Tag Archives: Big Brother

Liberty, Security, Privacy, Big Brother, and the Concept of the Common Good

The outrage is palpable and the increasing realization by the average American that they really, truly are now living in an Orwellian surveillance state has been an eye-opening experience for many across the fruited plain. The once mocked conspiracy theory of the all-knowing Big Brother state has shown itself to be far more of an ugly reality than a silly fantasy. He who called the War on Terror basically over has now been forced to admit that his administration has vastly expanded the concept of the security state in the name of ‘public safety.’ The ‘trust us’ stance of government is no longer a working defense for such actions as this administration, and the federal agencies under its control, have shown that they simply cannot be trusted. Therein lies the true dilemma for the Obama administration as it seeks to calm the rising storm.

We already have proof that powerful agencies of the federal government deliberately, under orders from Washington, harassed and targeted specific people and groups that were ideological opponents of the current administration. The vast powers of the state were used as political weapons against its enemies on a wide scale and possibly affected the outcome of the last presidential election. Such things should not be taken lightly.

The fact that basically every phone call, Facebook post, internet search, website visit, email written, and picture posted online is being sucked up by Big Brother without regards to privacy concerns, constitutional protections, or the concept of personal liberty goes against everything America should stand for. It is state of affairs that should raise a cry of outrage in every throat and force a fundamental change in what we will tolerate from our government.

The fact that leading tech companies including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple were participating in a secret surveillance program on the citizenry known as PRISM should (but will not necessarily) lead to a complete collapse of public trust in the current administration and our current concept of government in general. What has not been explained away is why the administration has assembled the most powerful and intrusive systems of surveillance ever conceived. The Founding Fathers would not have stood for such things for one second and neither should we.

Such policies can have a chilling effect on political speech and free speech in general. There are those who argue that liberals have successfully seized the State just as they have academia, education, the media, the entertainment industry and increasingly the military. And this may be just another tool and tactic for those seeking to monitor, track, and eventually silence those who oppose their utopian, socialistic, nanny-state agenda.

Mr. Obama stated “I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.” But if it comes down to a choice between the two I choose privacy. We should always, always choose a free state over a police state even if the latter provides slightly more security from the random Boston bomber or occasional crazy.

As Americans we should not be forced to live with a camera on every pole, a bug in every phone, and an internal security officer on every corner. That illusion of safety in reality then merely becomes the mask for eventual tyranny and oppression in the name of the ‘common good’ and societal safety. For as Ben Franklin put it, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Liberty should be the goal of government, not the antithesis of it. The Republic exists to secure such liberties for its citizens, not to be the opponent of such. We’ve now traveled far down the wrong path and we may have to pay a high price to restore the Republic and regain true liberty for our children, and our children’s children.

And frankly, you are right Mr. President. The fact that we can’t trust you, your cronies, the agencies under your control, and the “oversight” of stacked secret courts or the Congress who has been complaining, but doing nothing, about such policies means we are going to have some serious problems.

Untangling the web of NSA, Snowden, and PRISM

stevendepolo (CC)

stevendepolo (CC)

Arguments over the value of what Edward Snowden revealed to Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian have been out there ever since the story broke, and of course, the smearing of Snowden by official sources in government is in full swing. It is understandable that Greenwald is doing what he can to protect the integrity of his source. However, his current statements do not dispel some issues brought up by Mandy Nagy over at Legal Insurrection. If anything, the inconsistencies brought up by Nagy raise many legitimate questions that probably will need to be addressed sooner or later by Greenwald and The Guardian, presuming that there is a real desire to protect the integrity of their source, and the legitimacy of their reporting.

That is a relatively harsh way of putting another issue on the table – was The Guardian “right” to report on this in the first place? It’s a treacherous situation to report on intelligence procedures in the best of circumstances, and this case is particularly difficult to wade through, if for no other reason, because it appears that Snowden may or may not have been what he claims to have been. If Nagy is right, the big question becomes how did Snowden get the information in the first place? It is bad enough to think that someone that had been employed by the government through a contracted corporation could get this information if that person had access to it daily for years. But, it’s possible that Snowden only had real access to anything for just a few weeks, at most – taking into account training time, where it’s not unreasonable to assume he would have had limited access, regardless of his past history with the CIA. And that’s not even getting into the apparently spotted work and academic history of Snowden, that arguably should have been considered a warning sign that maybe he really wasn’t what he appeared. Given the nature of the information that he was revealing – government secrets that, by definition, can’t be verified by secondary sources – one would think that a great deal of scrutiny should be given to what should be verifiable – the life history of the source. Since it appears that Snowden’s history looks at least a little like a poorly pieced together “cover identity” from a spy novel, there should have been at least a little wariness about what the man had to say. One serious question should have been, has the CIA really taken to hiring people that had to get a GED because they couldn’t complete high school, and apparently couldn’t manage to complete a single degree in one school?

