Victims of the darkness: Government surveillance and

EEkid at EEkid at
Mon Dec 26 11:58:05 PST 2005


I'm not sure which is more interesting, the story or the source.



Victims of the darkness: Government surveillance and intimidation
12/26/2005 13:42

The Bush Administration has consistently harassed citizens who
exercise their First Amendment freedoms and voice concerns about
government policies

"As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both
instances there is a twilight where everything remains seemingly
unchanged, and it is in such a twilight that we must be aware of the
change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims
of the darkness." Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas

Not since the notorious McCarthy era of the 1950s, when American
freedoms faced extinction, has there been such an attack against the
Bill of Rights. The recent media focus on President Bush's
authorizing the National Security Agency to spy on ordinary Americans
has brought this issue to the forefront. On secret orders from
President Bush, the NSA has been monitoring the international phone
calls and emails of Americans without warrants.

Moreover, the Bush Administration has consistently harassed citizens
who exercise their First Amendment freedoms and voice concerns about
government policies. The main weapon used in this war is
intimidation, specifically through governmental surveillance and
government agents.

Indeed, the American government has a near paranoia about dissenting
citizens. "The Administration and campaign of George W. Bush," writes
former Congressman Bob Barr (R-Ga.), "is squelching any possible hint
of disagreement or protest at every political rally or gathering."
For example, in March of this year, three citizens were removed from
President Bush's town hall meeting in Aurora, Colo., because the car
they arrived in featured the bumper sticker, "No More Blood for Oil."

This past summer, FBI agents went to Windsor, Conn., with a document
marked for delivery by hand. On Matianuk Avenue, across from the
tennis courts, two special agents found their man. They gave George
Christian the letter, which warned him to tell no one - ever - what
it said. The letter, which was on FBI stationery, directed Christian
to surrender "all subscriber information, billing information and
access logs of any person" who used a specific computer at a library
branch some distance away.

Christian, who manages digital records for three dozen Connecticut
libraries, said in an affidavit that he configures his system for
privacy. But the vendors of the software Christian operates said
their databases can reveal the websites that visitors browse, the e-
mail accounts they open and the books they borrow. Christian refused
to hand over the records, and his employer, Library Connection, Inc.,
filed suit for the right to protest the FBI demand in public.

This case affords a rare glimpse of an exponentially growing practice
of domestic surveillance under some of the heinous provisions of the
USA Patriot Act. National security letters, such as the one issued to
George Christian, were created in the 1970s for espionage and
terrorism investigations.

They were originally intended as narrow exceptions in consumer
privacy law, enabling the FBI to review in secret the customer
records of suspected foreign agents. However, the Patriot Act and
Bush Administration guidelines for its use have transformed those
letters by permitting clandestine scrutiny of U. S. residents and
visitors who are not alleged to be terrorists or spies.

"The FBI now issues more than 30,000 national security letters a
year," writes Barton Gellman in The Washington Post, "a hundredfold
increase over historic norms. The letters - one of which can be used
to sweep up the records of many people - are extending the bureau's
reach as never before into the telephone calls, correspondence and
financial lives of ordinary Americans." Indeed, according to a
previously classified document released recently, the FBI has
conducted clandestine surveillance on some U. S. residents for as
long as 18 months at a time without proper paperwork or oversight.

Thus, the government does not limit its attacks to actual terrorists.
Ordinary American citizens are the focus as well. Take the case of
Selena Jarvis, a social studies teacher at Currituck County High
School in North Carolina. She assigned her senior civics and
economics class to use photographs to illustrate their freedoms as
found in the Bill of Rights. One student photographed a picture of
George W. Bush next to his own hand in a thumbs-down position as a
way to express his freedom to dissent.

However, while developing the student's photographs, a Wal-Mart photo
department employee, in obvious need of some education on the Bill of
Rights, called the police. They then contacted the Secret Service.
But rather than dismissing the case, the Secret Service decided to
investigate the matter. The agents interrogated the student and
questioned Jarvis. While questioning Jarvis, an agent asked her if
she thought the photo was suspicious. Dumbfounded, Jarvis responded,
"No, it was a Bill of Rights project!" Jarvis was startled at the
claim that the student was a terrorist and called the whole thing

Why would the Secret Service, which is not run by incompetent
individuals, take the time to investigate a high school student and
his class project? It is safe to assume that the Secret Service knew
the student was not a terrorist and wanted to make an example of him
for others who might be bold enough to use their right to dissent.
After the ordeal, Selena Jarvis commented, "I blame Wal-Mart more
than anybody. I was really disgusted with them. But everyone was
using poor judgment, from Wal-Mart up to the Secret Service."

Unfortunately, this is not the only "ridiculous" case of individuals
tattling on their neighbors. For example, Barry Reingold was
questioned by the FBI after he criticized the war in Afghanistan in
the locker room of his local health club. In another case, Derek
Kjar's neighbors reported his bumper sticker of George Bush wearing a
crown with the heading "King George - off with his head." As a
result, Kjar was interrogated by the Secret Service. In both
instances, close contacts of the two men reported them to the

And as if things weren't bad enough, the military is now spying on
us. A secret database obtained by NBC News recently reveals that the
Department of Defense and the Pentagon have also increased
intelligence collection on American citizens inside the country. This
includes monitoring peaceful anti-war groups and protests and
involves video taping, monitoring the Internet and collecting the
name of anyone critical of the government.

There is even a toll-free number for anyone interested to report on
fellow Americans to the military. And the spying even includes
religious groups such as those attending the Quaker Meeting House in
Lake Worth, Florida. "On a domestic level, this is unprecedented,"
says NBC News analyst William Arkin. "I think it is the beginning of
enormous problems and enormous mischief for the military."

Since 9/11, it has been consistently drummed into our heads by the
government, with all its alerts and multi-colored alarms, that
terrorists are everywhere and even your next door neighbor could be
one. As a result, the government's promotion of fear and paranoia has
moved us closer to an Orwellian state where citizens inform on one
another. The result is that the citizens often do the job of the
police and no longer use good judgment before reporting their
neighbors. In the process, such informing citizens are doing away
with their own freedoms.

These tactics are not new to the world. The Nazi and Soviet secret
police of former regimes were infamous for such tactics. The police
controlled the people through fear, and the subsequent result was a
totalitarian state. They turned their respective population into a
society of informers.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning author and
former Soviet dissident, once spoke of how fear destroys the will of
the people. He noted how the Russian people would kneel inside the
doors of their apartments, pressing their ears to listen when the KGB
came at midnight to arrest a neighbor who had spoken out against the
government. Solzhenitsyn said that if all the people would have come
out and driven off the secret police, sheer public opinion would have
demoralized the effort to subdue a free people. But fear and paranoia
kept the people at bay.

We should not be afraid of government agents, whether employed by the
FBI, the military or local authorities. Their salaries are paid
through our tax dollars. Supposedly, they are our servants. Truly
free societies do not function that way. Our fear of government
servants is a clear indication of ominous things to come. If citizens
are too frightened to use their freedoms, then those freedoms will
become extinct. And the darkness will be complete.

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