The Benefits of Fear Mongering: NSA Surveillance, The War on Terror, and the Violation of Human Rights

Of all the enemies of public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other… No nation could reserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare. –James Madison, “Political Observations,” April 20, 1795.

Just as the uproar in response to the virtual whistle blown by Edward Snowden has focused on the right of Americans to personal privacy, the much quieter response to atrocities committed by the United States in the name of stopping terrorism has largely focused on the right of American citizens to trial and sentencing. While Americans have every right to, and are completely justified in, being afraid of the surveillance and indefinite detention of American citizens, those same atrocities that we fear for ourselves are currently being acted out on foreign born people around the world in the name of counterterrorism. Not enough Americans have exercised their voices on behalf of the millions of world citizens being invasively monitored by the United States government, or for over 100,000 civilians who have died in the upheaval caused by our war on terror, or the hundreds of men indefinitely detained and tortured in remote and secret camps abroad.

Most Americans know nothing of who our enemy actually is in the War on Terror, beyond that he is Arab(ish) and Muslim(ish) and blows himself up, along with other innocent civilians. They hold him responsible for the attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11, but know little or nothing about the intent of that act, beyond its death toll for thousands of Americans. And yet, despite our lack of knowledge about our targets (or perhaps because of that lack of knowledge), we have allowed our government to kill, torture, hunt, and spy on him. The  elusiveness of this dark-skinned, narrow featured, long-bearded enemy of a different language and violent, unfamiliar religion has allowed the United States the freedom to wage endless, destructive war on foreign targets who may or may not have any intention of harming anyone on American soil. This war against Islamists should seem strange, if not all together frightening.

It should seem strange because the United States has supported al Qaeda in the past, when it was advantageous to our interests [19]. Now, with al Qaeda comprised of a core membership of some 200-1,000 members globally, we seek to destroy them with over 70,000 American troops currently placed on their doorstep for convenient destruction.

It should be strange because the United States has, in the past and present, done nothing to stop acts of genocide or civil war that claimed far more lives in a few short months than Islamic terrorism has in the last decade. Strange because in its history the United States itself has killed more civilians in attempts to control the global economy and global politics than al Qaeda ever has [20] [21]. Most disturbing, it should be strange that our war on terror resulted in 116, 657 civilian deaths by 2011, according to Wikileaks reports, while the attack on 9/11 took the lives of 2, 996 Americans [23].

When the war on terror began after 9/11, a prominent, highly vocal, painfully visual media campaign was waged by the Bush Administration and its supporters, both corporate and political, to instill in Americans a fierce sense of Nationalism and a fear of impending future attacks from Islamic terrorists. Since that time, fear has been used to justify external atrocities such as the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the extensive war in Afghanistan, the illegal use of drones in Pakistan, the rendition and torture of Islamists in Libya and throughout the Middle East, and the use of invasive surveillance tactics domestically and abroad.

There can be no doubt that Americans should be angry about the attack of 9/11 and seek justice. Or that the Americans sent overseas to fight our battles should be honored, respected, and welcomed home with a helping hand–they have sacrificed more than anyone should have ever asked of them.

But we should also be angry that the NSA has been collecting our data for as long as we have been producing it, while using it against individuals who dare show any sign of disagreement or dissent. We should be angry that the U.S. government has instilled us with the fear of a foreign enemy that we cannot name, or predict, or identify but has encouraged us to hate to the point of abuses against innocent Muslim Americans. We should be angry because they have justified inhumane, violent actions that protect their interests abroad in the name of protecting us, though thousands of Americans have died violently in that very fight. We should be angry that the U.S. government believes it is above international humanitarian law, and rather than presenting us with those guilty of the attacks on 9/11, of allowing us the respect and resolution of justice for their actions, they have assassinated, captured, and tortured unnamed and uncounted combatants with no intention to charge or try them. We should be angry that our fear has been used as an excuse to spend trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives to control the political outcome of foreign nations.

But, how can we be surprised when anyone who has lost a loved one to our war on terror retaliates in much the same way as we have to 9/11?

That is what the war has given us—all of us, regardless of our citizenship— marking it with the rubber stamp of security and the name tag of justice. It has given us enemies without names, justice without trials, and the violent destruction of humanity without the consideration of non-violent solutions.

Surveillance and the Violation of International Human Rights Law

The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion (to which few members of other religions were converted) but rather its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact; non-Westerners never do. –Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. 1996.

According to the Associated Press, the NSA has been tapping Trans-Atlantic Telecommunication fiber-optic cables carrying phone and internet data since the 1970’s. Foreign citizens are not protected by any privacy rights, and therefore the NSA need not ask for anyone’s permission to obtain personal data from these cables [4]. After all, the NSA was made to be internationally nosy.

Using those same fiber-optic cables, in addition to predator drones, Rivet Joint surveillance, and electronic devices found in Iraq, the United States has proceeded to gather or murder members of al Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for 9/11, and anyone even tangentially associated with them. Though intelligence gathering has been a massive undertaking in wars in the Middle East, Major General Mark Schissler says that terrorists use the internet to send ideological messages, rather than to convey useful military data. The most valuable information acquired in Iraq has been found on papers, laptops, and hard disks in the possession of combatants captured on the ground [18]. According to experts interviewed by NPR, the intelligence gathered through telephone and internet surveillance, which most concerns Americans, is the least likely to result in actionable intelligence. Terrorists know they are being watched and listened to, and use code words and aliases to communicate over data-generating communications networks.

There are two kinds of human beings at the end of an intelligence gathering mission: those being spied on who do not know they are divulging valuable information about themselves or people they care about, and those who are compelled through various means to give up that information. For these people, there are basically four outcomes: never knowing they were being watched, an enormous payday in incentive funds that caused him/her to give up a friend or stranger, death or injury in an assassination attempt (either as a target or someone nearby), or detention and interrogation [18]. It is important to remember, if you have any interest in understanding the complexity of war, that the people at the other end of the data are humans as complicated, emotional, intelligent, diverse, and interesting as you or I. Just like you, they would be horrified to know they are being watched or tracked like animals being hunted. While some of them may be combatants, so are our soldiers. While their leaders may send them ideological messages of hate, so do ours to our soldiers. They are motivated by what we are motivated by: faith, honor, justice, God, money, family, hunger, love, hate, and fear.

In 2004, former Deputy Attorney General and current Director of the FBI James Comey explained the need for the indefinite detention of Jose Padilla. He explained that if Padilla were to be tried in our criminal justice system he would, “very likely have followed his lawyer’s advice and said nothing, which would have been his constitutional right. He would likely have ended up a free man,” and the government could not have gained vital information from him about al Qaeda or future terrorist plots. Jose Padilla is an American citizen who was militarily detained and tortured until tried in 2007. He was never charged with the plots to plant bombs that Comey suspected him of. He was, however, convicted of material support of terrorism overseas [12].

For many Americans, the fact that Comey would defend the indefinite military detention and torture of an American citizen, in violation of his fifth, sixth, and eighth amendment rights, will be completely outrageous and unjustifiable. Not because his detention was indefinite—he was part of al Qaeda!—or because he was tortured—We needed the information to protect ourselves!—or because he was denied a speedy trial in our criminal justice system—National Security secrets!—but because he was an American citizen. And American citizens are too good to be indefinitely detained or tortured—We have rights!

