Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Embracing Big Brother


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:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Uri Avnery
The Peres Funeral Ruckus
Tom Clifford
Duterte’s Gambit: the Philippines’s Pivot to China
Reyes Mata III
Scaling Camelot’s Walls: an Essay Regarding Donald Trump
Raouf Halaby
Away from the Fray: From Election Frenzy to an Interlude in Paradise
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
David Yearsley
Trump and Hitchcock in the Age of Conspiracies
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”