Commentary by James Turnage
Whenever our government wants to hide the truth from the American people, they claim that the information is ‘classified,’ and if it was revealed it would ‘jeopardize national security.’ The American people are the nation, and we have a right to know what happens inside our own nation. The fourth amendment protects our individual right of privacy, or at least it used to. The NSA continues to move forward with programs which spy on US citizens using a portion of the misnamed ‘Patriot Act.’
The assault on privacy began under George W. Bush and has been expanded under Barack Obama. Articles published in the Guardian containing information obtained by Edward Snowden reveal the extent of the NSA’s information gathering. We are now aware that the NSA gathers the phone records of every individual in the United States. Using a program called ‘PRISM,’ it obtains private data from the use of major online services. It has developed a highly sophisticated hacking system which can be targeted towards business tools and their IT systems. The NSA also infiltrated Google and Yahoo, gathering usage information about its customers.
A decision is soon to be made regarding a lawsuit filed in 2008. The case involves allegations that the federal government through its NSA continues to gather internet information from ordinary citizens. In 2009 the Guardian exposed a top secret document revealing gathering of information by the NSA from internet usage. The government denied the existence of such a report. A federal judge dismissed the case in 2010. In 2011, a Federal Appeals Court overturned the decision. A final decision was to be handed down this year.
It is rare for Congress to pass any legislation. Quietly, almost secretively, they passed two bills which actually increased the NSA’s ability to conduct surveillance on anyone, anywhere. Civil rights organizations claimed that they are in violation of an individual’s right to privacy, protected under the 4th amendment which guarantees protection from ‘illegal searches and seizure.’
The government’s right to disregard the 4th amendment to our nation’s supreme law, is a direct result of overreaction after the events of 9/11. George W. Bush pushed the Patriot Act through Congress giving our government powers over private citizens under the guise of protecting our country from further terrorist attacks. President Obama extended it in 2013. No longer was a government agency required to obtain written approval from a federal judge to obtain almost any information they deemed necessary for reasons of ‘national security.’
What is the true purpose for gathering information from private citizens? It can be used for multiple reasons, none of which pertain to national security or terrorism.
Obtaining knowledge about the wants, desires, thoughts and actions of ordinary citizens allows Washington to control the American people. It aids the two major political parties in their campaigns by giving them information regarding areas of the country which will be most apt to vote for their candidates. It gives them county by county breakdowns in battleground states, resulting in greater focus regarding swing votes, and eliminating the expense of campaigning in areas already friendly to their party.
Knowledge is power. The more information our government gathers, the more power they have over the American people.
If this sounds like a conspiracy theory, that’s because it is. The proof is easy to see; look at election results. In 2014 Republicans convinced voters that our country remained unstable economically. Democrats refused to stand behind their President, although all economic indicators prove that in six years the United States has risen from the ashes of the second most devastating recession in our nation’s history.
Debate over the NSA and its power to obtain private information makes no sense. The people of our nation only remain free if the Constitution is the law of the land. Rewriting our most sacred document for self-serving purposes is illegal and immoral.
By James Turnage