Well, America—so does everyone else. These rights are known as human rights and they are protected by international human rights law. Unfortunately, the United States has the largest military in the world and the largest economy. International rights organizations like the United Nations and International Criminal Court are underfunded and understaffed. Meanwhile the U.S. uses its surveillance machine to monitor officials across the globe—even, or especially, our allies. In that reality the United States seems to be above the system—choosing who qualifies as less than human and less deserving of basic human rights than anyone else.

If Jose Padilla could not have been proven guilty in a court of law, secret court or otherwise, he should have been set free. If we break from that very basic model of our entire justice system, we are not doing justice at all and everyone—American or otherwise—is at risk of being swept up for suspicion and held without proof, representation, or charge.

Like FBI Director Comey, the United States government—and apparently much of the American population—believes that the inherent rights of Americans are paramount to the right to life of any other person on the planet. Further, that the protection of Americans against even the most unlikely or fabricated foes justifies the indefinite detention of hundreds, the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of civilians for occupation, the torture of prisoners for the tiniest scrap of information, and the secret rendition of suspected terrorists supported by a shred of evidence. Despite these most vile, invasive, dehumanizing tactics used by the United States in its exercise of power and control over international political and economic interests, Americans’ voices are crying—“But what about my rights!

Every single time I hear a cry for more American rights in the war on terror I get the distinct sour scent of death on my tongue. Being fine with surveillance so long as it isn’t against you, being fine so long as it is used to protect you against possible violent attacks despite the violence done to others in your name, is like going to the gallows to see the public lynching of a stranger and then turning your eyes away at the last second.

According to an NSA official, more than 90% of 50(ish) terrorist disruptions since 9/11 came from surveillance information legally acquired under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [9]. However, the government’s evidence of such disruptions largely disclose the end  to sums of money changing hands rather than walking in on human beings actually drafting concrete plans to bomb, fire upon, or destroy domestic targets. Only two plots have been described in any detail as having been prevented by FISA investigations—one targeted at the New York subway and the other against a Danish newspaper in Chicago. The supposed planned attacks on the New York stock exchange seem to have been debunked or at least theoretical, with no charges being filed in regard to that plot [11].

In the name of those 50(ish) “terrorist disruptions” over the course of the last 12 years (that’s less than 4 disruptions–of any magnitude ranging from monetary donations to supposed possible violent plots on domestic soil–per year), the United States has used the same NSA surveillance technology currently causing American outrage, in addition to large incentive sums ranging from $3,000 – $25,000, to find and kill or detain thousands of foreign born people.

In the “War on Terror,” Human Rights Watch estimated that 100 or more “ghost prisoners” are being held incognito abroad, unnamed, uncharged, and unclaimed by the responsibility of anyone’s oversight who has their interests in mind. In addition, an unknown number of secret detention facilities within the warzones exist, holding high-level prisoners to be interrogated [18]. In violation of the international human rights outlined in the Geneva Convention of 1949, the Bush Administration humiliated, degraded, tortured, and coercively interrogated hundreds of detainees held at both Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, and other “undisclosed” military sites throughout the world.

From 2002 – 2004, detainees held at the Iraqi prison Abu Ghraib have reported being sexually assaulted, forced to undress in front of females and guards, forced to touch themselves, being urinated on, being piled atop one another in various positions, and humiliated in all manner of unimaginable ways.  Some of their statements, have been published by the Washington Post. In addition to humiliating treatment by low-level guards, the policy of the U.S. government was to interrogate prisoners by inhumane means, such as painful stress positions, depriving them of sleep and light, exposing them to extreme heat, cold, noise, and light, hooding, and depriving them of clothes. U.S. personnel were approved to torture detainees by submerging them under water until they believed they would drown. All reports of prisoner abuse or prisoner deaths went unpunished and unheard in a judicial setting [16].

779 people have been detained at Guantanamo Bay alone. The commanding general, who served both in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, issued orders to physically, mentally, and emotionally degrade detainees to “prepare them” for interrogation including the use of military guard dogs. After years of imprisonment, 86 of 166 currently in Guantanamo are approved for release but have remained in cells for months after approval [15]. A secret camp within Guantanamo Bay, known as Camp 7, has never been visited by any journalists or non-military personnel. It is unknown how many men are detained there, for how long, under what charges, and how they are being treated.

According to intelligence gathered on al Qaeda recruits, the average age of all would-be terrorist is 23-years. That’s three years younger than I am today, and the age I was one year after graduating college. Most suicide bombers were students; others were teachers, engineers, or scientists [18].  In the hunt for al Qaeda members and suicide bombers, not everyone is detained. Some are simply assassinated without any attempt at capture. At any moment, in the midst of doing the most inoccuous tasks, foreign citizens can be gunned down by American soldiers or unmanned drones with no chance at defending themselves, with the proof of their crimes hidden from them and all but a few military personnel. Among the horrors of war, these silent deaths may be the most disturbing. That at one moment a person is living and then they are dead, with no case made against them and anyone nearby labeled “collateral damage.”

As of 2011, the US had collected three million Iraqi fingerprint, iris, and retinal scans that were deposited in a biometric database in West Virginia, accessible by satellite from any military checkpoint in the world. Electronic and satellite surveillance in the Greater Middle East was synchronized to search for possible al-Qaeda operatives for assassination by predator drones or hunter-killer raids [1]. In unmanned drone strikes that supposedly protect the lives of American pilots but are less accurate than polited planes, there is no count of the deaths of militants or civilians. Human Rights organizations have estimated that in 2011 anywhere from 72-155 civilians were killed in drone strikes in Pakistan alone [23].

While many will justify the human rights violations against detained individuals as the unfortunate necessities of war, and the reduction of detainees’ humanity by referring to them as “combatants,” there is no justice in the world when it is denied to a few. Though the crimes of al Qaeda are great and times of war are confusing, we cannot discount human experience simply because it is convenient for us. Combatants are human beings. Their beliefs and actions are informed by their experience, just like ours. To dehumanize them is to create a black hole of otherness—where some people are deserving of torture and death because of their violent actions and others are not.

The torture and indefinite detention of Iraqi detainees is particularly ironic (or hypocritical) in light of the justifications used to explain our presence in Iraq in the first place. Having occupied Iraq despite its complete disconnect from the events of 9/11 in search of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that were never found [14], resulting in the deaths of over 100,000 civilians and the upheaval of Iraqi life, the Bush Administration explained the conflict as a fight for democracy in the region and the overthrow of the tyrannical Saddam Hussein. Included among the crimes committed by Hussein in his attempt to secure his power are: international war crimes, indefinite detention, detention without trial, and torture.

Even more ironic, before the United States invaded and occupied Iraq, al Qaeda had no presence there. It was only after the destabilization caused by government overthrow and the political confusion to follow that al Qaeda moved in with the hope of fighting the U.S. (essentially bringing Americans to where they could be killed), and other enemies previously silenced by Saddam Hussein’s regime [15]. The spread of al Qaeda into Iraq and the intentional drawing of suicide bombers into that region at the bequest of al Qaeda leadership was a direct result of the United States’ occupation.

