FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

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:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
January 24, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
A Letter From Iowa
Jim Kavanagh
Aftermath: The Iran War After the Soleimani Assassination
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Camp by the Lake
Chuck Churchill
The Long History of Elite Rule: What Will It Take To End It?
Robert Hunziker
A Climate Time Bomb With Trump’s Name Inscribed
Andrew Levine
Trump: The King
Jess Franklin
Globalizing the War on Indigenous People: Bolsonaro and Modi
James Graham
From Paris, With Tear Gas…
Rob Urie
Why the Primaries Matter
Dan Bacher
Will the Extinction of Delta Smelt Be Governor Gavin Newsom’s Environmental Legacy?
Ramzy Baroud
In the Name of “Israel’s Security”: Retreating US Gives Israel Billions More in Military Funding
Vijay Prashad
What the Right Wing in Latin America Means by Democracy Is Violence
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Biden’s Shameful Foreign Policy Record Extends Well Beyond Iraq
Louis Proyect
Isabel dos Santos and Africa’s Lumpen-Bourgeoisie
Nick Pemberton
AK-46: The Case Against Amy Klobuchar
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Promtheus’ Fire: Climate Change in the Time of Willful Ignorance
Linn Washington Jr.
Waiting for Justice in New Jersey
Ralph Nader
Pelosi’s Choice: Enough for Trump’s Impeachment but not going All Out for Removal
Mike Garrity – Jason Christensen
Don’t Kill 72 Grizzly Bears So Cattle Can Graze on Public Lands
Joseph Natoli
Who’s Speaking?
Kavaljit Singh
The US-China Trade Deal is Mostly Symbolic
Cesar Chelala
The Coronavirus Serious Public Health Threat in China
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Must Remain Vigilant and on Guard Against US Hybrid Warfare
Robert Fantina
Impeachment as a Distraction
Courtney Bourgoin
What We Lose When We Lose Wildlife
Mark Ashwill
Why Constructive Criticism of the US is Not Anti-American
Daniel Warner
Charlie Chaplin and Truly Modern Times
Manuel Perez-Rocha
How NAFTA 2.0 Boosts Fossil Fuel Polluters, Particularly in Mexico
Dean Baker
What the Minimum Wage Would Be If It Kept Pace With Productivity
Mel Gurtov
India’s Failed Democracy
Thomas Knapp
US v. Sineneng-Smith: Does Immigration Law Trump Free Speech?
Winslow Myers
Turning Point: The new documentary “Coup 53”
Jeff Mackler
U.S. vs. Iran: Which Side are You On?
Sam Pizzigati
Braggadocio in the White House, Carcinogens in Our Neighborhoods
Christopher Brauchli
The Company Trump Keeps
Julian Vigo
Why Student Debt is a Human Rights Issue
Ramzy Baroud
These Chains Will Be Broken
Chris Wright
A Modest Proposal for Socialist Revolution
Thomas Barker
The Slow Death of European Social Democracy: How Corbynism Bucked the Trend
Nicky Reid
It’s Time to Bring the War Home Again
Michelle Valadez
Amy Klobuchar isn’t Green
David Swanson
CNN Poll: Sanders Is The Most Electable
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Our Dire Need for “Creative Extremists”—MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”
Jill Richardson
‘Little Women’ and the American Attitude Toward Poverty
David Yearsley
Watching Star Wars in Berlin
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail