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As Long as We Remember...

July 13, 2009

Vigilance Is Our Saving Grace

Steven R. Berryman

I deny that I wrote this column. The problem is that the technology exists today to record electronically the very keystrokes emanating from my wireless keyboard, and – that as it happens – in “real time!”


A basic cell-phone, even if turned off, has the ability to pick up your voice and conversations, or in the above example, the keystrokes of your computer as you click them, should an operative throw the correct switch.


Massive computer storage devices record items of interest for further filtering and screening, as directed by computer programs, and the humans instructing them. Under the right circumstances, their evaluation could land you in serious trouble.


Are you a domestic terrorist, or do you just rent the wrong movies, have foreign-born friends, belong to the National Rifle Association, or maybe simply have fertilized the lawn recently?


As reported last Friday in The Washington Post, “inappropriate surveillance” has been conducted under several programs, one called “the president’s program.” Reportedly President Barack Obama has cancelled these nefarious domestic spying programs due to their severe overreach.


However, we may never know just how out of control things got as we are addicted to the tenets of state secrecy. Worst case scenarios abound in such fictional stories as told in the movies Enemy of the State, and also, Seven Days in May.


“Intelligence vacuuming” capabilities exist today that boggle the mind, and in the wrong hands or a corrupt administration – such as one working against perceived enemies – can ruin American liberty.


You can be tracked via your cell phone emanations, and your credit card transactions can be collated for patterns deemed suspicious. Any device with a speaker component, such as a car stereo, can be used to record your every utterance through a process called back-EMF. Plug any headphones set into a microphone input and see for yourself that it works!


J. Edger Hoover, the FBI’s famous former director, had such enemies’ files, and also files on friends and presidents, princes and potentates. To what ends he used such collected information – some compromising – is still on a “need to know basis.”


And just what undetected abuses was a Richard M. Nixon capable of?


The danger for average people, potentially innocent and law abiding United States citizens, could inadvertently fall into the web of a surveillance trap.


Why am I not personally worried about discussing some of these sensitive subjects?


Simple! Throughout my “various lives” as a columnist, activist, and general challenger of authority, I have scribbled and typed-in every searchable keyword in the book. And this was demonstrably on a bi-partisan basis!


Keywords and key-phrases are search terms used to filter out captured information from many sources. Overturn, retaliate, dissent, or even “take it back” could be on the list of keywords on the list.


“Wiretaps” is a broad term used for capturing voice or signals intelligence. Typically breaking into a hard phone line through a digital “trunk line,” such as those traversing switching systems in Monrovia, is typical. This is accomplished through a relationship between our National Security Agency (NSA) and AT&T, the phone company.


The same signals, bouncing to and from microwave repeating towers – one to the next – can be intercepted by satellite.


Conveniently, international telephone traffic, some carrying e-mails in code for instance, travels through these digital switching arrays along with our own domestic phone calls. This facilitates both accidental and intentional interceptions from our own United States citizens, warrant or no.


In a perfectly performing system, a judge would need probable cause, and to issue a written decision, or a warrant, to allow eavesdropping. This, presumably due to a potential threat of a terrorist act on U. S. soil.


Justification for domestic spying was most recently iterated just after the 911 attacks by the Bush Administration. Vice President Dick Cheney personally handled many of the authorizing details based upon limited judicial review, and in some cases, no input from the Justice Department as “the ends justified the means.”


Supreme Court decisions and the United States Constitution…had been put on hold!


Currently our clandestine services, such as the FBI, NSA, Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Nuclear Emergency Search Team (NEST), and many other “alphabet soup” agencies operate appropriately and in a patriotic fashion. It is the oversight as charged to Congress, and a disconnect with judicial review that fail us now.


We The People” do need to know!


Should things go bad, an early warning sign would be the creation of a new “Department of Truth!” Watch for it…


Too much power seems to be concentrated in our Executive Branch, to the distinct disadvantage of oversight, sometimes simply by looking the other way.


A recent example of poor congressional oversight, in part a failing of checks and balances, has been the Ponzi scheme of our Wall Street stock exchange system, which is still broken and malleable.


The above element is still not fully recognized as a key factor leading to our present Great Recession.


And members of the Securities and Exchange Commission itself – the SEC – have been recently charged with insider trading…so things really can go catastrophically bad…


We are exactly correct, as a function of being patriotic citizens, to question that which hides behind the black budgets, and that big black door.


To ruthlessly stand up for our own rights is essential during these times where technology changes faster than the laws that govern it.


Yellow Cab
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