Insurgents–or, as I like to call them–human beings who actually live there, are also paying the price for our war. In the 20th century, Iraq and Afghanistan were carved out of the Ottoman Empire by Britain and France, with no regard for how the people there actually lived, or how they would use their resources. As a result, each country contains 3-4 major ethnic groups forced into a nation state. After gaining independence, each country saw coup after coup, government turn over and resistance movements making attempts to gain power. For decades before 9/11, Iraq and Afghanistan were ruled by separate tyrannical regimes that violently suppressed their opposition with genocide, mass public and secret executions, and militarized police states. Neither government properly addressed the needs of the people in regard to agriculture, resource division, job creation, or even sanitation. When the US government overthrew those regimes, it was with no attempt to understand the needs or desires of the people whose political, social, or economic needs and desires had long been suppressed.

Many of the men and women we fight against in Afghanistan today are insurgents. They are small militias belonging to ethnically diverse groups who want to claim power or representation in their government, before yet another militarized regime (the US) supplants those representatives it thinks best suited to our interests. Yet, we blame them. We call them combatants to dehumanize them so that our idea of democracy will be swallowed a little better. Their tactics are different because, unlike us, they do not have a trillion dollar budget or the newest technologies. They fight the largest military in the world as well as their own governments. Most of them will die without ever achieving political representation or social gain.

If the fate of foreign combatants and civilians does not compel you to fear the war on terror, I will turn your attention to the American victims. There have been thousands of American and coalition casualties in combat since 2001Over 6,000 American soldiers have committed suicide since the outset of the war on terror–over twice the death toll of 9/11 in suicides alone. VA hospitals in the United States have reported a massive overflow of thousands of American soldiers returning from war with injuries, illnesses, and mental ailments caused by their experiences abroad. Over 100,000 veterans have sought out the VA for treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with at least twice that going untreated and undiagnosed.  Even with 2.4 million American soldiers serving in the over 4,000 days of war, a shortage of American troops has caused some tens of thousands of soldiers to return for several consecutive tours of duty–some up to six times in a row. The inhumane treatment of our own men, the destruction of their mental and physical health in the name of American control of political outcomes in the Middle East is a humanitarian crises in and of itself.

Surveillance in the United States is Not a Modern Art

Centralizing government files would eliminate perhaps the best safeguard of personal privacy—bureaucracy. Compiling all that is recorded about an individual is now often a difficult and, consequently, a discouraging task. If the National Data Center were established, the mere push of a button would end all that –Anthony Prisendorf, New York Post, 1966 [8].

The United States has made use of surveillance for political and military advantage since the early 1900’s, using whatever technology was readily available—and often developing new technology for that specific purpose. According to History professor and author Dr. Alfred McCoy, during the US occupation of the Philippines, American information innovations such as rapid telegraphy, photographic files, alpha-numeric coding, and Gamewell police communications, the U.S. government created a colonial surveillance state that ruled thanks to the control of information—using collected data to damn enemies and suppress scandals about allies [1].  Among their use of surveillance, the American military killed Filipino men, women, and children indiscriminately, took prisoners and captives from among the insurgents and used torture–including waterboarding–to gain intelligence. The American occupation in the Philippines resulted in the deaths of over 200,000 civilians [20].

Use of surveillance techniques in the Philippines led to the creation of the U.S. Army’s Military Intelligence Division (MID) and the Cipher Bureau or “Black Chamber” in 1914–the first official intelligence services. The MID amassed a million pages of surveillance reports on German-American civilians living within the United States. During World War I, the MID and FBI used these surveillance techniques to violently repress the American left. Under the auspice of international threat and influence of the Bolsheviks, US intelligence gatherers sought out opposition citizens and leadership within the United States to suppress prominent union strikes and civil rights movements in what is referred to as the “Red Scare.” As is familiar today, domestic bombings targeted at political ideologies were used to justify mass intelligence gathering to identify communists and anarchists—supposedly to prevent further violence that would reflect the revolutions abroad. Under laws like the Sedition Act, liberals, communists, socialists, anarchists, and foreigners were rounded up, jailed, blacklisted or deported [1] [2] [3] [20].

Again, in 1945 the United States launched a large-scale spy operation gathering telegraphic data going in and out of the country, which didn’t end until it faced the objections of lawmakers in 1975 [6].

From 1960 – 1974, again the United States used the most modern surveillance technology to target anti-war activists who spoke out about the violence, oppression and terror waged during the Vietnam war. Though no true threat to civilian lives existed, the government deployed COINTELPRO—a surveillance and interference operation—to investigate 300,000 activists and anonymously attempt to break them apart, disrupt their meetings, ostracize people from their professions outside of activism, and provoke rival groups to the point of violence. As a result, President Jimmy Carter signed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to create a special court to approve all wiretaps. That very legislation allowed for the intrusion of domestic privacy after 9/11, providing a covert judiciary that eliminated all transparency to the use of surveillance technology while still making it legal and the rights of American citizens supposedly secure [1].

On February 24, 1972 in United States v. United States District Court, the Supreme Court ruled that a warrant was required for domestic spying—even in the event of a domestic terrorist threat. Justice Lewis Powell wrote in the majority opinion, “The price of lawful public dissent must not be a dread of subjection to an unchecked surveillance power. Nor must the fear of unauthorized official eavesdropping deter vigorous citizen dissent and discussion of Government action in private conversation. For private dissent, no less than open public discourse, is essential to our free society.” [7]. While this decision protected the American citizens of the 70’s from warrantless surveillance, it did nothing to protect foreigners, or “any other clear and present danger to the structure of the Government” who was not living domestically.

However, in 1979 in Smith v. Maryland, the Supreme Court decided that the fourth amendment did not apply to surveillance of data tied to telephone calls. According to the justices, civilians do not have a “reasonable expectation of privacy,” in the numbers they dial on their phones because they are aware that the telephone company keeps records [10]. Today, this loophole allows the collection of certain data from telephone companies without warrants, and set a precedent for modern surveillance law.

The Use of Surveillance Against Americans in the War on Terror

NSA surveillance on American citizens is no joke. According to industry experts, the U.S. can track individual’s locations by obtaining data from cellphone towers that track the exact location of a cellphone—down to the specific floor of a building [5]. While the atrocities being committed against foreign citizens far outweighs the threat to American privacy, the advancement of NSA surveillance on American information with the approval of all three branches of government is certainly something to be concerned about. In light of the history illustrated above, Americans have a lot to fear if the government cannot be compelled to reign in their urgency to control political outcomes.

In 2002, the Bush administration set in motion Operation TIPS (Terrorist Information and Prevention System), that would have acquired millions of volunteers working as civilian foot-soldiers to spy on their neighbors right here in the United States. Though that program was ultimately shut down due to public outrage, it would have essentially turned civilians against one another, enacting them with the power to spy-on and report against their neighbors, granting powers of warrantless searches of their property without anyone knowing. Much like the infamous Red Scare, Bush had hoped that his media-driven campaign for patriotism would have compelled Americans to oust extremist Muslim sympathizers. The major problem being that most Americans believe that all Muslims are extremists, and could hardly identify a Muslim if they wanted to—and trust me they do.

