a “terrorism” case or, and this is most important, critical to averting a domestic “terrorist” attack. (See Footnote #1.) It’s chief “terrorism” utility seems to come after-the-fact of an attack, usually outside the US, to determine its perpetrators. But there is very compelling reason to believe that a law enacted to combat and prevent “terrorism” is actually being used for many other purposes against US citizens that have nothing at all to do with “terrorism”, that federal law enforcement agencies are using the law to legalize “fishing expeditions” to see what might turn up in the criminal arena – very wide-sweeping blanket government police actions (“dragnets”) which were rightly prohibited prior to the “Patriot” Act. (Yes, a tenuous argument can be made that “terrorists” engage in certain criminal activities to support their efforts, which would provide a degree of “legitimacy” to such approaches. But why then are no domestic “terrorists” turning up as a result of the government’s bulk surveillance program – a “positive” result that would go far in “justifying” the program’s original intent?) (See Footnote #2.) The former Speaker Of The House was recently arrested for removing his own money from his bank, and then lying to the FBI about why he did it. What business is it of the government what a US citizen does with his own money? And what possible connection could a very elderly former Speaker possibly have with terrorism? Apparently that constitutional “right of privacy” only applies to women who wish to kill their unborn children and to homosexual relationships. A man who was second in line to the Presidency is now a convicted felon – for removing his own money from a bank.
Such ulterior use of the “Patriot” Act is also being supported by an element of the Defense Department chartered to defend the nation against foreign enemies by engaging in blanket communications “fishing expeditions” instead being used to support domestic law enforcement in areas that have nothing at all to do with “terrorism’ or “foreign enemies” or “national defense” purposes – but hidden behind the cloak of “national defense” secrecy which cannot be revealed in open court. This makes it extremely difficult for citizens to constitutionally defend themselves against government charges culminating from unstated and unknown “evidentiary” sources. If the state attempts to introduce in criminal court surreptitiously recorded private communications obtained without a specific court-issued search warrant, which itself must be based on prior “probable cause”, the judge is required constitutionally to deny its admission. But it often appears to the bystander that such communications were used by the state to develop other “evidence” – but this fact is never mentioned and thus cannot be challenged. There is no way to dispute the state’s interpretation of the original information and thus no way to dispute the state’s interpretation of all subsequent “evidence” developed from a faulty initial interpretation. “I am the state. Truth is whatever I say it is.”
“To do evil, a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good.” — Aleksandr Soltzhenitsyn (1918-2008), Russian novelist, historian, short story writer and outspoken critic of the Soviet Union’s communist totalitarianism and its Gulag forced labor camp system.
There does seem to be in recent years a very large number of criminal cases prosecuted in court that appear on the surface as inexplicable. Many of them literally force the question of how people could be so stupid as to do something that was bound to self-incriminate themselves. How many of such criminal cases were developed by law enforcement using tools intended to combat foreign “terrorism”, tools that suspended certain rights for that specific purpose? Did Congress really intend to combat “terrorism” – or simply enact a major withdrawal of citizen rights and freedoms on the road to a totalitarian police state? Outward-directed laws and tools originally authorized and developed to defend the nation from foreign enemies are increasingly being turned around and used against the American people – a process also followed by both Nazi states on the political right and Communist states on the political left. Did we wage the 45-year long “Cold” War just so we could out-do the communists and create our own ultimate police state? How many American citizens are being caught up in such Kafkaesque practices – under the subterfuge of “national defense” – that are systematically withdrawing the rights and freedoms of all American citizens, while also making it nearly impossible for them to defend themselves? Are people convicted in such cases actually guilty, or just unable to adequately defend themselves against the state?
The “Patriot” Act is the greatest single gift ever handed to American police, which will only ensure that both law enforcement and prosecutors become ever more incompetent and lazy, and citizens ever more at their mercy. So, in a way, “terrorism” itself has provided the greatest excuse for an explosion in police powers since the US Civil War, undoing a whole century and a half of subsequent citizen rights protections. It is an absolute certainty that such governmental “evolution” of the original intent of the “Patriot” Act will continue to further systematically undermine what America is.
It is most telling that our government has over the past twenty years gone very heavily into the business of hiring contract companies to do many things that previously were under the sole purview of the state. Some of these commercial companies are now doing things for the state – including in the intelligence collection and analysis, law enforcement and foreign affairs arenas, often hidden behind the cloak of “national security” secrecy – which the state is prohibited by law from doing itself. Some of these commercial companies even decide who gets the “national security” clearances necessary to gain access to state secrets!
How can the average citizen defend himself against charges that are ostensibly based on state secrets that are never mentioned in an open court? How can the average citizen protect himself against abuses by powerful companies acting on behalf of the state while also cloaked in state secrecy? Even Kafka couldn’t dream up this stuff. This stupidity of enabling state, and state-by-proxy, abuses of its citizen rights is what happens when the state teaches its young what to think, but not how to think. Submit that inherent weakness to social media herd mentality, and you have a guaranteed recipe for disaster. (This is what makes the female-dominated American K-12 “education” industry the single gravest threat to the future viability of the United States.)
WHY Are We Doing This?
What is the fundamental premise of all this? It all comes out of a childishly cowering fear of a remote possibility that a few crazies may be out there with home-made bombs, and we have to find them before they can harm someone. That’s it. No one has explained how that’s any more of a horrible terror than the Ebola virus, or the bird flu, or an earthquake, a hurricane, a collapsing bridge – all, and more, very real possible dangers for which no personal databases exist or are contemplated. Drug cartels operating out of that thoroughly corrupt narco-state along our southern border kill a thousand times more Americans in a single year than do Islamic extremists in a decade. I personally have a far greater fear of huge herds of American idiots stampeding with some unfounded nonsense in “social media” that could easily snowball into catastrophe. Even if I was not a veteran of very deadly wars, I logically would still find fear of a few crazies no different from a hundred other dangers that face most humans everywhere. Yet this is why we would build our own prison? To go after the bogeyman under the bed?
As “terrorist threats” go, there is nothing new here, Folks.
German sabotage agents were especially active inside America during World War I, a full century ago, for example, trying to stop US-made munitions from reaching Germany’s enemies in Europe. Run by the German ambassador in Washington, who was a friend of President Wilson, these secret “terrorists” blew up many arms factories all over the country, and even damaged the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor with one horrendous explosion in 1916. (The attack was on nearby Black Tom Island, now a part of Liberty Island Park.) Those massive New York explosions set off about two million pounds of small arms and artillery ammunition, including 100,000 pounds of TNT, about a half mile from Liberty Island and only a little further from Ellis Island. Although the number killed remains unknown, it is considered “one of the worst acts of terrorism in American history.”
A few years later, in 1920, terrorists tired to blow up the House Of Morgan on Wall Street in downtown Manhattan with a wagon full of explosives and shrapnel rigged with a timing device set for noon. It killed 38 and injured hundreds while heavily damaging nearby buildings, but the target building was hardly dented. Initial suspects were Russian communists, but soon officials turned to anti-capitalism anarchists (who were mainly Italian immigrants).
In 1954 four Puerto Rican nationalists employing common terrorist tactics opened fire with semi-automatic pistols at 240 Representatives assembled in the House chamber of the US Capital to highlight their demand for Puerto Rican independence from US rule. Five US Representatives were wounded, one seriously. (The assailants were arrested, tried and convicted in federal court, and given effective life sentences.) In 1970 four spoiled Baby Boomer cowards who preferred to send “someone else” in their place rather than be drafted for the war in Vietnam blew up the physics department at the University of Wisconsin Madison with a massive car bomb. The explosion badly damaged Sterling Hall, which also housed a US Army research program, killed a physics student, and luckily injured only three others. (The identities of all four privileged bombing killers, who ran away to Canada, are known, and three eventually were caught separately. One served seven years, two served three years, and the fourth is still on the run.)
Similar incidents have occurred regularly throughout American history, including a nearly successful conspiracy to kill the US leadership in the final days of the Civil War. During most of the twentieth century, the gravest terrorist threats were posed constantly by very highly trained and sophisticated agents of, first, Nazi Germany and, then, the Soviet Union, and most of those threats were countered without fanfare using the best tools available to the dedicated government professionals employed for that purpose. For example, one recurring target of sabotage interest of both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, since its construction in the 1930s, has been Hoover Dam near Las Vegas, due primarily to its importance to the southern California aircraft industry. Just research the activities of the deeply entrenched Nazi Party of America before and during World War II and the similarly entrenched Communist Party of America throughout the twentieth century, including before and during the entire “Cold” War. (Some of their plots, a few successful, most kept quiet, would terrify Americans today.) The only thing “new” is the extremely high-tech tools now available to law enforcement, tools being used for ever more intrusive purposes against, not America’s enemies, but against American citizens.
Fearful Americans today literally vanish in the towering shadow of the Greatest Generation – which lived its entire life under the constant threat of total nuclear annihilation without ever sacrificing their, and their children’s, freedoms and rights in the pathetic interest of “safety and security”. In fact, even while faced every day with nuclear Armageddon, even while first Nazi and then Communist espionage and sabotage agents walked indistinguishably among them, even with the very real probability of tactical nuclear, chemical and biological weapons secreted throughout the country, the Greatest Generation still enacted much of our most cherished civil rights laws. One of the most asinine ridicules of today’s children is of their parent’s seemingly naïve nuclear air raid drills; these are the same children who now get all panicky over the remote possibility of a handful of nitwits who might be concocting home-made bombs in their kitchen.
Today’s terrorist threat, embarrassingly, literally pales in comparison to the past. In those days there was high confidence in government and little tolerance for nitwits fanning fear for profit or cheap political gain, so most of what was going on remained “below the radar” of public knowledge. Why broadcast to your enemy how much your people cower in fear of them? That’s just pathetically stupid. America was then still the land of the free and the home of the brave – who cowered before no one. Quite obviously this, shamefully, is no longer the case. Now fanning fear has become a fantastically profitable tactic for wasting the people’s money and winning elections, especially among our super-majority of women voters and their clones. “Trust me; I will usher you pathetic humans safely back to the womb.” (and bill “someone else” for the cost).
