How I Feel About the NSA Spying!

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Snowden’s Leaks Trigger Shift in Public Opinion

Photo courtesy of ibtimes.com

Photo courtesy of ibtimes.com

 

A new Quinnipiac poll shows a dramatic change in public opinion regarding U.S. counter-terrorism policies.

For more, go to The Secular Jurist’s blog.

Why the U.S. NSA Spying Case Matters

Photo courtesy of news.bbcimg.co.uk

Photo courtesy of news.bbcimg.co.uk

 

WashingtonPost.com ran this story today (7/11/13):

A federal judge Thursday ordered the government to stop genital searches of Guantanamo Bay detainees who want to meet with their lawyers, concluding that the motivation for the searches is not to enhance security, but to deter the detainees’ access to attorneys. 

“As petitioners’ counsel argued, the choice between submitting to a search procedure that is religiously and culturally abhorrent or forgoing counsel effectively presents no choice for devout Muslims,” one of the judges of the case wrote.

Brent Rushforth, a lawyer for two of the detainees, said that the Obama administration “is flouting rule of law as recognized by the Supreme Court.”

Just over 100 of the 166 prisoners remaining at Guantanamo have been on a hunger strike for four months to protest their indefinite detention.

The prison officials have now taken to force-feeding them, a very painful procedure that many observers consider torture.

When Edward Snowden revealed what he knew about the U.S. government’s PRISM spy program, carried out by the National Security Agency (NSA), some reacted with horror, others with apathy, and still others with cynicism. Well, there are some very good reasons why, if you are not horrified, you should be. That article is one demonstration of why.

People, like me, who were first horrified are now angry. We say, “It’s not right! And it does matter!” What is happening right now in Guantanamo Bay prison matters to the people who are suffering there. They are suffering because their rights are being violated. The judge deemed the searches illegal- the searches violated the prisoners’ rights.

What PRISM and the PATRIOT Act (and any other spy program the NSA may be engaged in) has everything to do with rights. Why? Because these programs violate our rights in myriad ways. They are, as we speak, monitoring our phone calls, internet activity including emails, and who knows what else. They are allowed to enter our homes without warrants, which means that they can barge into your home at anytime and flip through you belongings to look for “evidence” of terrorist activities. Phone calls, etc., can also be used as evidence.

What’s especially scary about all this is that only a secret court can approve of the NSA’s activities, not a regular court. This is most likely because the government knows full well that a regular court would never sign off on what they are doing, since this activity violates the American Constitution. And since it is secret, none of us can get a peek at what exactly is being done, yet it is still allowed.

Another examples of what happens when rights are violated:

The Case of  the “Ford Heights Four,” according to InnocenceProject.org: 

In 1978, along with friends Dennis Williams and Willie Rainge, Kenneth Adams was convicted of gang-raping and murdering a twenty-three year old woman and murdering her fiance. Adams was sentenced to seventy-five years in prison, Williams to death, and Rainge to life without parole. The fourth man, Verneal Jimerson, was convicted and sent to death row. The four young men convicted for this crime were to become known as the Ford Heights Four.

The state’s chief witness in the case, Paula Gray, claimed to have been at the scene of the crime with the four men. After her testimony secured indictments of all four men, she recanted and the charges against Jimerson were dropped.

In all, the Innocence Project found that due to eyewitness misidentification, false confessions/admissions and unvalidated or improper forensic science, the trial against them was unjust. The police and the justice system allowed these problems to go unchecked during the trial. And that the men were black surely had a hand in how badly the trial went for them. Eventually, through new DNA evidence, they were found innocent. The Ford Heights Four settled civil claims for $36 million against the police officers involved in the original investigation. The men were released from prison in 1996 after serving 17 and a half years in prison.

If these men had had their rights recognized, the fraud that took place in the trial wouldn’t have happened. It wouldn’t have been allowed.

Tell Congress To Investigate the NSA (petition)

U.S. Congress

U.S. Congress

PETITION WRITTEN BY DANIEL ELLSBERG, THE WHISTLEBLOWER BEHIND THE PENTAGON PAPERS via CredoAction.com:

“We need a new congressional committee to investigate the revelations by Edward Snowden. The existing Intelligence Committees in House and Senate, gagged by secrecy and co-opted by the intelligence community they supposedly oversee, have failed to check dangerously excessive surveillance of Americans’ communications.

Pressure by an informed public on Congress to form a select committee to investigate these revelations might lead us to bring the NSA and the rest of the intelligence community under real supervision and restraint and restore the protections of the Bill of Rights.”

The spying programs the U.S. government is engaged in are very dangerous. Through secret courts and laws, the government has given the National Security Agency (NSA) unlimited access to our personal information and virtually unlimited authority to use whatever information they find against us in whatever manner they see fit. Just because you’re not a terrorist doesn’t mean they can’t decide you are. With unlimited power, they can do anything. Without a restoration to our Constitutional rights, which are meant to protect us against unfair arrests and prosecution, we are vulnerable.

Daniel Ellsberg wrote an amazing book called “Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers” about his experience as a whistleblower during the Vietnam War era. It not only talks about his own experiences, but talks about the dangers of a government that doesn’t see itself as under the Constitution’s authority. Although it was written in 2003, it’s the perfect resource for understanding why what’s happening now really matters.