Despite known public outrage based on their attempts made with O-TIPS, President Bush ordered the National Security Agency (NSA) to monitor civilians’ private communications through access to telephone companies (sound familiar?). According to the Associated Press, the Bush Administration initiated the Terrorist Surveillance Program and used Microsoft Corp.—then the most popular software company and email provider—to collect email archives, account information, and any other data that could be compiled by their engineers and handed over to the government. No discretion was used in these transactions to distinguish between American citizens’ data and that of foreigners. Furthermore, the NSA was secretly authorized to tap the same fiber-optic cables they’d been monitoring since the 1970’s to spy on Americans’ phone calls, video chats, websites, bank transactions and more [4]. The administration claimed that the use of this technology and monitoring was helping to stop post-9/11 terrorist attacks and that discretion was used in regard to accessing data related to Americans—the limits were and are still classified. According to the government, the data collected is not immediately destroyed in case it might have future relevance—how long the data will be kept is also classified. According to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), data is only kept on American citizens for five years if it has not become relevant [9]. No answers have been given as to what counts as relevance, nor whether or not changes in our enemies justifies keeping the information.

In 2007 Bush endorsed a new law, the Protect America Act, which allowed wiretapping to continue through the NSA, so long as they explained their techniques and targets within a secret court—FISC. The Protect America Act made warrantless wire-tapping legal on both foreigners and American citizens. From that legislation, the now infamous NSA program and possibly one of the most innocuous parts of surveillance—Prism—was born. Though many of the companies compelled to give information to the United States—google, facebook, yahoo—have insisted that they do not provide unfettered access to user data, we really have no idea what the government actually sees and does. Securities expert and author Bruce Schneier has said openly that we cannot trust what the government, nor corporations, are telling us—“it’s spycraft, after all” [4].

According to the rules of the FISC, the NSA stores millions of records for phone data (again, data—not content) for records only associated with U.S. based phone numbers if they were called from an overseas phone identified with a specific foreign terrorist [9]. Despite the fact that the content of the calls or emails are not recorded, the frequency of calls or length of calls can be quite intimate—who do you call most often? How often do you call your gynecologist? Have you recently called any politically or religiously affiliated groups? Journalists in particular have much to fear from the monitoring of the length, location, and frequency of their calls. If a journalist is doing an investigative piece in regard to terrorism, they might be the first to contact suspicious people. Even more frightening, if journalists are investigating surveillance itself, the NSA will know.

Prism is an information narrowing program, used to focus the stream of data coming in from company-provided and fiber-optic cable data. Executed in secrecy, yearly meetings are held between the attorney general and the director of national intelligence to conspire about intelligence gathering overseas. A federal judge, also in secret, must approve that plan. Through that plan, specific directives aimed at targets or groups of targets are handed to internet companies for the collection of data. Prism allows the NSA access to a target’s entire email inbox—including any communications with American citizens [4].

More disturbing than the use of Prism, which one might suggest “accidentally” collects American data, is the continued warrantless monitoring of data in fiber-optic cables. One CEO of a technology corporation said that this kind of monitoring gives the US access to anything—aside from face-to-face contact—that he can think of.

The information being gathered is not as intimate as most Americans seem to imagine. No one is sitting behind a desk watching your uploaded home videos, or listening to your late-night chat with your best friend. Instead, these methods employed by the NSA are using the data associated with your communications—not the communications themselves—to monitor people around the world. According to the NYTimes, “When separate streams of data are integrated into large databases — matching, for example, time and location data from cellphones with credit card purchases or E-ZPass use — intelligence analysts are given a mosaic of a person’s life that would never be available from simply listening to their conversations. Just four data points about the location and time of a mobile phone call, a study published in Nature found, make it possible to identify the caller 95 percent of the time.”

Meanwhile, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, unmanned Predator Drones and piloted Rivet Joint aircraft were combined to capture full-motion video and infrared images around the clock, recording a “pattern of life,” that establishes—quite intimately—who comes, who goes, how often, and how regularly. The larger piloted aircraft are capable of tracking vehicles travelling across an entire desert region [18]. Those being spied on need not even be using technology of any kind to be traced, and no distance of foot or automotive travel is safe enough to be out of sight.

Since taking office in 2009, after scandals revealing that the NSA was abusing access to American information, Obama has endorsed the use of wiretapping.  As Obama continues to discuss decreasing the costs of defense while maintaining political power, 11,000 NSA employees are building a $1.6 billion data center in Utah that will coordinate surveillance data from predator drones, reapers, U-2 spy planes, Global Hawks, X-37B space drones, Google Earth, Space Surveillance Telescopes, and orbiting satellites. Protecting it, the Pentagon is building a security force of pilotless X-37B space drones that can strike rival satellite networks with missiles. Within the next decade, Dr. Alfred McCoy says the US will be able to “…advance more omnipresent digital surveillance networks that will envelope the earth in an electronic grid capable of blinding entire armies on the battlefield, atomizing a single suspected terrorist, or monitoring millions of private lives at home and abroad” [1].

Of solutions, I have none. We are mired in a decade long war stretching over three continents. I have only the paraphrased cautionary words of Robert Merton: we will always be met with unintended consequences if the desire for an outcome is so great that there is willful ignorance of its effects, and our decision making in disregard for the effects is informed by a moral or ideological imperative. The United States has been in a persistent state of war — or in search of one — throughout its history. In our hunt for empire, our internal struggles, our attempts to control the political outcomes of Europe and now the Middle East, we have chosen to neglect the basic human rights of our own citizens, soldiers, and enemies in a hunt for democratic, capitalist power. Capitalism is a dangerous ideology to chase and democracy an impossible one to enforce. Democracy can only be found in the willful struggle toward it, by the people within a nation–it cannot be thrust upon a culture from outside. History shows us that no matter how carefully we handpick officials we place into the governments of other countries, the people want to choose those who represent them and always rebel–that is democracy. If the people are Muslim and want an Islamic government, they should have it. If they want secular rule, they should have that too. We should not, and ultimately cannot, choose for them.

Though we are trapped in this war now, I would caution the United States government to find an escape as soon as possible. A witch hunt for enemies will always create them while destroying the innocent.

Updated September 7, 2013: The comments below may be in response to an earlier version of this piece.


