Originally published at AlterPolitics
Since September 11, 2001, discerning Americans have watched in dismay as their government has stripped away their most basic freedoms, and continues to mutate into something resembling a police state.
Sweeping cell phone surveillance is used by all levels of law enforcement. The NY Times recently revealed that an astounding 1.3 million law enforcement demands were made to cell phone carriers last year alone.
The telecom and technology sectors record and store Americans’ text messages, emails, the data they store online, social site user info, internet activity, and cell phone subscriber whereabouts (via cellular GPS technology), and hand this data over to government agencies with alarming regularity.
Private citizens used to be deemed ‘off-limits’ to law enforcement surveillance, unless a judge could be convinced to grant a warrant. This was precisely what separated the United States from the despotic nations of the world.
But now, all 315 million Americans are subject to warrant-less, Orwellian-style surveillance. The amount of data being collected daily on normal Americans trumps what might have been captured on made members of the Gambino or Genovese crime families just two decades ago. But unlike those notorious Mafiosi of yesteryear, Americans today are not legally protected from overreaching law enforcement, due to the kinds of data now being collected.
Two weeks ago, former NSA Technical Director William Binney shocked attendants at the DefCon hacker conference when he made this revelation:
[T]he NSA was indeed collecting e-mails, Twitter writings, internet searches and other data belonging to Americans and indexing it.
“Unfortunately, once the software takes in data, it will build profiles on everyone in that data,” he said. “You can simply call it up by the attributes of anyone you want and it’s in place for people to look at.”
He said the NSA began building its data collection system to spy on Americans prior to 9/11, and then used the terrorist attacks that occurred that year as the excuse to launch the data collection project.
“It started in February 2001 when they started asking telecoms for data,” Binney said. “That to me tells me that the real plan was to spy on Americans from the beginning.” [...]
“The reason I left the NSA was because they started spying on everybody in the country. That’s the reason I left,” said Binney, who resigned from the agency in late 2001.
Now, WikiLeaks and the Anonymous hacktivist collective, have released new information garnered from the Stratfor email hacking of last December, that sheds light on a new secret TrapWire surveillance system. TrapWire was created by a N. Virginia company called Abraxas, whose employee roster “reads like a who’s who of agents once with the Pentagon, CIA and other government entities.”
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to access the emails at WikiLeaks (or any of its mirror sites) today, because as the whistleblower group began to release the Stratfor emails related to TrapWire, it suddenly came under a uniquely powerful distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. The group’s administrator believes the attacks are state-sanctioned, as it is unlike any prior DDoS attack they have experienced. Here are a series of WikiLeaks Tweets from today, regarding the scale of these attacks: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
So what is TrapWire, and why has its leak created such a commotion? According to reporting at RT, TrapWire is a detailed surveillance system that “can collect information about people and vehicles that is more accurate than facial recognition, draw[s] patterns, and do[es] threat assessments of areas that may be under observation from terrorists.” Anything suspect gets input into the system to be “analyzed and compared with data entered from other areas within a network for the purpose of identifying patterns of behavior that are indicative of pre-attack planning.”
According to the article, this system has been secretly installed in most major cities and around landmarks across the United States, in Canada, and in the UK. Most local police forces are installing their own monitoring software that works in conjunction with TrapWire. Private properties, including casinos, are now signing up to TrapWire. Essentially, it sounds like Big Brother identifying you, watching you, assessing your every move for abnormalities, then indexing your behavior.
With 9-11 as its catalyst, the imperative for 100% terrorist-attack prevention has emerged as the overriding national doctrine. Despite coming at the expense of Americans’ most basic rights, it is one of the few remaining issues that enjoys overwhelming bipartisan support.
Even the disturbing revelations surrounding Obama’s Kill List have provoked little, if any, scrutiny on Capitol Hill or in the mainstream media. As a U.S. citizen, you may now be assassinated by your own government, based on mere suspicion. No warrants, no due process, no trial, no oversight. You merely cease to exist at the mere whim of a single U.S. politician. If that level of despotic power doesn’t encapsulate everything we know to be true about police states, then what does?
Conventional wisdom now has it that to prevent another terrorist attack from occurring somewhere on U.S. soil, everyone should faithfully and obediently submit themselves to the realities of a police state. And to ensure your compliance, the FBI has even attempted to plant fear and suspicion of Americans who stubbornly continue to value their privacy.
Are you concerned about online privacy? Do you pay cash for your coffee at your local coffee shop? Do you ever shield your laptop screen from fellow coffee shop customers, so that they cannot read your private emails? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these, the FBI believes you fit the profile of a terrorist, and the agency has distributed flyers to coffee shops around the country asking them to report you.
In other words, those same terrorists who Americans were told “attacked us for our freedoms,” now just so happen to be the very ones who value those freedoms the most, and act to preserve them.
To create the intimidation factor required for any self-respecting police state, those who serve in our local police forces are now being militarized for the first time ever, as if the civilian population itself now poses as a national security threat.
Last year, while the occupy movement peacefully protested in cities across the country, a new-militarized police force presented itself, and moved to brutalize protesters exercising their rights to freedom of speech and assembly. It was as if these long-cherished American values had suddenly become viewed by our government as threats to its power. The scores of video footage capturing these egregious acts of brutality — from city to city, in a seemingly coordinated effort — resemble scenes carried out in faraway lands by despotic regimes.
Here is the reality about freedom: you may have a bill of rights, but if you are brutalized anytime you attempt to exercise those rights, you eventually become intimidated from ever doing so. And that appears to be the new order in America.
The brutality against occupy protesters became such an issue for human rights groups, as well as media groups whose reporters were being assaulted (including NY Times, The Associated Press, The New York Post, The Daily News, Thomson Reuters, Dow Jones & Company, etc.), that even the U.N. felt compelled to intervene. Two U.N. human rights envoys petitioned the Obama Administration to “protect Occupy protesters against excessive force by law enforcement officials.” The White House completely ignored their petition, and did absolutely nothing to reign in, much less condemn, the brutality.
Legal experts from NYU and Fordham University filed complaints with the NYPD, the U.S. Department of Justice and the United Nations, accompanied by a 132 page report entitled Suppressing Protest: Human Rights Violations in the U.S. Response to Occupy Wall Street. The document “catalogs 130 specific alleged incidents of excessive police force, and hundreds of additional violations, including unjustified arrests, abuse of journalists, unlawful closure of sidewalks and parks to protesters, and pervasive surveillance of peaceful activists.” This document barely scratches the surface, since its scope is limited just to the police response in NYC. The group plans to release similar publications for Boston, Charlotte, Oakland, and San Francisco.
For those of you who believe that our nation’s dramatic shift towards a police-state is justifiable, in light of 9-11, you should know that nearly every police-state throughout history became so under the guise of national security threats. Most despotic regimes faced real, perceived, or sometimes manufactured threats to their national security. And most of them could point historians back to their own 9-11-like ‘turning point’.
For example, Adolph Hitler would surely point historians to the burning of the Reichstag building on February 27, 1933 as Germany’s ‘turning point’. He blamed the arson on the Communists (Note: some prominent historians believed the Nazis themselves were responsible for the arson). But regardless of who actually burned Reichstag, the Nazis capitalized on that crucial moment in a way that would forever change the course of history.
They used the shock and fear generated by that event as justification for the Reichstag Fire Decree. This new law suspended basic rights of all Germans and allowed detention without trial. Sound familiar? That was Hitler’s very first step in consolidating his power, and transforming Germany into a despotic regime.
A government shifting towards despotism always works to capitalize on a nation’s fear. It uses that fear as the impetus to strip its citizens of their inalienable rights. And unfortunately, once those rights have been fleeced, it often takes a full-scale revolution or war just to restore them.