“True terror is to wake up one morning and realize that your high school class is running the country.” – Kurt Vonnegut
You can get away with this stuff only if you do such a miserably poor job of educating your young. Despite incessant propaganda to the contrary, just as there was nothing new in the tactics employed by the unconventional enemy in Afghanistan and Iraq from those employed by the unconventional enemy in Vietnam and Southeast Asia forty years ago, including the use of cross-border sanctuaries and booby traps, there is also nothing new about the tactics employed by terrorists today. The only thing new is the technology being employed to counter them. But today technology is moving much faster than is the ability of our thinking, our laws, our very morality, to keep up with it, much less to ensure that it’s being employed for the best purposes of all of us, as well as generations who must follow us. Already the use of drones to remotely kill from a very safe distance has greatly “dehumanized” the killing of all humans. As long as it’s “someone else” on the receiving end, we don’t seem to mind at all. But what happens when we are on the receiving end? Does war then suddenly re-acquire “humanity”? Drone operators and other Air Force officials, as well as CIA officials conducting their own “wars”, always proudly claim that there is “always a human in the loop” when other humans are killed by drones, but what difference does it make if no one is ever held accountable for killing innocent humans? The statement is just a nebulous claim of “honor” without meaning. It’s an absolute certainty that “war” would lose its antiseptic video game aura the second our own, including our own children, start vanishing in drone strikes. And technology developed for warfare is ever more rapidly being applied to civilian domestic society. We like to see bad guys go to jail, but what happens when the state uses advanced technology to label us a bad guy? Very often the use of “state secrecy” seems much more designed to shield inept officials from accountability than to protect actual state secrets. Humans can rationalize anything – in their favor.
The least developed talent among Americans today is an ability to view and understand the board from the other side. And this very serious character flaw makes us the most dangerous people on the planet. WE have become “the biggest bully on the block”.
Of course we need our police and intelligence agencies to go after the bad guys. But these days whenever I see a police officer, at any level of government, the first thing that comes to mind is a creepy Stasi spook – with enormous unchecked power – who knows more about me than I know about me. I do NOT see someone who is up to the anti-terrorist task, up close and personal on the ground where they live.
A people who allow its state, and the state’s commercial contractors, to build such power without a range of even more powerful safeguards and limits is simply committing suicide. They are doing a better job of destroying us than any bad guys could ever do. They are simply ensuring that those we employ specifically to oppose threats and crimes take ever more “short-cuts, quick fixes and easy answers” that systematically undermine our rights and freedoms. Such natural human proclivities have a profound way of “evolving”, of becoming “institutionalized” – fully “acceptable practice”, ready for the next stage of “evolution”. They are making us no longer even American. A people who wage war out of fear have already lost the war; all they are doing is creating more enemies who sense blood in the water. You have to wonder if the reason why our parents waged the 45-year “Cold” War was just so their children could beat Soviet communism to the end-game fascist state right here in the USA. (See “The Family File”.)
Senator Rand Paul is correct; he is just trying really hard not to appear too “alarmist”. But the situation IS alarming. The US is at a critical juncture, with which all future generations will have to suffer.
“O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave…”
Addendum, 4 June 2015: In the end, the efforts of Senator Paul didn’t have much effect. The Senate voted 67 to 32 to approve the “USA Freedom” Act, passed earlier by the House, which replaces the “Patriot” Act. President Obama immediately signed the bill into law. (Both chambers of Congress now have Republican majorities, and, in a rare case of “bipartisanship”, the Democrat President supported the new law, too, even though a presidential task force had recommended more rigorous procedures.) Three key sections of the “Patriot” Act “anti-terrorism” law that expired during the Senate’s vote will now be restored and extended through 2019.
However, Section 215 of that law will be changed to stop NSA from continuing its mass phone data collection and retention program. Instead, phone companies will now collect and retain the data, and NSA can obtain information about targeted individuals from phone company databases with permission from a federal court (presumably the secret FISA court, and presumably with demonstrated “probable cause” – although there is no independent advocate for American citizens in FISA proceedings to ensure that is, in fact, the case). This, of course, simply puts a speed-bump between the government and the bulk phone databases of Americans who have no ties to terrorism. The new law introduces a system of case-by-case searches of records held by phone companies. Searches of phone company records under the “USA Freedom” Act may not work as swiftly as the current system, but the NSA will also now gain access to mobile phone records it doesn’t now collect under the program. Mobile phones include iPhones.
Overall, the new law’s minor changes are practically inconsequential in the universe of the NSA’s vast digital spying operations, including exploitation of Internet communications, especially all those communications which traverse the internet to and from mobile digital devices, none of which are affected by the new law.
So the “USA Freedom” Act leaves many of the government’s most intrusive and overbroad surveillance powers untouched, and it makes only very modest adjustments to disclosure and transparency requirements. This includes how the intelligence community currently handles the private data it collects on Americans, especially the private information collected from US technology companies under the PRISM program. The government can still search the PRISM database on fishing expeditions and get those communications created under this program, including searching information about US citizens. (PRISM is a clandestine surveillance program under which NSA collects and stores global Internet communications from at least nine major US Internet companies. Such private communications include E-mail; Chat (video, voice); Videos; Stored data; VoIP; File transfers; Video Conferencing; Notifications of target activity (logins, etc.); and Online Social Networking (details). Known targets of interest include international crime, energy, political affairs, military procurement, internal security, trafficking, financial transactions, oil, etc.. Since it ostensibly is focused on “foreign intelligence”, no FISA warrant is required for PRISM operations, and no “scrubbing” of information pertaining to “US Persons” is conducted. PRISM is not specifically oriented towards “terrorism”, but politicians defend the program by claiming that it has “helped prevent acts of terrorism” (not further defined or substantiated). In addition to intelligence agencies, most federal agencies in the vast law enforcement universe now have cleared personnel who can query the program. In general, if an NSA, FBI, CIA, DIA, DEA, ICE, State, Homeland Security, etc. analyst has access to query raw SIGINT [signals intelligence] databases, they can enter and get results for anything they want, including for American citizens. PRISM (the largest) and similar NSA programs are authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and its subsequent amendments, not under laws like the “Patriot” Act, so they represent a whole different type of threat to American freedoms and rights. Anecdotal evidence suggests that they, too, are being used inside the US primarily to ferret out and pursue “suspected” criminal activity – by Americans.) Although it’s not possible to verify their conclusions, the best analyses I’ve seen estimates that over 95% of cases involving such surveillance programs now are devoted to after-the-fact domestic criminal cases, with the remaining 5% go to before-the-fact foreign “terrorism” cases.
It’s important to keep in mind that NSA is the chief partner in a multi-national enterprise that also includes similar SIGINT collection agencies in Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand – and that all partners participate in such programs on a global scale. What may not exist in NSA’s own databases may very well exist in a partner’s databases, and vice versa – free for the asking. Some other partners, including Great Britain, readily admit that their mission is also targeted against foreign corporate, diplomatic and political activities not associated with foreign military aggression or militant “terrorism”.
In America everyone, including politicians, may not have nearly as many freedoms as they once had, but they do still have the freedom to be as stupid as they want to be – especially when there’s another presidential election around the corner and everyone needs that all-important whining women’s vote for the here and now, damned tomorrow.
What Is The Price Of Government Failure? Has any bureaucrat ever paid any price for bad things that happen on their watch for which they were responsible to prevent? Of course not. No one in government (except senior male military officers) ever pays a price for governmental failure. No one ever paid a price for the attacks of 9/11, and no one ever pays a price when a bridge falls down. No one even paid a price for the colossally gross civilian incompetence with and mismanagement of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, despite the deaths and maiming of over 55,000 American soldiers. (“Never mind.”) No one (except our ground soldiers) paid a price for stupidly firing the entire Iraqi army in 2003. No one ever paid a price for running away from Iraq before the job was done, pulling the rug out from under literally everything. Have you heard anyone even answering very hard questions about the unauthorized war against Libya? (The only “public servants” in our society who can still pay a price for failure are male career professionals in US military uniforms; these men alone have far more responsibilities than rights, and no unions or special interest groups or women and minorities screaming on their behalf. And nine out of ten of them who do pay the price do so solely to conceal the incompetence of nitwit civilian politicians and bureaucrats who presume to possess enough knowledge, expertise and intelligence to direct their activities.) Next down after wars, there is a list of hundreds of lower-level failures of government over just the past twenty years, most of which the public now accepts as nothing more than normal government indifference or incompetence.
The person most responsible for failing to execute their responsibilities prior to the attacks of 9/11/2001 was, in fact, the President’s National Security Advisor, whose sole mission was to ensure such attacks did not occur – the very reason why the position exists. That person was actually later rewarded for failing to avoid the disaster by being appointed by the President as Secretary of State, an appointment that was confirmed by a US Senate that didn’t even bother to question her about her colossal failure. (The only Senator to ask a slightly pointed question during the confirmation hearing was, of course, another woman.) And this top woman presidential advisor had benefit of a previous administration that had strenuously resisted for eight long years, until the very end, despite all the obvious evidence, accepting the simple truth about the nature of the threat facing the nation. These ignorant people even refused to acknowledge several enemy attempts to make a formal declaration of war on the United States, including such clear signals as the 1998 attack on two American embassies in Africa and – historically the most unmistakable declaration possible – the 2000 attack on the US warship USS Cole.
American women have RIGHTS; they do NOT have responsibilities. And this fact now sets the “standard” throughout government. And if there’s no real price to pay for your incompetence, indifference, negligence, failure, then what difference does it make? It’s truly amazing what happens to your “thinking” – as one person or a single group or a whole nation – when you know that no one can present meaningful objection, that there’s no price to pay for your juvenile arrogance, that only “someone else” has to pay for your stupidity. Government employment, as politician or bureaucrat, is for “me” to enjoy the most generous employment compensation in the Western world, to hyper-inflate “my” own self-importance, and to rule over mere taxpaying citizens – by simply filling a space in time.
Someone recently hacked into the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and stole the personnel records of 4,000,000 federal employees. Then they did it again, for all those millions of employees who have security clearances! This government debacle is worse even than the government surveillance revelations of Edward Snowden; it means that almost all state secrets can no longer be considered secure. (It doesn’t require a genius: That data renders nearly everyone with a clearance vulnerable in a wide range of real possibilities – which makes most state secrets also vulnerable.) When all the checking was done, it was estimated that thieves stole 21.5 million personnel records, including 5.6 million fingerprint files that can be used to assume someone else’s identity, including to gain access to highly classified areas. The government is predictably implying that the culprits were the Chinese, but it’s just as likely that it was criminals seeking to sell the data to the highest bidder. And, of course, no one is looking for someone in government responsible for protecting such information to blame for failing at their job. The stolen files included very extensive, detailed and accurate personal information on almost everyone with a national security clearance, including American intelligence personnel plus their relatives and associates – a data loss even more devastating than that of the NSA contractor Snowden. The affirmative-action political-appointee head of the agency who was responsible for protecting those personnel files from non-authorized disclosure was customarily quick to shift blame when she stated before a US Congressional committee, “If there is anyone to blame, it is the perpetrators.” – as if every foreign government and criminal enterprise on the planet would not give megabucks (even kill) to obtain such highly sensitive data.
