It occurred to me recently that the America I knew, and cherished, and was proud to be part of, was lost on September 11, 2001, when terrorists flew jetliners into the Twin Towers of New York City’s World Trade Center. Nearly 3,000 Americans lost their lives that day. Those of us who survived lost our freedom. The Patriot Act opened the door to what has become the steady erosion of our civil liberties. We may possess inalienable rights but, inalienable or not, they are being diminished, or in some cases, simply taken away, all in the name of protecting the nation from terrorism. Shaken by the events of 9/11, we blithely go along with it.
Today we discovered that for seven years the National Security Agency has been collecting and storing away the phone records of millions of Verizon customers. This revelation came from the British newspaper, The UK Guardian. (Sadly, if you want to find out what’s going on in this country you have to refer to British news sources, because our press has become the willing accomplice and propaganda arm of the federal government.) First accounts state that the collection began in April and will end in June; the truth is it’s been going on for seven years, a fact confirmed by an FBI representative and a member of Congress later in the day, and permission for it is asked for and received on a quarterly basis. From whom does the permission derive? A secret entity called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
According to Sen. Diane Feinstein, the authority for this program comes from The Patriot Act, which allows the government to make broad demands on telephone carriers for call information. It is, therefore, lawful, she says. As though that makes it alright. Republican Congressman Mike Rogers of the House Intelligence Committee insists that this program was instrumental in thwarting a terrorist plot a few years ago. Of course we can’t get any details. They’re secret!
The FBI representative says that it is necessary for the NSA to collect these millions of records because Verizon does not have the wherewithal to store them, and regularly disposes of the data. (As it should be). Spokesmen for various government entities are insisting that only the call records, not the contents of the calls, are being kept. So, let’s see. They discover that calls have been made from the phone of a terrorist suspect; they don’t have the contents of the calls so they have to investigate the other numbers, which may or may not be cohorts of the terrorist. They could be innocent citizens. Great. Why not get a court order each time you want to check the calls of a individual under suspicion? The answer is obvious, because this isn’t just about, or even primarily about, stopping terrorism. It’s about control.
Now that the secret is out, is it necessary to collect this data any longer? You know they will. They always will. And in the name of national security, the reach of the government’s surveillance activities will expand. Perhaps to citizens like Tea Party activists, whom the present regime paint as homegrown terrorists because they stand up for those inalienable rights we’re losing. Or perhaps years from now a right-wing regime will target the ACLU, or the NAACP. One thing is certain, now that we’ve allowed the door to be opened, it will never be shut. It’s not about the Right or the Left. Do you imagine that if Republicans retake the White House they will do away with all these nasty encroachments on our rights? Think again.
I repeat — seven years this has been going on. And you didn’t know about it. And now that you know about it, what will you do? Nothing? For fear you might be persecuted by entities such as the IRS?
In the 1930s the Nazis secured control of Germany by exploiting, magnifying, And sometimes manufacturing out of whole cloth perceived threats to the Fatherland, or slights suffered at the hands of other European nation or groups. In the end they had complete control of the populace. Same thing happened in Soviet Russia after the Second World War. In that case the perceived threat was the West. It’s a shame that we seem incapable of learning from history.
So, yes, Al Qaiea has already won this war. They have destroyed the America of old, where the people jealously guarded their rights and clung to their freedoms and maintained a healthy skepticism where their government was concerned. Now, the government itself is, potentially, a far bigger threat to citizens than Al Qaida ever could be.
WE LOST AMERICA ON 9/11