The Government’s Identity Thieves

The White House has been pointing accusatory fingers at China for cyber hacking. Protests by China that it too has been the victim of cyber hacking were dismissed in some quarters as “well, they would say that, wouldn’t they’’.

But now we realize that the White House has sanctioned and defended snooping, on a far greater scale than what China was accused of, against US citizens.

And St. Barack of Guantanamo, the patron saint of broken promises, still insists he is a defender of civil liberties. Under this president, the commander-in-chief, Bradley Manning is facing life in prison on charges he aided the enemy for putting into the public domain information vital for democracy to function. He, in fact, aided the American people by holding government to account and exposing the targeting by a US Apache helicopter of, among others, two Reuters’ journalist in Iraq.

Possibly, then, it should not be a surprise that under an order signed on April 25 by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the US government has unlimited authority to obtain data on the communication records of US citizens until July 19, when it looks set to be renewed. Data on all telephone calls with the US and between the US and other countries will also be collected

In simple terms, the phone records of American citizens are, as a matter of course, examined by their own government. Americans now live in a state of surveillance.

But hold on. Doesn’t the terror threat justify the draconian measures?

It didn’t in the past. The Soviet Union was a real terror threat, a clear and present danger, to use the vernacular of the intelligence services. Its nuclear warheads were programmed to smash into American cities. The world’s fate hung in the balance. The thirteen days of October, 1962 was not the only time when the spectre of a mushroom cloud appearing over the horizon was a distinct possibility.

But US civil liberties were kept, admittedly frayed around the edges, largely intact.

Make no mistake about it there are people who want to do real harm to the West but this invasion of privacy does not make America or the West any safer. Look at the confusion to justify this breach of trust of the America people. It doesn’t stand up to even the most cursory scrutiny.

The White House says that no authorisation has been given to snoop on the contents of phone calls. Technically, a solid argument. The National Security Agency is not allowed to snoop on the contents of phone calls just the records of them, where they were made, how long they lasted, the numbers. Networks, associations, patterns and times of communication, but not content. This seems incredible that they would not look at the content but let’s just say that is the case. Defenders of what the National Security Agency is doing say it is the equivalent, in the electronic age, of looking at, not opening, a stamped letter.

Now we enter a bizarre world. We have the incredible situation where security services are saying matters of urgent national security require we examine the data, but, crucially, not the content. This, in their mindset, must border on negligence because the content is surely where the important information will be, not the outside of the envelope. By their own admission, they are not taking every step to make America safe.

Americans can still draw comfort that they do not live in a police state, they have protections, legal and constitutional. The alarming aspect of that sentence is that it rings less true than it once did. And that, to our great misfortune, will give comfort to the enemy.

TOM CLIFFORD can be reached at tclifford@praguepost.com


More articles by:

Tom Clifford is a freelance journalist and can be reached at: cliffordtomsan@hotmail.com.

July 23, 2018
Thomas Mountain
Ethiopia’s Peaceful Revolution
Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone