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Pervasive government surveillance merits call to action


By Jim Runestad

Recently a Gallup poll reveled 72 percent of American’s now view our federal government as the biggest threat to their future. The study shows we currently dread the Feds more than big business or big labor. Americans now fear IRS audits if they have associated with groups critical of presidential policies and are distressed their advocacy of freedom could categorize them as “potential domestic terrorists.”

According to a 2009 Department of Homeland Security report, you are just that if you have had the wrong president’s bumper sticker on your car, opposed illegal immigration, or are a veteran returning from Iraq or Afghanistan. How far down the rabbit hole have we gone where our soldiers who have risked their very lives in battle for this country are considered potential enemies of the state?

Since Edward Snowden’s disclosure of the extent of the National Security Agency domestic surveillance program, the American people have been told two things by our government. The first is that surveillance is only being done to protect us (though the NSA has not been able to point to one instance in which domestic spying has prevented a terrorist attack). The second line we are being fed is that the NSA only collects “meta data” and not any private information, but both NSA head Keith Alexander and National intelligence director James Clapper have been caught misleading Congress on this issue.

Recently, Germany’s “Der Spiegel” reported that the NSA has been working with the CIA and FBI to intercept laptops and other electronics bought online to install spying tools before those devices are delivered to government “targets.” Perhaps the NSA will soon simply direct all manufacturers to insert spy chips as a part of their normal production operations so that all electronics manufactured in this country will be covered. Domestic drones are beginning to fill America’s skies, and there is talk in D.C. of putting tracking devices in all new cars. Is this level of surveillance compatible with our constitutional principles? Is this what our founders fought and sacrificed to defend.

It seems too few Americans grasp the severity of what is occurring, but even for the aware, they feel powerless to stand up against “Big Brother.” Politicians assure us that the only defense against terrorism is to allow the government unlimited access into the private lives of innocent citizens. This is the same government that told us that the Tsarnaev brothers charged with bombing the Boston Marathon, who were both born overseas, and the older brother having received terrorist training in Chechnya, were “homegrown terrorists.”

In 1972, the Watergate “plumbers” tried to bug the headquarters of the Democrat National Committee. Eventually, 48 people were indicted, tried, and convicted, including dozens of top government officials. But back then the American people recognized the dangers of domestic spying, and the Supreme Court in the United States v. U.S. District Court, also known as the Keith case, established the precedent that a warrant must be obtained before beginning domestic surveillance even if national security issues were involved.

If there is one thing these Snowden disclosures have shown it’s that those who are concerned about the encroachment of government surveillance are not paranoid. They are confronting reality. The scariest part of these ominous new revelations is that now the domestic spying programs have been revealed, no one is being held accountable for these unparalleled privacy invasions. So what are we to do? Well, there is nothing that can match the power and voices of over 300 million American people if we unite to speak out and demand that these attacks on our privacy rights cease.

Jim Runestad is the Oakland County Commissioner for the 6th distric

Matt Skiba March 02, 2014 at 08:16 AM
Why the need for "eye in the sky" cameras along every major highway. Don't even for a minute tell me its to view traffic conditions and alert the general and local population of backups. It is to monitor any exodus from cities in my opinion, and to better locate you in your car if and when they want to. Have a good day... (Remember George Orwell)

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