To sign the petition, go to org.credoaction.com.

Help Get the “Restore Our Privacy Act” Passed- petition

US Supreme Court - by Mark Fischer

US Supreme Court – by Mark Fischer

 

I found this petition on digger666.com’s blog.

From Sanders.Senate.gov:

Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced the Restore Our Privacy Act to put strict limits on sweeping powers used by the National Security Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation to secretly track telephone calls by millions of innocent Americans who are not suspected of any wrongdoing.

We must give our intelligence and law enforcement agencies all of the tools that they need to combat terrorism but we must do so in a way that protects our freedom and respects the Constitution’s ban on unreasonable searches.

To sign this petition, go to Sanders.Senate.gov.

26 Senators Now Questioning the NSA About Spying (FINALLY!)

26 U.S. senators have sent a formal letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper asking whether its spy programs “essentially relied for years on a secret body of law,” according to Slate.com.

Among the questions:

– How long has the NSA used PATRIOT Act authorities to engage in bulk collection of Americans’ records? Was this collection underway when the law was reauthorized in 2006?

– Has the NSA used USA PATRIOT Act authorities to conduct bulk collection of any other types of records pertaining to Americans, beyond phone records?

– Has the NSA collected or made any plans to collect Americans’ cell-site location data in bulk?

– Have there been any violations of the court orders permitting this bulk collection, or of the rules governing access to these records? If so, please describe these violations.

– Please identify any specific examples of instances in which intelligence gained by reviewing phone records obtained through Section 215 bulk collection proved useful in thwarting a particular terrorist plot.

Here’s a refresher on what the PATRIOT Act is: Very soon after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Congress passed the PATRIOT Act, a set of surveillance laws, according to ACLU.org. The act was meant to avert future attacks by aggressively monitoring communications between possible terrorists. Unfortunately for average American citizens, that monitoring has become so aggressive that everyone’s information can be collected and analyzed. What’s particularly disturbing is that much of what we are hearing now through Edward Snowden’s recent revelations is not brand new- the government’s been engaging in mass surveillance since the PATRIOT Act took hold. PRISM, the spy program Snowden was a small player in, is just a more muscular and recent addition to an already existing set of programs and policies.

Even more disturbing is the fact that both the PATRIOT Act and PRISM have many aspects to them that are top-secret, which makes it difficult to even know what’s going on, much less do something about it.

Personally, I am glad that these senators are finally doing their jobs- serving the people. It’s a shame that only 26 of them are doing this, but at least it’s happening. They are demanding answers to the questions we all want to know. They are demanding accountability. I wonder, though, if these senators are really so unaware of the far-reaching power that both spy programs afford the government (mind you, without any real court authorization)? Under the PATRIOT Act alone, the feds can, according to ACLU.org:

-Search your home and not even tell you. The Act allows law enforcement to conduct secret “sneak and peek” searches of your home. Investigators can enter your home or office, take pictures and seize items without informing you that a warrant was issued for a very long time – if ever.

– Collect information on what books you read, what you study, your purchases, your medical history and your personal finances. The Act gives law enforcement broad access to any types of records – educational, medical, financial, sales, library, etc. – without probable cause of a crime. It also prohibits the holders of this information, like librarians, from disclosing that they have produced such records, under the threat of jail time. While a court order is required to obtain the information, the Act requires that a judge rubber stamp such orders.

– Spy on innocent Americans. The Act permits a vast array of information gathering on U.S. citizens to be collected and shared with the CIA (and other non-law enforcement officials) without proper judicial oversight or other safeguards. This law effectively puts the CIA back in the business of spying on Americans.

And more.

At least these senators are doing something. As the public, we need to make sure we keep an eye on Washington so that both programs are either dismantled completely, or at least brought under the scrutiny of the Constitution.

Constitutional rights were created specifically to protect us from unfair or overzealous police and government prosecution and persecution. Need an example of what happens when a person’s rights are violated? Look no further than death penalty states in which (at least) dozens of people, mostly black men, have languished on death row due to ineffective counsel, corruption in the courts, or other factors often due to racism. Some of these men, many of whom are already dead, were innocent. In fact, there are lawyers who work for little or nothing specifically to help death row inmates get a second chance at a fair trial. They have proven that, at least in some cases, death row inmates were innocent. In the best case scenarios, these inmates live to walk out of prison as free men. In the worst cases, they die waiting for someone to hear them.

What do you think would happen to you if you were labeled a terrorist? Without rights, the government has free rein over your life once it charges you with an act of terrorism. And it won’t matter that you don’t having anything incriminating in your possession or your background- you don’t have rights, remember? There was no search warrant, no judge. And if you beg and cry and say it’s not fair and ask why, they’ll just say, “That’s classified.”

ACLU Files Lawsuit Challenging NSA Phone Spying Program

Photo courtesy of images.cdn.fotopedia.com

 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a press release today stating that it and the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) has filed a constitutional challenge to the recently publicized surveillance program. The press release says the program “vacuums up information about every phone call placed within, from, or to the United States.”

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