Her blame-shifting dodge is as stupid as a banker who places the bank’s deposits out on the street and then blames anyone who helps themselves to the money. Since it is the banker’s most important responsibility to safeguard money that belongs to others, under the law the banker would go to prison for willful negligence that harmed those others. With a budget of over $2.2 Billion, OPM is an independent agency with 6,200 well-paid government employees, mostly women, who manage the majority of the federal civil service. Its investigative services are handled by commercial contractors (Federal Investigative Services – FIS) which significantly increases the number of people OPM employs with taxpayer money. A rational person would assume that anyone heading such a large and critical government entity would have really abundant leadership qualities, including a huge sense of responsibility for others not to mention for the nation’s security. Yet this privileged woman is obviously trying to operate far beyond her competence level. It’s all about her rights; responsibility doesn’t enter her equation. This is a never-challenged birthright entitled woman who would expect soldiers to die defending the nation she didn’t think was worth the effort of just doing her job.
Very many want to try Snowden for treason, but the worst that might befall this incompetent woman is a request that she quietly resign her post. But even this is doubtful. She is, after all, one of our completely oblivious and unaccountable “special” women, and, fifty years on, affirmative action has become a “normal” way of American life. (It was just such an affirmative action woman ambassador in Iraq who voiced no objection to Saddam’s stated intention to invade Kuwait that led straight to the Persian Gulf War – 25 years ago! Just how long will numerical quotas remain a “right” for the “special” people?) Just what have we been teaching the next two generations with this crap? No one is responsible, everyone gets a free pass, everyone has rights, so it doesn’t make any difference at all what happens or doesn’t happen? (Just a few months before the OPM debacle, on 1 April 2014, in Person Of Interest Episode 64, “Most Likely To…”, a fictional female bureaucrat handling background investigations for national defense security clearances at OPM was killed in a New York City taxi. Even fictional terrorists recognize the valuable importance of such information, where it’s maintained, and where it should be protected at the very highest level.) It’s a wonder that we haven’t heard that stupid “No one could have imagined” lie; these people are paid to imagine such things!
Even worse, just ask yourself what happens when bureaucracies fail. Which “intelligence” bureaucracy swore, beyond any shadow of a doubt after accepting “liaison” nonsense handed to it by other countries, that Saddam Hussein was supporting Islamic militant extremists and had weapons of mass destruction, to falsely justify sending thousands of American soldiers to their deaths in war, and then using hired mercenaries went on a decade-long binge of lawless international kidnapping, imprisonment, torture and killing that severely damaged the reputation of the entire nation those soldiers had died “defending”? The “answer” is never to shut down the bureaucracy and try something different. Instead, it’s always, “More money! More people!” – presumably so those bureaucracies can keep on failing, just at greater cost. And the increased tab is always picked up by the taxpayer! So, when a bureaucracy, paid by taxpayers to do a particular job for and on behalf of the taxpayers, fails, it is the taxpayer who pays the price. So, under our “brilliant” system, we actually incentivize, reward, bureaucracies for failing – and then penalize the taxpayer! (And, no, this is not a product of a particular political party; it’s incredibly stupid “thinking” done by both parties, by the very people elected to represent, not the bureaucracies, but the taxpayers. It’s also a product of the power of huge unions and lobbies representing those bureaucrats continually out-smarting the losers and parties elected to represent the citizens.) There’s something very twisted about this whole picture, folks. I call it “Baby Boomer Brilliance”.
And how can we complain when we are doing the same to everyone else? (No one seems to notice, in the middle of the OPM story, the truly staggering number of federal employees we now have on the people’s payroll.) Think about it: Who would know better how to protect this stuff than the professional thieves in the US government who’ve been stealing it from everyone else? Nothing succeeds in government better than failure, so Congress is sure to throw even more of the people’s money at this problem, too, and ensure that the next failure is even more colossal.
Here’s the crux of the problem: The only reason why this police powers nonsense keeps running on its own steam is that politicians of one party are afraid that politicians of the other party will blame them if another attack does occur and they voted against this draconian “Patriot” Act law or similar such measures – as if it was their fault that there are demented crazies out there. There will always be crazies out there! They’re just another really irritating force of nature. In fact, in a nation of 320,000,000 people, crazies are an absolute certainty, as inevitable as death and taxes, and many of those crazies are likely to have never heard of Islamic militant extremism. The mentally unbalanced guy who shot up a Denver theater showing another fantasy super-hero film had been treated by at least three professional psychologists on the taxpayer payroll at the University of Denver – who failed to take responsible action that would have precluded the shooting. All three, including a woman who knew full well that he was homicidally dangerous, are still practicing. (American women truly excel at wagging sanctimonious and accusatory fingers at men, but will never do the same to their own.) America is home to people from every tiny corner of the planet, including from every country in Europe. Recently a guy waiting to board his plane in a crowded Charlotte terminal was informed that his flight had been over-booked – a really irritating occurrence that befalls many an American ticket-holder. In quiet protest, this young man proceeded to strip down to his skin, head to toe. He made his statement, but no one was sure just what the statement was. (If he had been a woman, everyone would have applauded, but this confused guy was, naturally, arrested.)
