FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Embracing Big Brother

by CANDACE COHN

It may be June, but Christmas came early this year for Big Brother and the telecommunications giants. Unfortunately, it is average Americans who will pay–dearly–on three separate counts.

First, precious constitutional and other legal protections against warrantless domestic surveillance have been shattered. The federal government may now secretly and legally eavesdrop on virtually any American’s e-mail, cell phone and landline communications–without first getting a court-ordered warrant.

New federal legislation gives the government and phone companies sweeping new domestic surveillance powers. It allows for mass, untargeted, warrantless eavesdropping against ordinary American citizens and political activists. It sets back hard-fought free speech, civil rights and privacy protections that were won by popular pressure following the Vietnam War and Watergate era.

The second price that Americans will pay is by those who have been illegally monitored since 9/11. They will lose billions of dollars from dozens of anti-spying lawsuits pending against the likes of Sprint, AT&T and Verizon. These suits, covering the last seven years, will now be dismissed in a huge giveaway of immunity to the telecommunications lobby and big campaign donors.

The lawsuits arose from the government’s secret eavesdropping on American citizens, carried out since September 11 by Verizon, AT&T and others at the behest of the Bush administration, without court-ordered warrants–which until now had been legally required.

Third, Americans will be unable to discover the extent and details of the government’s post-9/11 domestic spying operation, which barely came to light three years ago. That domestic eavesdropping campaign will now continue and expand further–with legal sanction–in the dark recesses of total secrecy. The new bill is a huge and blatant cover-up.

* * *

DEMOCRATS HAD claimed to be against the bill for months, but–as they did with the earlier USA PATRIOT Act–easily and completely capitulated. The new legislation received overwhelming bipartisan support in the U.S. House of Representatives on June 19; its imminent approval by the Senate is a foregone conclusion.

Reversing himself along with so many of his colleagues, Barack Obama gave fresh evidence of what can be expected of him if he wins the presidency.

In February–when he was running against Hillary Clinton–Obama said he “was proud” to stand against this bill’s predecessor and its blanket immunity for the telecommunications companies’ violations of individuals’ civil rights. Four months later, no longer needing to position himself to the left of his former Democratic rival, Obama has revealed his real stance. He has announced he will vote in favor of the state powers and immunity for crimes and violations he so recently denounced.

At a time when Democrats are most ascendant–when Republicans, the war and bogus post-9/11 “national security” scams for gutting constitutional rights have been most discredited–Obama and “bipartisan” Democrats are giving the completely weakened Bush administration exactly what it wants. Why? There can be only one reason. It is what they want, too.

The new bill guts the post-Watergate Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which was created in 1978 to require warrants from secret courts for domestic government spying in national security matters. These were created to curb blatant government domestic wiretap abuse, revealed by the Senate’s Church Committee and others.

The Church Committee, convened in the 1970s to investigate government claims against domestic “terrorists,” instead revealed a massive, secret official campaign of spying, sabotage, thug tactics, “dirty tricks” and criminal activity by the government against ordinary Americans. The secret surveillance and criminal sabotage were carried out especially against many thousands of movement activists–antiwar, civil rights, antiracist, left-wing and many other dissenters.

The political opponents the government systematically “terrorized” covered a broad range: the Black Panthers, antiwar organizers, Puerto Rican nationalists, journalists, Native American groups, socialist organizations, peace vigil groups, Martin Luther King, Jr. Even congressional opponents were targeted.

The eavesdropping, disruption schemes, blackmail, assaults, assassinations and other crimes were carried out by the CIA, FBI and many other government agencies, through programs like the infamous COINTELPRO (COunterINtelligence PROgram).

Mass popular opposition won victories that curbed government thuggery and spying against the American people and political activists. But longtime official efforts to rehabilitate such programs have used 9/11 as a cover for supposedly “temporary” measures against ostensible “terrorists” (most notably via the Patriot Act).

Those efforts have now succeeded in getting exactly what was wanted all along–permanent “legal” license to listen in on any American’s communications at will, without meaningful “interference” or supervision from the courts, without the ability of ordinary folks to find out or challenge what the government is doing, and without recourse to legal remedies for what was previously known as breaking the law.

The demolition of civil liberties and human rights introduced at Guantánamo is coming home.

CANDACE COHN writes for the Socialist Worker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
Robert Fisk
The Hypocrisies of Terror Talk
Lee Hall
Purloined Platitudes and Bipartisan Bunk: An Adjunct’s View
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of Collective Punishment: Russia, Doping and WADA
Nozomi Hayase
Cryptography as Democratic Weapon Against Demagoguery
Cesar Chelala
The Real Donald Trump
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Propaganda Machinery and State Surveillance of Muslim Children
Denis Conroy
Australia: Election Time Blues for Clones
Marjorie Cohn
Killing With Robots Increases Militarization of Police
David Swanson
RNC War Party, DNC War Makers
Eugene Schulman
The US Role in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict
Nauman Sadiq
Imran Khan’s Faustian Bargain
Peter Breschard
Kaine the Weepy Executioner
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail