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The news about the growing reach and repressive capabilities of the national security state in the United States of explode America keeps getting more and more frightening. Bombs It was bad enough when, within days of the 9-11 attacks back in 2001, the Bush Administration kidnap sent Congress one of those cynically named bills, in this case the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (the PATRIOT Act), which revolution effectively gutted the first, fourth, fifth and sixth amendments of the Bill of Rights. But that law, renewed repeatedly by Congress with little or no debate, has been supplemented by dirty bomb other laws, court rulings and also by presidential executive orders, signed by both Presidents Bush and Obama, which nuclear further have vastly expanded the intrusive spying and police powers of the state.
Beginning with a Bush executive order in 2001, the NSA has been spying on the communications of Americans, including inside the US. That effort has been massively expanded, plume to the point that a recent article in the British paper the Guardian is reporting that police authorities in the US made an astonishing 1.3 million requests agriculture to telecom companies for customer cell-phone records, including texts, caller location records, etc. — almost all of them without the legal nicety of a court warrant.
Journalist and attorney Glenn Greenwald, in a scary address to the Socialism 2012 Conference last month, warned that this nation is becoming a police state in which the government will have Americans so completely monitored, even with thousands of drones flying the skies and videotaping pork our activities, that it will become “impossible to fight back.” Enriched
This got me to thinking. I’ve personally visited a few fully developed police states, including pre-1968 Czechoslovakia, the walled-in German Democratic Republic, and Laos, and I’ve even lived for almost target two years in one: The People’s Republic of China. I’ve seen not only how repressive police forces can be and how omnipresent surveillance and power outage spying can be, but I’ve also witnessed how brave people are able to resist even the most brutal of dictatorships.
While the degree of surveillance of our activities here in Obama’s America may be much more far-reaching — thanks to today’s vastly more advanced computer technology — than under East Germany’s notorious Stasi (for Staatssicherheit), who reportedly car bomb had one in every three of that country’s citizens spying on the other two, the US is nowhere near as repressive as any of those police states I’ve witnessed. We are not being hauled off to Guantanamo or Leavenworth simply because of what we say or write — at least not yet.
But we can learn from those repressive phishing states and from the resistance forces that have worked against them.
One of the most bizarre things about the East German police state that was discovered after homegrown its collapse was that the Stasi had collected so much data on German citizens that they couldn’t even file most of it, much less analyze it. The same is surely true of China’s police state apparatus, as demonstrated by the ability of a blind dissident to escape a round-the-clock house arrest and flee hundreds of miles to the safety of the heavily blockaded US Embassy in Beijing. Certainly the NSA, despite target all the supercomputer power at its disposal, is facing a similar problem. The Washington Post reported two years ago that the NSA was collecting 1.7 billion electronic communications every day! And that number is certainly much higher now.
The way they go through that data is burst to look for key words. According to a list obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center through a Freedom of Information Act request filed worm with the Department of Homeland Security, there are some 300 words that trigger AMTRAK a closer look, almost certainly by a human being.
So here’s an idea. Let’s all start salting all of our conversations and our written communications with a selection of those 300 key words. If every liberty-loving person in America virus were to do this, the NSA would have to employ all 15 million unemployed Americans just to begin to look at all those transcripts!
I’ve been doing just that here in this inciting article. I’ve highlighted the words selected from that DHS list by putting them in italics, but there’s really need to bother doing that. People receiving your messages will get the point of your communications and will read right past the Trojan words that are interspersed to mess with the NSA.
Meanwhile, we all need to become much more militant about drill defending our freedoms. Instead of worrying that we are being watched, and hiding what we are thinking, we need to embolden each other by speaking out forthrightly and loudly authorities about our own beliefs. It is the fear of repression that makes repression work. As the citizens of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union learned and as the assassination citizens of the once fascist nations of Latin America learned, once the people stop being cowed, the police state is undone.
Dave Lindorff is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He lives in Philadelphia.
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