Conspiracy Theorist

The U.S. is still lying about its spy programs

By Mark Luedtke

If I told you about a government program that recorded every electronic communication of its own citizens – phone calls, emails, texts, chats and anything else it could think of – you would think I was talking about China or Russia. The Chinese and Russian governments can only wish. Only the U.S. government has that capability. It spies on our every communication. The Soviets and the Nazis couldn’t dream of spying on their people to that extent. We are the most spied upon people in history. But despite the recent revelations by National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, the government is still not telling the truth about the extent to which it spies upon us.

In one sense, Snowden’s revelations are nothing new. We’ve known about project PRISM since at least 2008. Until the 1990’s, NSA had intercepted communications from communication satellites, but it had no way of intercepting communications through new fiber optic cables. To overcome this problem, NSA worked with AT&T to literally put prisms in fiber cables to split the light so the communication could continue normally, but NSA could capture the same information on the split beam.

Nobody paid much attention to the revelation back then, but circumstances are different now. First, President Obama made the mistake of wiretapping AP reporters and Foxnews reporter James Rosen and his family. Since Obama was elected, the press had been a major cheerleader for the expansion of the surveillance state. When they weren’t cheerleading, they buried stories about it to protect Obama. They thought because of their role as promoter and protector of Obama, they were privileged and immune from the consequences of government run amok. Once they found out they were targets just like the rest of us, suddenly they were more concerned about the surveillance state. Then, Snowden’s document release exposed NSA surveillance with a new level of detail. The press can’t bury this story anymore.

Snowden revealed that the NSA also grabs data from nine different Internet companies. USA Today reported on the program begun in 2007: “The agencies are grabbing data from the servers of nine U.S. Internet companies including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple, according to the documents. The cloud storage device Dropbox was described as ‘coming soon,’ along with other unidentified firms.”

Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple immediately denied knowing about the program, but the New York Times reported their denials are based on a technicality: “Instead of adding a back door to their servers, the companies were essentially asked to erect a locked mailbox and give the government the key.” It’s a distinction without a difference. These Internet giants are storing all electronic communications and making them available to the government at its request. Constitutional attorney and author John Whitehead claimed, “It is estimated that the NSA has intercepted 15 to 20 trillion communications of American citizens since 9/11.” This is a great reminder that from collecting taxes to spying, corporations are agents of the state.

In response, Obama claimed NSA only spies on foreign communications. This is demonstrably false. In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, a former FBI counterterrorism agent Tim Clemente told CNN that all communications in the U.S. are recorded. According to the CNN interview, Clemente claimed, “We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said in [a phone call between one suspect and his wife]. It’s not necessarily something that the FBI is going to want to present in court, but it may help lead the investigation and/or lead to questioning of her. We certainly can find that out. … Welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not.”

Others claim the program hasn’t been abused, so it’s OK. That’s like claiming it’s OK for a Peeping Tom to look in your window as long as he keeps it secret. The surveillance itself is abuse. It also violates the Fourth Amendment.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers claimed the surveillance stopped a terrorist attack, but he provides no details. We’re supposed to trust him because nobody in the government would ever lie.

But the claim that surveillance makes us safer is wrong. Security expert Bruce Schneier explained ubiquitous surveillance makes us less safe, “Piling more data onto the mix makes it harder, not easier. The best way to think of it is a needle-in-a-haystack problem; the last thing you want to do is increase the amount of hay you have to search through.”

America’s secret policemen know this. They aren’t spying on us to search for terrorists. They’re doing it because they consider us the enemy. These predators fear as they steal ever more of our wealth, we will resist. They use ubiquitous surveillance to control us.

But it gets scarier. Snowden claimed, “They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type.” Maybe he’s talking about monitoring chat rooms, or maybe Microsoft, Google and Apple provided Big Brother backdoors into their operating systems to log keystrokes. Unfortunately, that seems likely.

The views and opinions expressed in Conspiracy Theorist are the views and/or opinions of the author and do not reflect the views and/or opinions of the Dayton City Paper or Dayton City Media and are published strictly for entertainment purposes only.

Mark Luedtke is an electrical engineer with a degree from the University of Cincinnati and currently works for a Dayton attorney. He can be reached at MarkLuedtke@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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