Saturday, September 26, 2015
I have a problem with some thrillers, especially those of the steely-jawed hero triumphing over evil doers and meddling do-gooders in defense of truth, justice, and the American way. At the heart of my objection is that in these stories, said hero usually belongs to a secretive government organization, which if allowed to shake off the pesky constraints of the law and bleeding-heart whistle blowers, it could smite the villainous foe. It's not that the earth lacks for assholes who deserve such a smiting, it's that in reality those shadowy government entities have a poor record keeping us safe or acting for the greater good. For example, Admiral Michael Rogers, argues that the NSA needs unfettered access to the American public's telephones and can't be bothered with legal trivialities like search warrants. As usual, the boogy-man terrorist is hauled out and made to go boo! What Rogers fails to include in his argument is that the NSA, and the CIA, in fact the entire national security apparatus, has done an abysmal job keeping us safe. People should've been imprisoned for falling asleep at the switch before 9/11. The father of Umar Farouk Adbulmutallab (the Underwear Bomber) warned the US State Department that Umar had come under the sway of terrorists and should be considered a threat. That warning passed across a bureaucrat's desk and was ignored. Years later, the Russians warned the FBI about Tamerlan Tsarnaev (the older brother of the Boston Marathon bombers) and his terrorists leanings. The FBI claims it interviewed Tamerlan and afterwards decided he was no threat, even though the CIA put him on their terrorist database. So we have two instances where the government had credible evidence about terrorist activities and they fumbled the ball. You'd think the feds would have instituted thorough measures to tighten its security protocol. Instead we get excuses that the security agencies can't deal with the volume of leads they get, but that doesn't stop them from turning around and amassing even more data on the American public. So far, despite it's carte blanche, the NSA hasn't done much aside from lying about what it does or doesn't do. Other than the expensive incompetence, a big worry is the government using its surveillance to thwart domestic law. In fact, there is an official program called "parallel reconstruction" where federal agencies like the ATF teach local law enforcement how to disguise the NSA's (or CIA's) discovery of suspected criminal activity. "Parallel reconstruction" means inventing probable cause and excising any mention of domestic surveillance by agencies prohibited to do so. So you ask, "Who's getting busted? Drug dealers? Gangsters? Good riddance." The problem is that if the government, with its limitless resources, can't prosecute its law by its own rules, what chance do we have should we find ourselves under its heel? Dovetailed with this is the "Stingray," a cellular tower emulator the police use to eavesdrop on cell phones. Again, besides the warrantless surveillance, law enforcement agencies sign under-the-table contracts with the Harris Corporation to prohibit the disclosure of the Stingray. These contracts circumvent the legalities that law enforcement cannot enter such contracts without state legislative approval. So who's watching the watchers? Who's keeping the law?