Oct 25 2012

How Ordinary Americans are Surveilled Locally and Nationally, and What Can Be Done About It

While the issue of civil liberties was a hot topic under President George W. Bush’s tenure, particularly over the creation of the Homeland Security Department and the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, little is heard in the public discourse these days about on-going infringements of people’s rights. President Obama’s administration has largely continued, and in some arenas, expanded on the Bush-era intrusion into Americans’ lives via warrantless wiretapping and other secret initiatives of the National Security Agency, as well as through so-called “fusion centers” scattered throughout the country.

The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations recently issued a scathing report on fusion centers saying that while the Department of Homeland Security has spent billions of dollars on them, these centers have actually produced “useless, irrelevant, or inappropriate intelligence reporting.” Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, called the fusion centers “one of the centerpieces” of her department’s counter-terrorism efforts.

But constitutional and privacy advocates have added their concerns to those of the Senate Panel, asserting the fusion centers violate people’s privacy. Many local city governments also think so – the Berkeley City Council recently voted to limit their local police department’s collaboration with a fusion center, among other things. Here in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Police Department has been accused by the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, of violating people’s civil liberties by feeding reports into a local fusion center.

GUEST: Shahid Buttar, Executive Director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee

Visit www.bordc.org for more information.

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “How Ordinary Americans are Surveilled Locally and Nationally, and What Can Be Done About It”

  1. Duane R. Olsonon 26 Oct 2012 at 2:27 pm

    DUH! Why worry about electronic spying? Hundreds of thousands of “WE, the sheeple” have surrendered their freedom and liberty to the executive and judicial branch of the government of the United States for conduct in violation of a congressional enacted federal statute that the same federal statute STATUTORILY EXEMPTS them from. I didn’t make it that way, Tricky-Dick and his White House plumbers have “hung themselves by their own petard”!! For nearly 40 years, America’s Luciferian and Moralistic “WAR on DRUGS” under color of FRAUD!

  2. Vasu Murtion 26 Oct 2012 at 3:19 pm

    “I don’t want you to hear me pee…”

    In his 1992 book, Visions of Liberty, former Executive Director of the ACLU, Ira Glasser writes:

    “The use of wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping emerged during the Prohibition era. Roy Olmstead was a suspected bootlegger whom the government wished to search. It placed taps in the basement of his office building and on wires in the streets near his home. No physical entry into his office or home took place. Olmstead was convicted entirely on the basis of evidence from the wiretaps.

    “In his appeal to the Supreme Court, Olmstead argued that the taps were a search conducted without a warrant and without probable cause, and that the evidence seized against him should have been excluded because it was illegally gathered. He also argued that his Fifth Amendment right not to be a witness against himself was violated.

    “By a 5-4 vote, the Court rejected his arguments and upheld the government’s power to wiretap without limit and without any Fourth Amendment restrictions, on the grounds that no actual physical intrusion had taken place.

    “Olmstead’s Fifth Amendment claim was also dismissed on the grounds that he had not been compelled to talk on the telephone, but had done so voluntarily.

    “Thus the Court upheld the government’s power to do by trickery and surreptitious means what it was not permitted to do honestly and openly.

    “It wasn’t until 1967, in a similar case involving gambling, that the Court overruled the Olmstead decision by an 8-1 margin and recognized that the Fourth Amendment applied to wiretapping and electronic surveillance.

    “The other major use of electronic eavesdropping has been to punish political dissent. For decades, former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover used wiretaps and other electronic devices to spy on political figures and citizens not yet suspected of having committed a crime. He built vast dossiers on their political activities and personal lives. Special units of local police called ‘Red Squads’ did the same.

    “Nor has electronic surveillance been the only source of our loss of privacy. The widespread use of urine-testing in employment to see whether people may have been using illegal substances violates the rights of many innocent people.

    “Urine-testing programs are usually not restricted to those who show evidence of impaired job performance that may be due to the use of drugs. These tests are normally administered randomly. Without any probable cause for search, this is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

    “Many of these random tests have been struck down by the courts, where the government is the employer. But some have been upheld. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (hardly a Constitutional liberal!), denounced them as ‘an immolation of privacy and human dignity in symbolic opposition to drug use.'”

    In January 2006, on the eve of the West Coast Walk For Life in San Francisco, CA, Carol Crossed of Democrats For Life (kind enough to write the foreword to my own book, The Liberal Case Against Abortion) spoke optimistically of Roe v. Wade being overturned.

    When I asked her if Roe could be overturned without Griswold v. Connecticut (the 1965 Supreme Court decision which guarantees a right to marital privacy regarding the practice of contraception) being overturned as well, Carol froze, and couldn’t answer the question!

    Although this was well before the scandals involving Republican politicians Larry Craig and David Vitter, I would have preferred it if Carol had said:

    “You’re correct. Only a pervert watches or eavesdrops when others pee, defecate, copulate, masturbate, etc. It’s wrong to put people under surveillance without their knowledge or consent. Democrats For Life will never resort to draconian tactics to protect prenatal life.”

    ACLU, 125 Broad Street, 18th Floor, New York NY 10004 (212) 549 – 2500

  3. Ellaon 27 Oct 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Sorry Dummies, You have slept too long, and now you lost your freedom. Both Obama and Romney think it is ok that they passed a law that allows them to arrest you without charges, and hold you without trial. How are you going to get out of that? They could just arrest you if you tried to go up against them now.

  4. Azraon 02 Dec 2012 at 10:33 am

    I guess this is the new normal now. But do we have to roll over and accept it. Who will be the soothsayer? The book” Nineteen Eighty Four” by George Orwell is mild in comparison to what is going on in our name. We have become walking zombies. Who will break the spell?