This sort of thing happens every five minutes in America. Whackos are everywhere, and a few of them are bound to also be dangerous. But because many voters are morons, that blame game may cost the blamed politicians the next election. Big deal. Some politician might lose an election; it’s not as if they would ever face any real cost, any real consequence. It’s still a safe bet that they’ll go back home a lot richer than when they left. All of this says that we no longer elect leaders in America; we elect celebrity followers of the herd, and the largest herd is now made up of emotional “special” eternally whining women and their effeminate clones. Almost none of these elected followers knows how to think. The only actual leader in the US Senate seems to be one Rand Paul – a man with an actual spine who is running for President and willing to risk it all on principle. All things being equal, that alone would be enough for this rare American man to win my vote.
There are, of course, clear indications that the number of those domestic crazies has been rising along with other destabilizing factors in American society: as narcissism, intolerance, herd mentality, a plethora of rights without responsibilities, and drug use rise along with the decline in influence of such factors as the traditional family unit and religious faith, of the shift in women’s dependence on husbands and fathers to dependence on government, as our society’s values adapt to the influx of many millions of immigrants (rather than the sensible reverse), etc.. These societal factors seem to account for why the police seem to become ever more heavy-handed, but they also help explain why average citizens become just as fearful of the police. It’s a maddening perpetual cycle. (See Footnote #3.) But the police stuff is all justified on the basis of “terrorism” – which is never really defined, so it can mean whatever law enforcement and the justice system want it to mean, whatever is most advantageous to them at any moment in time. How many women would label the actions of the man in Charlotte “terrorism”? What happens if one of those women is a prosecutor?
About those bridges falling down: It’s due mostly to chemistry, a natural process that occurs when metal meets oxygen – rust. It now costs US taxpayers about $440 Billion every year. It not only topples bridges, it causes sewers to explode and oil and water to leak, pulls planes down from the sky, demolishes streets and buildings above aging gas lines, is a big problem for the military, and so much more. Science has developed ways to combat it, but it still requires a little more expense at the beginning and some diligent attention and care thereafter. But this is something that’s not very sexy, so government relies on commercial suppliers and contractors that don’t have sufficient incentive to make things that will last, or to properly maintain things once they’re in place. You just can’t buy many whining women votes by spending the people’s money on such boring things. In 2013 the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the US infrastructure, built mostly by the Greatest Generation 40 or more years ago, a grade of D-plus! Our water, aviation and hazardous waste systems scored even lower.
(Just who at what level of government is responsible for the colossally stupid toxic lead in Flint Michigan’s drinking water? My bet is that we will never know. And it’s not just a problem for poor urban areas. In 2012 a study found that 32% of the children in Iowa also had elevated levels of lead. In 2014 it was 8.5% of the children in Pennsylvania. Everyone has known for decades how very toxic is lead to the developing brains of children. The Greatest Generation passed federal laws in 1971 – 45 years ago! – to alert the world to the dangers and to ban lead in paint. In 1974 they addressed lead in plumbing. So how is lead poisoning a shameful problem in 2015, in America?! Obviously government and its bureaucrats are failing at even the most fundamental no-brainer requirements of the job. Some of these idiots clearly belong in prison. This sort of thing, now endemic of American culture, is a consequence of that totally asinine notion, born in “feminism” and trumpeted by almost all Americans trained from birth by our “special” women, that America is all about rights, and the responsibility parts, the hard parts, are only for “someone else”. Now almost everyone is a “special” American woman, competing hard to be just another useless human taking up a space in time.)
Aren’t we just “The Greatest”? Americans still childishly believe that the country is rich enough to keep building new bridges and pipelines before the old ones fall apart. We prefer to tear down old stuff and build new stuff in its place, rather than introduce a little adult responsibility into the equation for our children. And each time we do that, the cost rises exponentially. (It’s just another of the hundreds of ways the “me” herds pass far bigger bills on to “someone else”, and especially to their children.) Already 10% of the bridges built with federal “stimulus” funds during the recent “Great Recession” (2009-2013) are rated as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete – just five years later! Even 65% of the bridges in the “Magic Kingdom” (Washington DC) are functionally obsolete, right outside the windows of the US Government. We still marvel at what the Roman Empire built once and left behind 2,000 years ago. The Greatest Generation tried to meet such standards with great things like the Interstate Super-highway system, but their children, and their “leaders”, will ensure that we leave nothing behind but shame (and some orange dust).
Does anyone in government ever pay a price for such gross stupidly? Only in your dreams.
(Notice that the construct in the “safety and security” industry is the same as that now employed in our schools and in almost all other governmental endeavors: the focus is on the process, not the results. It only matters that your intentions are admirable; the results of those intentions are inconsequential. It’s not that you achieve nothing, it’s how you go about achieving nothing. “Do it nicely and with a sweet smile, and you can’t lose. Besides, I have rights! I do NOT have responsibilities! Everyone else has the responsibility for ensuring whatever rights I decide to demand for very special me at any moment in time.” It’s just more of that familiar “Baby Boomer Brilliance”.)
(See also “Intelligence Collection” and “The Family File”, posted separately.)