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  3. The Palmer Raids.” FBI. FBI, 28 Dec. 2007. Web. 30 July 2013.
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  7. “United States v. United States District Court.” United States v. United States District Court. N.p., 24 Feb. 1972. Web. 30 July 2013.
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  9. Pincus, Walter. “NSA Should Be Debated on the Facts.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 29 July 2013. Web. 30 July 2013.
  10. Smith V. Maryland. 442 U.S. 735 (1979).
  11. Savage, Charlie. “N.S.A. Chief Says Surveillance Has Stopped Dozens of Plots.” The New York Times. N.p., 18 June 2013. Web. 30 July 2013.
  12. Harwood, Matthew. “James Comey’s Indefensible Defense of Indefinite Detention.” American Civil Liberties Union. 19 June 2013. Web 30 July 2013.
  13. De Zayas, Alfred. “Human Rights and indefinite detention.” International Review of the Red Cross. Vol 87 No 857. March 2005.
  14. Delivered into Enemy Hands: US-Led Abuse and Rendition of Opponents to Gaddafi’s Libya.” Human Rights Watch. September 2012.
  15. Allawi, Ali A. “The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the war, Losing the Peace.” Yale University Press. 2007.
  16. Fact Sheet: Gitmo By the Numbers.” Human Rights First. April 2013.
  17. The Road to Abu Ghraib.” Human Rights Watch. June 2004.
  18. Schmitt, Eric and Thom Shanker. “Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America’s Secret Campaign Against Al Qaeda.” Henry Holt & Co. 2011.
  19. Jones, Seth G. “In the Graveyard of Empires: Americas War in Afghanistan.” W. W. Norton & Company. 2010. Print.
  20. Kuznick, Peter and Oliver Stone. “The Untold History of the United States.” Secret History, LLC. 2012. Print.
  21. Zinn, Howard. “A People’s History of the United States.” HarperCollins Publishers. NY, NY. 2005.
  22. “The War on Terror in Numbers.” May 5, 2011.
  23. Counting Drone Strike Deaths.” Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic. 2012.

Sources not cited within:


187 thoughts on “The Benefits of Fear Mongering: NSA Surveillance, The War on Terror, and the Violation of Human Rights

  1. The phrase “human rights” seems to have a political connotation attached to it that makes people dismiss it outright.

    Usually I see the phrase tossed around by those on the “left”, but this should not invalidate the idea itself. Look at the idea itself, not who proposes/espouses it. When we consider the idea of not applying constitutional rights to “terrorists” we must very carefully consider the implications of that.

    – What makes one a terrorist?
    – Who defines it?
    – What happens if you for whatever reason are label at “terrorist?”
    – The concept of terrorism as having very probable potential for being deliberately used as a political weapon.
    – The rights we may have to give up for “protection from supposed terrorists.

    Do we really trust our politicians not to use the government to silence opposing voices and ideas? Scandals from now to 60 years ago prove otherwise.

    1. Reading your comment the fate of the movie industry came to mind.

      The early movie industry was not all slapstick comedy in entertaining
      the masses / some tried to portray the serious side of life as political
      corruption / having the means of freedom via movie they could take
      their ideas beliefs to a very large audience / and that they did with a
      success that had govt concerned / thus such freedom of the movie
      industry was short lived. The govt ran a cruel campaign accussing
      actors / directors / writers / of all being involved in a communist plot
      to bring down USA govt / bringing in place a communist government.

      Of course communist plots against those in the movie industry being
      nonsense / the situation was govt as politicians began to realize how
      powerful the movie industry could be in challenge to govt / thus govt
      put into action a massive cruel campaign against the movie industry
      end result / govt took control of what was produced thus the ending
      to any freedom in the movie industry / the american people treated
      to comedy / war movies / where the USA always the hero defending
      democracy freedom saving the world from the dreaded communists.

      For decades a USA used evil communism as a cover to spread it’s
      military might worldwide / in removing govts / replacing with puppet
      govt’s of it’s choosing / in the process tmillions being slaughtered,

      When western nations needed access to Russia’s vast resources
      the USA govt had a problem / they needed to maintain having an
      enemy thus could justify it’s ever growing worldwide military might
      thus the backroom boys put their heads together finding solution.

      The solution being a media campaign in making Russia the friend
      of the western world /matched with a campaign that muslims Islam
      were the enemy of democracy freedom / it took years to complete
      yet the result complete successs / Russia became western friend
      & Muslims Islam / now an enemy of freedom enemy of democracy.

      A great part of the success was the movie industry in it’s part it
      churned out endless movies of muslim terrorist trying to kill the
      president / or trying to blow up buildings and planes or trains etc
      which the fickle minded american public accepted / as an reality
      thus the changover made Russia the friend / Muslims the enemy
      thus a USA could ever continue it;s military expansion worldwide
      continue in portraying itself as protector of freedom democracy.

      Present time situation for americans growing worse politicians
      their financial backers having used fighting terrorism as cover
      to now strip americans of all rights / govt can now do as they
      please having placed themselves above beyond the law / the
      ongoing injustice now allows govt in having free access to the
      internet where can now pry into any individuals privacy their
      telephone calls / internet mail / nothing now regarded private
      govt defence / it’s done in defence of freedom & democracy.

      1. I’m not sure why this is necessarily relevant to this post or posted here, but thank you for your contribution. This kind of informative comment might be better suited for your own blog. 😉 You could post it there and receive your own comments.

    2. Terrorists are most times self-defined. If you are making bombs in your bedroom, you are probably a terrorist. If you are making plans to use those bombs to kill women and children, you are probably a terrorist. If you are agreeing with people whose ideology or religion tells you that it is a good thing to use those bombs to create a better world, you are probably a terrorist. It’s not very hard to at least start the definition of a terrorist.

      1. First, I don’t understand your point, can you put this in context? Second, your definition makes the United States a terrorist organization (and by association all patriotic Americans also). We make bombs, use them on women and children, and use them to “create a better world” based on our ideology. Why is terrorism associated solely with bombs and not guns? Why is terrorism associated with death and not fear-tactics? Finally, not all those deemed “terrorists” by our country have made bombs or set them off. We certainly have made no attempt to prove that they have. Only that they are associated with people who do. Why are certain ideologies considered terrorist ideologies, and others not? You seem to be simplifying something very complex.

      2. That is one of the problems, there are those that believe that terrorist ideals are derived from religious ideals and the reality is that most terrorist are heretics of their religious beliefs, and present those beliefs as the truth of their religion. Those that wish to protect themselves don’t want to take the time to learn another belief system, so they make the assumption that if this bad guy is of that religion then all members of that religion must be bad guys. My definition of a terrorist is one who believes that it is a good thing to hurt others in the name of your cause. Maybe that is too broad also, I am still working this one out.

      3. It may not be easy to find an official definition of terrorism. However, Russia was not and is still not a terrorist country, because it was recognized by both sides that there was a war between two countries. However, when it’s a group-to-country scenario, the group without a government is considered a terrorist for some reason. The problem is that they often do not and cannot follow the proper procedure to declare wars. Because there is no government representing them, they have no laws. When they do attack, they do not have the capability to attack the armies directly. Instead, they have to target at civilians, who are innocent without engaging in the decision of creating terrorists, at least not directly. A better question is whether these terrorists do have a choice or not.

        Yes, they do. They need a revolution to take over the governments that do not protect their national resources, such as oil. What they need is a way to transition to a technology-based economy before running out of oil. Their greatest enemy today is not the United States but Saudi Arabia, a self-seeking empire that does not care about its people and their future. They need the United Nations of Arabia, which obviously does not exist yet, to fight for their cause of long-term prosperity. Unfortunately, they are too much into their religious differences, such as Sunni and Shi’ah and stuffs like that. These terrorists, knowing that there’s no future for them, plan tactical attacks futile in the overall picture by killing the innocent as a threat to bring the United States to the negotiation table.