And then there is the PRISM program itself. While Palantir has a program of that name, they’ve categorically denied involvement in the NSA program of that name. Given the documentation of Palantir program, their claims appear to be true. However, that does not mean that Palantir doesn’t have hands in government intelligence gathering at all. The company specializes in data mining, management, and interpretation software, and openly states that it has clientele in government, law enforcement, the healthcare and pharmacy industries. While they tout their work against human trafficking in conjunction with Google, that doesn’t mean that their other endeavors are not worth scrutinizing. Just because they apparently are not involved in the development of NSA’s PRISM program does not mean that they are not involved in governmental data mining at all.

Snowden’s leaks to The Guardian have raised more questions than answers. The information that he has revealed still could eventually be proven to be of little value, but the fact that he had managed to hold any position in the government, or at a company that has been contracted to do security work is disturbing. It has been taken for granted that there has been some level of spying on U.S. citizens by the government since at the very least, 9/11. How far the government has gone, and continues to go, hasn’t been made any more clear by Snowden’s information. He’s merely pointed out that it probably is far more extensive than anyone had suspected previously. As for what citizens and journalists alike should be focusing on at this point is the simple fact that the government is spying on U.S. citizens. With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the breadth of information on citizens that will be available to the government will increase radically. We should be more concerned with what the government intends to do with information it gathers, either through its intelligence infrastructure, or through purely domestic agencies like the IRS. The unfortunate fact at this point is that the conspiracy theorists are at least partially right. Government has grown to the point where no citizen should assume any level of privacy in anything that they do. They should assume that the government will not restrict itself to using that information for innocuous reasons – the claims that information could be used to intimidate citizens through threats of prosecution should be considered accurate, because there is nothing in place to prevent the government from acting in that way. Politics aside, this should be a wake-up call to the public. Unfortunately, until there are verified cases of the government using information that it has gathered through the use of PRISM or any other data mining programs to prosecute citizens as a tool of intimidation, it’s more likely that apathy will continue to keep the masses silent.

Occupy vs. Tea Party: The Series

YES! It is finally here! A reality television show that pits two of the most visible and vociferous political grassroots groups against each other in a battle of epic proportions.  Occupy vs. Tea Party is the brainchild of Mr. Gordon Gebert.  A musician by trade, Mr. Gebert hatched the idea of these two groups duking it out on live television upon seeing the growth of such activism after the coronation of Barack Obama.  He wanted a project that was fair, innovative, and fun in a time where politics is becoming all too personal. We can thank Hilary Rosen for that.  However, the dynamics of the show are actually quite interesting.

He said that the show’s will be in a one hour format (44 minutes with commercials) and will be a Survivor meets Big Brother meets Apprentice format.  Occupy and Tea Party contestants will be divided into teams of six with three females and three males on each side.  Each team will endure challenges, like in Survivor, and the winner would pick a debate topic for later in the program.  Gebert said “the meat of the show” is centered on the “Big Great Debate,” where we see our political allegiances duke it out in a battle royale over freedom, liberty, and the American way of life.  Gordon said he wanted to portray a debate that isn’t cut off by commercial breaks or abrupt endings due to time constraints, which I think a lot of us have felt frustrated about watching Hannity, The Five, or (gulp) MSNB—-(I can’t say it!)….the news in general!

At the conclusion of the debate, each side will vote a member off.  As a result, you will experience the typical fight to oust the lazy person, “the village idiot,” the poor debater, or the emotionally fragile. What fun!  The last two contestants will have one final Big Great Debate and the viewers will decide who won the contest.  Gordon feels that in similar programs, where voting off contestants is an integral part of the show, the viewer will find a Tea partier or, do I dare say, an Occupier, to connect with and will share in his or her dissapointment if they are voted off the program.

Gordon hopes that a major network will pick up the show for a weekly broadcast. He is currently raising funds to shoot the pilot episode for his summer preview.  However, if this show is picked up, then production will be given a budget to allow for such amenities and Mr. Gebert hopes that the increase in funds will enhance the quality of the show, provide more eye candy, and conduct more editing to help the narrative.  However, like in politics, it’s all about the money and if he can raise more than his targeted $50,000 budget for the pilot, he can pitch a better product to the network executives in early June or late July.  However, he knows the tough road ahead of him.  He admits that the only way he would be picked up by a major network is if they have a show that fails with audiences in their packed fall schedules.  Although, his optimism couldn’t be higher and there is always a few programs that don’t make the cut.  Case in point, Lone Star, 3 lbs, The Playboy Club, and The Paul Reiser Show were all sentenced to the chopping block.  At the very least, Occupy vs. Tea Party will be posted as a webisode on Youtube. This show has some serious potential and I wish Gordon Gebert the best in bringing this entertainment to a wider audience.