Footnote #1. After-The-Fact Verification. It’s worth noting that it was a lie that got repeated over and over again that was used for years to “validate” the effectiveness of the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program. (See “Enhanced Interrogation”.) A similar process took place with the NSA blanket surveillance program: A lie was repeated over and over, including in Congress, that the NSA program had resulted in averting planned overseas terrorist attacks involving the Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley. Headley had actually been directly involved in laying the groundwork for the 2008 Siege In Mumbai and a subsequently planned attack on a Copenhagen newspaper, and he had left a long electronic and e-mail trail behind over a two year period. But none of this was picked up by the NSA or any of its partners before-the-fact. (Its British partner CGHQ was able to intercept the Mumbai attackers’ control communications once the attack was underway.) And still no one knew of Headley’s involvement in the Mumbai attack until Headley had been arrested by the FBI in connection with the Copenhagen target and himself voluntarily started talking about Mumbai. (He mistakenly assumed the FBI knew all about his involvement in Mumbai, too.) At that point NSA was asked to search its archived data – after the fact – and did confirm much of Headley’s story. But 166 people were long dead in Mumbai. Similar post-event verifications have proven helpful to Spain, France and Italy.
Note that such after-the-fact utility makes NSA capabilities far more useful to law enforcement, including state prosecutors, in convicting people arrested for past criminal activity than it does in enabling law enforcement to prevent the criminal or “terrorist” activity – even in countries that have the full capabilities of NSA readily available, such as the US, Australia, Canada and Britain. The fact that some “home-grown lone-wolf” attacks have been successful is the justification for ever more intrusive surveillance of all American citizens. And, still, it’s of very marginal utility to national defense.
Footnote #2. No Attack Is No Proof. Politicians and bureaucrats point to the fact that there have been no successful major terrorist attacks inside the US since 9/11/2001 to validate the effectiveness of their pet government programs, agencies and bureaucracies. But this actually proves nothing. A good case can be made that there would have been no further attacks even if the government changed nothing, that the mere shock of the 9/11/2001 attacks was sufficient to shake those already responsible for preventing such things into a heightened awareness, dedication and effectiveness. Many domestic terrorist court cases, in fact, actually seem to have resulted from citizen initiative and smart police work – both very “old fashioned” and quite effective methods.
But the government did do many things, in very short order. It rapidly wasted a trillion taxpayer dollars by adding a million more marginal people to the permanent government dole at the best pay and benefits on the planet. It created whole new huge bureaucracies such as the Department of Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, even a new military command inside the country, in addition to awarding huge contracts to a plethora of commercial companies in the “security” and “intelligence” industries. (And these were the “small-government” conservatives of the Republican Party – who also bought a raft of other votes with a whole new birthright entitlement – prescription drugs – with other people’s money.) The government also provided the perfect incentive for large numbers of employees, government agencies, commercial companies, politicians and bureaucrats to keep the public’s fear of terrorism at a high level. (This incentive is also ironic, since government bureaucracies are very easy to create, but virtually impossible to kill, regardless of actual need or effectiveness.) Collectively, their main job is to convince you that you really need the womb they want to create for you that will ultimately, inevitably, become your prison – one that you even paid for! The best way to do that is by fanning fear. In the meantime, the net effect of all the explosive growth of this vast new industry seems to have had a result exactly opposite of what was intended, that there is now simply more bureaucratic clutter in which ever more incompetents can hide on the people’s dime.
Some long-existing and respected agencies, like the Secret Service, seem to have fallen to tragicomic depths, evidencing a degree of professionalism akin to the Keystone Kops. CIA’s steady string of “intelligence” failures, misadventures, thuggery and borderline criminality has been just humiliating, while also very costly to American prestige. Recent tests of the gigantic new “Transportation Security” Agency revealed that it fails its mission at a rate of 96% – which is equivalent to “totally useless”. You’d expect a much higher success rate just based an accidental probability! The huge Directorate of National Intelligence (which assumed the mission previously held by the very small office of the President’s National Security Advisor) seems to have accomplished nothing but to even further muddle and hobble the entire national “intelligence” industry. And no one seems to know what all those many dozens of government contract companies operating out there in the shadows are doing. Even the level of ignorance of military matters among civilian officials in America, even among very influential politicians like Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton, who presume to play key roles in directing our armed forces, is just breathtaking (and really scary). (And, yes, political leaders of the other party are only very marginally better versed.)
So the absence of another terrorist attack since 9/11/2001 can be viewed as statistical improbability, as sheer accident, or as “success despite failure”. Government seems to have finally surpassed the size which can be properly managed by humans, at least humans schooled in America. All those glorified honchos revel in their “responsibility”, while accepting zero accountability – which, of course, is totally meaningless nonsense. And twit off the street can stand in the very safe rear and scream orders to morons, and only morons would then run right off the cliff. We actually seem to have become our own worst enemy, simply because no one knows what they’re doing. And it’s nearly impossible to hold anyone accountable for accomplishing nothing but gross stupidity.
Then, to a thinking man, there is this constant nagging question in the back of the mind: How much of the domestic “threat” is real, and much of it is just illusion manufactured by those with a variety of significant profit motives? Even it were possible to prove a negative, the absence of further terrorist attacks inside the United States since 9/11/2001 is “proof” of absolutely nothing.
Some have asked me about “proving a negative”. Try this small piece of logic:
1. Negative: Nothing happened. Why did it not happen? (The possibilities are infinite.) How do you prove why something did not happen – after it didn’t happen? Extremely difficult.
2. Positive: Something happened. Why did it happen? (The possibilities are quite finite.) How do you prove why something happened – after it happened? Not so difficult at all.