        Fortunately, it’s a bit better now, because they target at the U.S. soldiers in the Middle East. After all, it doesn’t look good to target at the children just because you can’t fight the adults. They understand the difference. Sense of honor is a universal language.

      4. Just saw your reply comment after posting my comment Amber. By my definition waging an offensive war is a form of terrorist activity. Is this a necessary evil or do we have other options?

      5. Just saw your reply TWDYEN and the question I have for you is what is the difference between a guerrilla warfare and a terrorist warfare. Guerrilla warfare strikes at the enemy and its ability to wage offensive war not at the civilians.

      6. By the way, the governments that protect these terrorists are called the terrorist countries. The problem is that while they don’t want to declare war on the United States to make it official and clear, they still want to attack. It’s hypocritical in a sense. What they should do instead is to maintain a neutral position while they can’t possibly love the United States as a friend and are too weak in the meantime to declare war officially. Actually, the bar is not very high for them today, because they just need to strengthen their military position to an extent so as to be able to decide crude oil price on their own. Defense is more than good enough. Unfortunately, these Arabic countries really don’t care. They can’t even fight Israel on their own, because Israel develops their own nuclear weaponry. If they together can’t even handle Israel, let alone tackling the United States.

      7. Twyden, I think it’s pretty presumptuous of you to say “those arabic countries don’t care,” and honestly kind of laughable. You just reduced an entire geographical region to total flippancy, and an international conflict to being about the United States. Which countries do you think are those “Arabic” ones? The Middle East is composed of extremely diverse religions, languages, and ethnicity. So who are the “Arabs?” The ones who speak Arabic or the ones who have a certain color skin? What about the thousands of others who have neither? You seem to be completely dismissing the fact that this diversity of social, religious, economic, and ethnic ideals was wedged into indiscriminate borders by Europeans — resulting in every single country in the Middle East being comprised of human beings who never had an interest in building a nation together. Yet, you conclude that they “just need unity.” Under what ideology should they unify? What language? What religion? What constitution? On top of that, the last century has involved violent dictatorships and even more violent coups, for most nations in the region. So, you tell us–who is the “they” you’re referring to? Is it al qaeda? Is it Afghanistan? Is it Iraq? Or Pakistan? Or the Taliban? Is it the transitional government handpicked by the US? Or the transitional governments handpicked by Europe years ago? Is it the military dictators that killed their way to the top through a government that was never created to represent their interests? Who are you talking about? That is what this conflict is about. Not the U.S. Not the few thousand extremist religious fanatics. Not you, who thinks you can solve an entire region conflict by calling an entire region too dumb or too lazy or too apathetic. APATHETIC? They are FIGHTING for their lives, or for a chance to have their interests represented for ONCE in their lives so that maybe their children will be raised with their beliefs within the law, with the ability to feed themselves, to earn a living, to dream of being something else. Because when you say “The Arabic countries don’t care” and “All they need is unity,” you sound a hell of a lot like the Western nations who lumped all of these diverse people together and then created governments to represent Western interests, not the interests of the people. You sound like you’re reducing an entire region to flippancy because you don’t actually understand the situation. And while I understand that history is not for everyone–I suggest keeping oversimplifying comments to yourself if you don’t know what you’re talking about. Human beings are complicated. While I find al qaeda and their methods and ideologies deplorable, I find the turmoil throughout the region entirely understandable under their circumstances. These conflicts are not about the United States. While we may have been the target of a small extremist group twelve years ago, it’s the people of these countries who have lived through “terrorist” group after “terrorist” group killing, torturing, and stealing from them — and it is only when we are touched by it that we feel a need to label them and intercede on OUR behalf. You say that they’re terrorists without a government to back them — I ask you: maybe they’re terrorists BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE A GOVERNMENT TO BACK THEM. And Israel! The only reason Israel is seemingly so great is because they have a stable government and the cash flow of the U.S. and every other European nation that prefers Jews to Arabs. You say “they can’t even fight Israel,” like they SHOULD HAVE TO fight Israel in the first place! Israel is the United States’ sweet little baby, and anything it wants it gets. How could ANYONE fight Israel without having the entire Western world fall on them in return? I implore you to think about the complexity of a situation before you make reductionist statements that dismiss millions of people who are in an impossible situation. This goes for EVERYONE who has an INKLING to make racist statements here. I’m tired of human beings pretending that they’re better than other human beings just because they have an advantage. Put yourself in the shoes of a person who has struggled every single day to live, without a government to protect them, create economic stability, or simply not murder them for their faith or language or skin color. Then tell me how they should behave. How would you behave?

      8. JRJ1701, again, as I said, if it’s a country-to-country scenario, then it’s not terrorism. Terrorism is about a group-to-country scenario. The Arabic world needs unity. That’s all.

      9. By genetics, Arabs and Indians are both Caucasian. There’s nothing racist over here. You can also read up on the Six-Day War fought by Israel. It’s evidence-based. In future, let’s hope there’s no more war. Let’s compare apples to apples. Muslim is a religion, so is Christianity. You grew up at church, so you ought to know that Christian denominations are extremely diverse, sometimes mixed with nationalism, such as the Anglican church and Mormonism. Again, I grew up at a Presbyterian church. That’s why I am using an example we both can understand well. I am talking about their governments and certain extreme groups, and not their people in general.

      10. I know what the six-day war is… I’m not sure what your point is. That Israel started a war with the surrounding nations? Or that it’s called the “Arab-Israeli” war, and that justifies calling all the people of the Middle East Arab? Islam* is a religion, but it isn’t the religion of everyone in the Middle East. I’m not talking about sects, though that diversity does play a huge part in the current conflict. There is diversity in Christianity in the United States but we have a supposedly secular government. Different sects aren’t treated differently within the law and the laws aren’t based on one sect’s beliefs. There’s a huge difference. And if the governments and extremist groups “don’t care,” why are they trying so hard? I think it’s pretty clear that they DO care. Perhaps they just don’t care about what YOU care about. I’m saying, that I think it’s easy to say what you would do if you were in their shoes (the government, the extremist groups–whose members are regular people like you and I who believe something different and lived differently) because you aren’t in their shoes. If it were as simple as just not fighting and staying neutral, don’t you think they would have? Do you think they want to kill children and aspire to be in deathly battles? Do you think they dreamed of some day being dictators and killing anyone who defied them? Probably not. They probably wanted to be scholars or Imams or Astronauts like other kids.
        Let’s hope there’s no more war. But we won’t get there by ignoring the actual circumstances that people live in and telling them to “just be neutral.” You can’t be neutral about whether or not you eat or don’t eat. Whether or not you have a leader who wants you dead. How do you stay neutral about whether or not your people are fed or killed or able to learn their native language? Dictators are made by loyalty to their own ideology, in their attempt to secure safety for themselves and their people within extremely dangerous circumstances. People don’t become dictators or extremists because they don’t care. They become that way because no one else seems to care what they believe or how they live, so they must fight for it. The only way to end dictatorship and extremism is to LISTEN, and to let the people who have a vested interest in the outcome CONTROL THE OUTCOME. Not to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t do in impossible circumstances.

