Thursday, May 28, 2015

George Orwell's 1984 and American Today - A Country Under Surveillance

Today we are going to look back on two previous posts we have done, one from 2011 and one from 2013. Congress is currently debating what changes to make on how the Federal government spies on its citizens. This debate is critical to preserving our liberties, our rights, and our privacy as supposedly guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.

However, it seems that most of the Washington political class is intent on usurping these rights and freedoms, first by the Patriot Act and then by an NSA running wild, collecting all sorts of electronic information and communications of American citizens without warrants and without the basic right to do so. Thus, the reason for reviewing both of these posts, both of which were focused on showing how the dictatorship which arose in George Orwell's novel, "1984," is actually a blueprint for what is going on today in America.

What is interesting is that the first post from 2011 predicted what was going on and going to happen, the details of which we did not find out about until after Edward Snowden showed us how the NSA was already collecting just about every form of electronic communication of every American, something that was predicted in 1984:

There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live -- did live, from habit that became instinct -- in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.

The second post from 2013 is very similar form the first but provides another perspective since by the time that second post was created, the horrifying details from Snowden were now public.

Hopefully, after reviewing the warnings from these two posts you will contact your Congressional representatives and demand they get the NSA and the rest of Washington under control from a spying on Americans perspective. Tell them that we do not want to live in a Orwellian world:

Most of us are familiar with George Orwell's classic novel, "1984." This novel created a dysfunctional future where freedom, liberties and democracy have been replaced with an ever present, ever paranoid, and ever vindictive ruling class. Individuality is crushed and society is totally controlled in support of the state and Big Brother.

One of the more distressing aspects of Orwell's vision was the ability of the state, the political/ruling class, and government to be ever aware of where a person was, what they were doing, and what they were saying:

There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live -- did live, from habit that became instinct -- in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.

When this was written, it was no more than a scary, science fiction aspect of the future. However, according to recent news reports, as summarized in the May 6, 2011 issue of The Week magazine, this concept is still scary but is no longer fiction or in the future:
  • Nathan Goulding, writing in the National Review, reported that two data scientists uncovered the fact that Apple's iPhones, iPads, and iTouches can store a user's GPS locations, store their movements for up to a year, and send this information back to Apple for storage and analysis
  • The Goulding reporting claims that this is being done now, without getting the consent of the user or without the user being told what information is being collected on their habits and movements.
  • According to Jordan Robertson of the Associated Press, there are no laws on the books that make this behavior illegal or would prevent Apple (and other smartphone manufacturers) from sharing this data with other parties without an individual's permission.
  • John Naughton writing in the London Observer recalled a ten year old quote from Scott McNealy, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems: "You have zero privacy. Get over it." Mr. Naughton concludes that McNealy is probably right.Scary, scary stuff, in my opinion. 
You cannot live in a free country if you have no privacy. You cannot live in a free country when every sound you make could be overheard and every move you make could be scrutinized. The possibility of abuse without proper judicial and legal protection is staggering. If you do not think this is the case, consider two examples of how it could be abused:
  • First, in the March 18, 2011 issue of The Week magazine, a short article reviewed how the Chinese government is planning to install a massive tracking system that will monitor and track the location of every Chinese citizen that has a cell phone.
  • The government claims this massive process would help them to ease traffic congestion, a very weak argument.
  • Critics of the program, however, believe that the system would allow the authoritarian Chinese government to track and follow dissidents and journalists.
  • This would allow the government to learn of protest sites, clandestine meetings, etc.The Chinese system sounds a lot like what could be done quite easily if the U.S. government ever decided that it also needed this individual citizen information to "ease traffic congestion." You have to be suspicious when something that exists in America is very close in scope and capability to what the repressive Chinese government is also doing.
Second, who is to say our political class would not abuse this system for their own good? We know that President Obama has already tried to silence or minimize the reach and influence of Fox News. We know that Nancy Pelosi recently said that elections should not be as important as they are currently treated. We know that a Colorado congressman wants to allow elected officials to serve 25 years at a time. We know that those opposed to some aspects of President Obama's health care reform bill were branded as racists, Neanderthals, Ku Klux Klan members, gerbils, un-American,etc. by members of the ruling political class, simply for expressing an honest difference of opinion. 

There are constantly assaults on our freedom in this country, almost always from the politicians that are running the government of this country. No, it is certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that this tracking system would be abused by those that currently rule the country. It happened in George Orwell's world and it is happening in China, the possibility of it happening here is no longer science fiction.

To fight back this onslaught on freedom, several steps need to be implemented as soon as possible:
  • A smartphone user needs to be granted the option of not having his or her movements or conversations tracked. Traditionally in this country, you are innocent until proven guilty. The premise should still hold and you should be able to opt out of any tracking.
  • The government, via a politician or law enforcement official, should not be able to access your smartphone information without a signed, court order from a judge, after the government agency has proven its case for probable cause of a crime. This is the process for getting a search warrant for a home, it should be the same for searching a person's smartphone history.
  • If a court order is granted and the result of an investigation turns up no illegal activity on an American citizen, then that citizen needs to be told what information of theirs was obtained and why. This would ensure that law enforcement or other government agencies to not go on fishing expeditions without cause if they are forced to come clean after an investigation is over and the smartphone user is found innocent of all suspicions.
These three steps are very similar to the three steps in "Love My Country, Loathe My Government," as it applies to the Patriot Act. (Steps 20 - 22). In fact, this whole situation needs to be framed as a subset within a national discussion on the whole idea of the Patriot Act and what needs to be done to better balance national security against national freedom.

Privacy is essential for a democracy to flourish and allowing someone to know where you are and who you are talking to without your permission is not privacy, even if it would help out the local traffic jam.

Government Gone Wild, Part 8: Three More NSA Whistleblowers Come Forward, Part One Of Their Tale Of Their Bravery

This is the ninth installment in a series on government snooping and the destruction of the Fourth Amendment as it pertains to the Federal government and the NSA’s confiscating just about every form of electronic communications of every American under the false guise of fighting terrorism. This Orwellian and creepy snooping has resulted in skyrocketing book sales of George Orwell’s dismal prediction of a future dictatorship in this country in the novel, “1984.”

In fact, you can still take the quiz that asks you to choose whether a certain aspect of government intrusion and spying is from Orwell or from the Obama administration at the following link:

The first installment in this seemingly never ending review of the Fourth Amendment destruction can be accessed at:

Today’s discussion focuses on three more NSA whistle blowers who have come forward to verify that the original whistle blower, Edward Snowden, who truly upended the apple cart of government snooping secrecy, was correct in his facts and in his actions to come forward as a concerned American who was scared about us losing our freedom and privacy to the Federal government. 

This now brings the total number of outed whistle blowers on this administration’s secret surveillance of Americans to at least six. We have Snowden and the three new NSA whistle blowers. We have California Congresswoman Maxine Walters who publicly told the world in February that Obama had a giant database containing every American’s electronic communications. We also have Shia LaBeouf who told Jay Leno in a 2008 interview that an FBI movie consultant told him that the government was listening in on up to 20% of Americans’ phone calls, an assertion that is in complete conflict with President Obama’s claim that the government was NOT listening to our phone calls.

The claims and accusations made by the three new NSA whistleblowers are just as scary and dire as Snowden’s. They were interviewed together in a June 16, 2013 USA Today article and interview. The entire article can be accessed at:

Some of their more serious assertions and claims from the article are just as creepy and scary as Snowden’s:
  • Thomas Drake, William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe worked for the National Security Agency for many, many years and actually were deeply involved in developing the very systems that are now snooping on every American without due process or cause.
  • According to the article, for years the three whistle-blowers had told anyone who would listen that the NSA collects huge swaths of communications data from unwary U.S. citizens with their audiences ranging from their immediate supervisors to Congressional committees to Federal investigators, and now the news media.
  • Although they had spent decades in the upper management levels of the NSA designing and managing the current data-collection systems, they are speaking out now because they now believe their systems and work have been turned against Americans.
  • Like Snowden and the brave State Department employees who spoke out because of the unnecessary murders of four innocent Americans at the Benghazi consulate, these three brave Americans have also been investigated as criminals and forced to give up careers, reputations and friendships built over a lifetime of serving America.
  • Drake: “And we are seeing the initial outlines and contours of a very systemic, very broad, a Leviathan surveillance state and much of it is in violation of the fundamental basis for our own country — in fact, the very reason we even had our own American Revolution. And the Fourth Amendment for all intents and purposes was revoked after 9/11. …” Comment: Destruction of the Fourth Amendment, as witnessed by insiders who were close to the mechanism that did the destruction.
  • Radack: “He [Snowden] is someone who exposed broad waste, abuse and in his case illegality. ... And he also said he was making the disclosures for the public good and because he wanted to have a debate.”
  • Binney: “Ever since ... 1997-1998 ... those terrorists have known that we've been monitoring all of these communications all along. So they have already adjusted to the fact that we are doing that. So the fact that it is published in the U.S. news that we're doing that, has no effect on them whatsoever. They have already adjusted to that.” Comment: Which gets to our position yesterday, do we really think that the terrorists are that stupid to use basic, unencrypted communications modes?
  • Drake: “I mean, it's [the Verizon secret court order to give up telephone information] the first time we've publicly seen an actual, secret, surveillance-court order. I don't really want to call it "foreign intelligence" (court) anymore, because I think it's just become a surveillance court, OK? And we are all foreigners now. By virtue of that order, every single phone record that Verizon has is turned over each and every day to NSA. There is no probable cause. There is no indication of any kind of counterterrorism investigation or operation. It's simply: "Give us the data." ... “ Comment: Scary observation and actual fact that we are now all “foreigners” in our own country.
  • Drake and Binney: “One is that the FBI requesting the data. And two, the order directs Verizon to pass all that data to NSA, not the FBI. What it is really saying is the NSA becomes a processing service for the FBI to use to interrogate information directly. ... The implications are that everybody's privacy is violated, and it can retroactively analyze the activity of anybody in the country back almost 12 years.”
  • Binney: “Now, the other point that is important about that is the serial number of the order: 13-dash-80. That means it's the 80th order of the court in 2013. ... Those orders are issued every quarter, and this is the second quarter, so you have to divide 80 by two and you get 40. If you make the assumption that all those orders have to deal with companies and the turnover of material by those companies to the government, then there are at least 40 companies involved in that transfer of information. However, if Verizon, which is Order No. 80, and the first quarter got order No. 1 — then there can be as many as 79 companies involved.” Comment: So the assertion by this administration that only top line telephone call information and only Verizon information was confiscated is probably bogus.That concludes the first half of the story that these three brave whistleblower/American heroes told USA Today. We will conclude their stories and insights tomorrow along with our conclusions of what needs to be done to fix this liberty sapping situation.
Call your Congressional representatives now before it is too late. Protect the Fourth Amendment.

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