WEATHER »

Steve Sack, The Minneapolis Star Tribune

The U.S.A. Today


Day after day, week after week, month after month, new and devastating information is published regarding the U.S. government’s spying on you and me.

Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft’s Skype or Outlook email, the U.S. Postal Service, Verizon telephone service — all — routinely record and pass to the government our communications. (Microsoft has even provided the government the means to read your “encrypted” email.)

In Long Island, a mom, wanting to make a lentil dish, googled “pressure cooker”; dad, into hiking, googled “backpack”; son, interested in terrorist history, googled “Boston massacre.” Soon after, three black SUVs pulled up to their house, one blocking the driveway, and disgorged armed men who searched the home and closely questioned family members, who now cannot get information as to who “visited” them — and who read their Google searches.

At London’s Heathrow airport, the live-in partner of Glenn Greenwald (The Guardian journalist who has persistently exposed the U.S. National Security Agency’s secret practices) was detained and questioned for nine hours by U.K.“security officials” — his laptop and phone confiscated — before being allowed to continue his flight home to Brazil — this executed under a provision of a Terrorist Act where there was no suspicion of terrorism.

This oppressive Stasi-era intimidation is now the routine nature of the U.S. under the leadership of Barack Obama and of his obsequious U.K. ally.

The Constitution forbids our being governed by secret law, but it took Edward Snowden to reveal that citizen communications logged and collected by government agents under the PATRIOT Act were being “overseen” by a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) that granted the NSA any interpretation it wanted of the word “relevant” — an interpretation of the law until then rigorously hidden.

The president’s remarks constantly mask, belie — and seek to divert attention from — his actions. While assuring us that the NSA’s practices are overseen by Congress, he knows well that no Congressmember can exercise his constitutional duty of oversight since none of them can get from either the Senate or House Intelligence Committees any information as to how the NSA is implementing the PATRIOT Act.

Obama has sought to make it legal for the government to lie to its citizens as to whether it has a document in its possession; he has continued and expanded the practices of torture and prisoner detention without charge or trial; he has repeatedly authorized the murder of U.S. citizens and innocent bystanders via drone strike; enforced the painful nasal force-feeding of Guantanamo hunger-striking prisoners; and established a hunt-and-jail oppression of those who would expose our government’s spying on its own citizens and on the communications of allies and competing nations alike.

Those who want to know the truth can thank whatever gods there be for Bradley Manning, the martyred soldier whose “leaks” disclosed for the first time video of the horrific murder by U.S. Apache pilots of innocent Baghdad civilians, including children and two Reuters journalists; Edward Snowden, without whose revelations we might never know just how the government can intercept and read our every communication; Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mark Udall (D-CO), who have devoted themselves, despite Congressional gags, to alerting us to the corruption of the checks-and-balances government Thomas Jefferson and James Madison labored to create; Representatives Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Alan Grayson (D-FL) for their persistent though unsuccessful efforts to learn from the House Intelligence Committee about NSA programs and relevant FISA court rulings; journalists Chris Hedges, Amy Goodman, Jeremy Scahill, and Glenn Greenwald, who’ve focused on the often-hidden behavior of the U.S. and its allies; and most especially The Guardian, the U.K. publication that probes, informs, and exposes practices we must understand if we hope to make this democratic society function as it was meant to.

Duck and lie low” is not their motto, as it is of The Independent‘s publisher, editor, and columnists.

On the other side of the coin we have Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) who immediately labeled Edward Snowden — without whose revelations we might never have known the vast extent and capability of the U.S.’s spying on its own people — a “traitor.”

I have notified this senator that her rash outburst does not represent me, nor does her false — as we now know — claim that NSA spying has foiled many terrorist plots. I’ve told her that I’d never vote for her again.

Since, according to Time magazine, a majority of Americans now believe Edward Snowden did “a good thing,” perhaps I’m not alone.

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