      11. I can’t see a “Reply” link at the 3rd level of comments, so I am sorry about my replies to yours being out of order, meaning, unordered.

      12. Based on how fast and how much you write in your replies, it seems that you care about these Arabic countries very much. Kids are aspired by TV in North America but brainwashed by home-made videos with those extremists. In any case, I don’t like TV shows, either. I used to watch a lot, but not anymore. The Six-Day War was a conventional one, won by superior military strategies and tactics alone. It’s a very good lesson to be learned. The development of nuclear weaponry just widened the gap furthermore. Either Jews are indeed very smart or their God actually exists. That’s just my take.

      13. I don’t care about “Arabic countries” any more than any other countries. I care about people. I have no vested interest in the outcomes of the Middle East, other than to live in a world that is more fair and more kind and more peaceful. What I want is for all voices and all perspectives to be heard, rather than the opinions of the powerful to overshadow the voices of those who are dismissed or ignored. I think saying the six-day war is about superior military strategy and tactics is another oversimplification. If it hadn’t been for the backing of the United States, Israel wouldn’t even have existed in 1967, let alone had superior anything. And saying that winning a war makes Jews smart, (unlike those Arabs you seem to dislike), is pretty silly. Wouldn’t the “smart” thing be to “stay neutral,” as you counseled the Arabs to do?

      14. Of course, at beginnings, most countries had backings and few were exceptions. China, for example, even had double-backing, first by the U.S. and then by Russia. However, once these countries stabilize, they can pretty much run on their own without further backings. It’s better to be friends with everyone unless there’s no choice. The Middle East may still have 50-150 years before running out of oil. They better start doing something now, just in case. See, if they run out of oil in 50 years, is the U.S. going to be kind enough to take more refugees, like 100 million people? How do you care about this many people without showing them a way out in future?

      15. But who is backing the Middle Eastern countries? That’s my point. Israel is supported by the United States to the detriment of the Middle East. The countries in the Middle East are not receiving similar backing. And when you say “they run out of oil” and “they better start doing something” — who are you talking about? What should they be doing now? What exactly are you proposing? It seems to me that you’re saying its as simple as anyone taking any action so long as something happens having to do with oil. But what? By whom? When countries have no stable leadership, this is what happens. You’re acting as if everything is all well sorted out and its as easy as making decent oil trades and developing new technologies. It’s pretty obvious that it would be in everyone’s best interest if a country had a stable government with the resources to develop its natural resources into a solid economic support system for global trade–the problem is that the people in the country don’t agree on who gets to do that, how to do it, and who gets the resources. You can’t just say “DO SOMETHING,” and expect it to get done. The United States isn’t “showing them a way out,” — the United States is showing them OUR WAY and ignoring anyone who wants different things, and demonizing anyone who doesn’t suit our interests. That isn’t stability. That’s incentive to feed another civil war in the future, when yet another group of people feels a need to fight for representation.

      16. Well, as you said, we can’t afford to be the enemies of the U.S., so we better not propose anything until the proposal also benefits the U.S. greatly. For now, just let them sort it out. Why should we care about their countries more than they do? For me, if they don’t care, neither do I. I may go out in a couple of hours, just so you know.

      17. Thanks for your response to my comment. You went a direction that I expected people would. Namely that terrorism is somehow justified by other people’s evil. My point was that we are not to oppose evil with evil and if we do so, or condone others doing so, it is because we have made a choice we should not have made. We are beings responsible for our choices and are obligated to chose what is good.

  2. We already have a socialist jerk in the White House. Now we can all sit back and watch our Constitution be trampled upon by he and his regime of candy assed liberal fools.

    1. I can’t tell if you’re a troll or not. If not, I suggest that you first look up what socialism is and then compare it to Obama’s moderate stance on most issues and his track record that one could argue is conservative in regard to the economy and especially foreign policy and defense. Consider that NSA surveillance, an issue that would be opposed by most “candy assed liberals” has been upheld by every branch of the government. Then I suggest you look at the track record for how much progress has actually been made under Obama and I think you’ll find that conservatives are doing a wonderful job at stopping any forward motion for the betterment of our nation unless it advances anti-abortion, anti-immigration, or privatization. And the Supreme Court has already done plenty of “good” for conservatives in rolling back civil rights achievements and destroying civil liberties to a degree that our forefathers would be SO PROUD in all of their conservatism. So I think the Constitution is “safe” from any “candy assed liberal fools” for now.
      Last, what does this have to do with my post, even slightly?

  3. I really like this post; what most people don’t grasp is that surveillance is nothing new, yet it’s worse now as the companies involved in the surveillance have less accountability than the government does. Moreover, through their corruption of the government, they reinforce it against public accountability; such companies can distract us from flawed policy, while they continue working hand in hand with governments.

    What I think needed more emphasis was how US surveillance affects non-US citizens, g.g. the spying on non-US officials and citizens as we’ve seen in multiple examples in the media. The way you presented it came across as vague.

    Keep writing and good luck.

  4. I was going to attempt to outline which parts of this I liked best, but there were too many. I have blogged about this recently as well. This, however, was poignant: “You’re almost surely doing something wrong. Even worse, most of the evidence used in counter-terrorism is association, not intent (I just wrote a post on “intent” today). Knowing another person, even vaguely, can be cause for suspicion.” In my blog I quoted the Character Dr. Floyd Ferris from Atlas Shrugged who said,

    “The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt.”

    We now live in a world that has made so many laws, we’re bound to be in violation of any number during a routine day. Add a paranoid surveillance state, mix with a dash of terrorist-fever (where defining you as an enemy combatant is easier every day), and bake it with the ability of the federal government to drone bomb you on US soil without due process, and that’s one bitter cookie.

    Also, you shouldn’t issue an apology for editorializing – especially when it’s as good as this.

    Find me at:

  5. One need also take account that many as a ever growing number
    are now fully employed in the nations Homeland security Services
    it is their livelihood their career / in paying house mortgage one’s
    need provide for a family / car / food / clothing / childs eduction &
    of course medical insurance / that one not left to die in the street.

    The point being such times of unemployment Homeland Security
    is a blessing for many tens of thousands / the use of the inter in
    prying into the individuals life is not so much to do with terrorism
    it more about expansion in Homeland Security employment thus
    reducing the nations unemployment figures by many thousands.

    A fact there no terrorist to catch (apart from USA politicians &
    their financial backers whom the biggest gang of fraudsters &
    terrorists that the world has known) is given little / if any focus
    it’s all down to creating emplyment /as the federal reserve but
    continue to print more $dollars / trying to stop the collapse of
    the USA economy / a economy that now of the “Twilight Zone”
    nations are not up in arms in protesting about appalling levels
    of USA banking fraud reason being none wish see a worlwide
    banking collapse such in returning humanity to the stone age.

    The drive of humanity being now oiled with wealth / political
    power / military might / corrupt courts / crooked lawyers / as
    police / whom now serve corrupt politicians and their corrupt
    financial backers they having stripped people’s of all rights
    owning the media they play the tune to which people dance
    public seen as sheep to fleece / children lamb for slaughter.