This is why we require the state, with all its resources, to prove that the defendant did the act (positive), and why we do not require the defendant to prove that he did not do the act (negative). And the state must prove its case “beyond a reasonable doubt”, while the defendant need only raise doubt by offering one or more plausible alternative possibilities which the state cannot disprove.
“Evidence of absence is not absence of evidence.”
Footnote #3. Police Power. Every citizen now needs a guide book that needs replacement every year just to keep up with and understand the theoretical justification for the dozens of different agencies in American that have people with police powers and guns and high tech toys and potent paramilitary weapons running around wherever they want to go, including right through your front door. We now even have a “special zone” within 100-miles of any national border where federal Gestapo tactics are allowed and even “probable cause” rights are suspended. Almost two-thirds of Americans live within that zone, including me. Mandatory sentencing laws, “three strikes” laws, the application of different standards according to gender, a plethora of rights without responsibilities for all the self-anointed “special” people, flooding the “justice” system with emotional mush, etc., have all trashed the American legal system. The mental image I now have of police and prosecutors in America, and most especially at the federal level, is one just short of what the Nazis instituted in Germany – marginal people fanning fear for profit while using legal shortcuts, tricks and toys to steal freedoms from American citizens for their own power advancement and self-aggrandizement. And, even worse, the more shortcuts, tricks and toys they use, the dumber and more married to their own self-serving group-think they become. (Those most terrifying are the “SWAT” units that seem more lethal than a company of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.)
These people scare the hell out of me, even more than do the bad guys; they will just as soon do me and mine great harm as use what brains they may possess – and with zero accountability. In one year (2014-2015) 1,100 people were killed by police in America, the vast majority by gunshot, but also by vehicle crashes, stun guns and asphyxiation. I can always make a complaint against a common criminal; just try getting justice from the excesses of justice. These people know that 99.99% of American citizens can never afford to go up against the almighty power of the state, and the very last thing officials of a police state will ever grant is their own fallibility. These are the same people who, incredibly, get upset about bullies in the school yard! If guys like me are more afraid of the cops than the bad guys, why is anyone surprised that a lot of Americans now prefer to protect themselves with their own guns? I am accustomed to a rigid legal system that can hold ground soldiers on the deadly battlefield subject to charges of war crimes if innocents are killed; why am I not accustomed to a similar rigid legal system inside my own country? You never know what to expect when police enter the picture, whether you’re just bringing bigger problems on yourself. Since I’m not a young attractive child-woman, but a heterosexual male who lives alone in his own nice home, I now start from the proposition that any police or “justice” official I meet is of minimum functional IQ whose power derives from swinging a capricious almighty state club over everyone in their sights – unless such officials prove otherwise. Most do not. In fact, most quickly go in the opposite direction; there’s something about nearly unlimited power that is inherently corrupting. “Why use my little brain, when I can use my brute force – “the power of law” – quicker and easier?”
“If I fear you, then I also despise you. I certainly do not trust you; you must earn my trust – by first policing your own.” And this, of course, would include policing the court system.
Then there is all that advanced technology equipment and potent weapons. Does all that high-tech stuff make a difference? Sometimes it does. But sometimes it doesn’t. In June 2015 two very dangerous convicts somehow managed to tunnel their way out of a “high-tech maximum security” prison far from any major population center in upstate New York. Thousands of local, state and federal police and National Guard people were called in to use just about every advanced technology known to man – including aircraft, drones, helicopters, mobile forensic vehicles, surveillance cameras, social media, communications intercepts, infrared heat detection devices, all sorts of night vision and radar devices – while constantly seeking the two men in the very sparsely populated region. But three weeks later they still did not have a clue as to where the men went or even how they went. In other words, the results were pretty much what they would have been in 1950 – 65 years ago – well before any of that very expensive equipment became available. (The two men were eventually caught, separately; one was shot dead by a squad of officers and the other was allowed to surrender.) One could probably make the case that officials were relying far too much on technology and not enough on old fashioned brain power – which has also become characteristic of how we now manage our wars, engage in diplomacy, address our social problems.
We now depend far more on dogma and computers than on common sense and elbow grease. The cost to taxpayers of this one tiny incident was many millions of dollars. Maybe the prison should have just sent out a couple of physically fit guards with a couple of bloodhound dogs, like they did a century ago, and told all those high-tech domestic paramilitary “troops” and bureaucratic “supervisors” to just stay home and play with their video games down in mom’s basement.
These people can’t see to the end of the work day, much less to the hell they are building for their children. And they’re all just fine with it – as long as they don’t get caught up on the receiving end of the same police state crap. And it’s all based on nothing more than buying the votes of whimpering, whining, cowering wusses fearful that real life might actually contain a few pitfalls. Over 80% of the population of the US has become members of some pathetic group claiming perpetual victimhood; soon everyone will be a Real Victim – of the almighty state. Regardless of which political party is calling the shots, the United States of America has long been on a road straight to storm trooper fascism – but with a level of state control that has never before been even imaginable. (Did you ever listen to US Representative Peter King (R-NY), who has played key roles in the advance of state power since 9/11/2001, talk about this stuff? That guy is so confident that “all is well” (as long as we keep building police powers) that you have to wonder if he isn’t being just willfully stupid. It seems that his wisdom on all this stuff derives from the fact that he is the Baby Boomer son of a NYC police officer. He doesn’t seem to have spent much time actually learning stuff from his father.)