    The USA reaching a stage where half employed to put
    the other half through the courts & into prison / it being
    a “Twilight Zone ” mentallity thus it need changing that
    american people once again knowing true freedom /as
    true democracy / in knowing laughter / the joy of living
    where every day be that of dance / of joy / of laughter.

  6. I like your article, your ideas and your provocative questions. I doubt that being a UK citizen saves me from your US experience, we are bound, I fear, by something called allegiance. Your point about large unelected corporations is spot on and far more frightening than governments, who lets face it, switch and shift according to the hype of the ruling media classes. I don’t agree that diplomacy is armed against terrorism, but bravo for challenging the ridiculous empty-headed indignation so often cried by tabloid generations.

  7. We have no privacy!!! I wonder who is in the bedroom and living room with me as I do my blogs or play on the computer….

  8. The the power of creation in making humans added a vital ingredient in
    human qualties ( that being our sense of of humour ) that no matter the
    circumstances good or be bad people had the ability in laughing at their
    own stupidity / or be their own once ( considered material achievments )
    thus even the direst situation circumstance one can turn to the humour
    of the situation in bringing laughter / a flash of lightning in the darkness.
    The basic reason for laughter at human plight is that the solution to all
    humanities ills be so simple that we fail understanding / because of it’s
    simplicity thus sense of humour where abled laugh at our own stupidity.
    What’s the answer to human ills ? and why ? as what ? be it’s simplicity.
    The answer to human ills is the need of further understanding in such
    development of the brain / where the questions be answered …What’s
    the purpose of life ..Who am I . is lfe just random events which brought
    & sustains creation ??? . Can we go beyond ideas beliefs which divide
    and can as do bring conflict /appalling acts of very primitive behaviour.
    Yes we can go beyond ideas beliefs unto practical experience of the
    power of creation / and the simplicity of the answer to ills understood.
    Thus by what means are ills to be overcome questions be answered.
    The answer it’s simplicity / is via meditation in one turning the senses
    inward / in doing so one’s focus not on the material manifestation but
    on the essence of the power of creation / Such a practical experience
    of the power of creation gives such a clarity it answering all questions.
    How does one proceed if wish in turn to meditation ? ..The answer to
    such question /you need aid guidence thus you will bring a balanced
    adaptation unto life. One’s focus on the material in giving an material
    identity / the aim not in destroying the material identity but increasing
    understanding via practical experience of the power of creation thus
    it’s about bringing balance to the material as the eternal giving power.

    There a lot of understanding as experience that gained on the way
    which is one’s individuallearning / I but give a outline which limited.
    Throughout history of humanity (always) be a Teacher of Teachers
    the teacher of teachers is a guide aid to all / in reaching such stage
    where meditation is vital is required in their furthering development.
    Present time Teacher of Teacher is Prem Rawat / Prem dedicated
    his life to guide aid those whom having reached such stage where
    meditation now required / needed /vital in furthering their learning.

    On PC search put (words of peace) or (words of peace global) on
    site a selection of videos in which prem explains meditation as an
    open invite he will guide aid those whom approach as prepared in
    furtherig their understanding as experience beyond ideas beliefs.

    1. Hey William! Thank you for commenting, but I think this kind of content might be better served as a post on your own blog, where you can have an audience and your own comments section. Comments are typically used to address issues directly related to the post itself–either in support or against the original post. You seem to have plenty to say about various topics, to fill your own blog! If you need help navigating the website and creating a post, rather than a comment, I’d be happy to help guide you. Let me know! Best, -Amber

      1. Amber / Thank you for your deliberation I gave no thought
        to an own blog /being I would need to be more advanced in
        that which t’was giving focus / giving an comment upon the
        need of peace within onself seemed twinned to every topic.

        Present situation for humanity there need in knowing such
        the means that will deliver bring peace to the troubled soul.

        If feeling a a comment / not relevent to youself & to others
        then it’s an simple matter to delete such comment you’ll not
        offend / balance your judgement on that which / think/ feel.

      2. Amber, I apologize that I have not read all the comments, and if you touched on my comment, then please excuse me. I believe that most people that follow politics, and by extension, national security, in this country have known about our intelligence services collecting data on us. But where it is now, and what has me worried is that they are vacuuming up as much data as they can get, anything digital, and cataloging it. Not to be used now. And maybe never to be used, as there is just too much data. But they are collecting it to use if any person ever makes a nuisance of themselves to the government. Or to a corporation that has good relations with the government. As James Clapper said to Andrea Mitchell in an interview, he likened the data to a library, and that they are collecting the data, and putting it on the shelf. Then cataloging it like the Dewey Decimal system. To be used at their pleasure. That’s what worries me (sorry to be so long winded).

      3. How do you know they’re doing that? Where is your source? If it really is happening, that is a significant fear. Most of the experts I’ve read say there is no means of storing that amount of data at this time – certainly not any content (video, voice, text in an e-mail), only the data associated with it (when, where, to whom). If you click on the link at the top of this post to go to my more updated post, there is more information in there about this. We definitely have reason to worry that our government (now or in the future) will target us based on our political stance–we’ve seen it in every generation of our history, particularly since the early 1900’s when long distance communication became available. But, this has always been with us. And if we’re worried about it for ourselves, my point in this post is that we should be worried about it for everyone — we should be worried about it for the Arabs, Muslims, Afghans, Iraqis, and Pakistanis who are suffering most greatly from this technology right now and we are turning a blind eye because they aren’t American citizens.

      4. The problem with confirming THEPRESSUREVALVE59 statement is that most of this has been done under the cloak of national security, we can not confirm the abilities of the NSA because they have been told to keep what they do secret and guard government and military codes. Their capabilities are secret, the reasoning being that if the enemy knew what NSA could do they would stop them. It has been urban myth that the NSA has been listening to all international long distance phone data since its creation. With the availability of what has been called a black budget (money allocated with out government oversight) the NSA could have the ability to construct a super computer that has the ability to catalog and search a wide data base and decrypt any encrypted data. What discoveries have been made in technology in secret???. We don’t know. We can try to figure it out by our knowledge of today’s available technology, yet what has been done in secret is an unknown and trying to figure it out leads one to paranoia. Most don’t want to consider this because 1) they believe they can’t do anything about it, 2) they believe it does not matter, or 3) they are profiting from things remaining the way they are.

      5. I adore conspiracy theories as much as the next guy–but when corporations with billions of available dollars to develop data storage technology say that such technology doesn’t yet exist, I think we have to believe that the government, which is not a technology developing organization and is in massive debt, doesn’t have superior computer technology to what is developed privately. I’m not saying that the government’s data storage, data collection, or surveillance is innocuous — obviously — because I wrote this angry post. But, to believe that the government could collect all/a lot of the data generated by 300 million Americans in a data-driven world like ours, and not only the data but also the content, for any length of time–let alone the data of the entire Middle East and Europe and South America (all places we have vested interests) is slightly absurd. There is plenty of damage that the government can do by NOT saving data for a long time, and NOT saving content. So, focusing on what we know they can and have been doing with this technology will always be more productive than having wild fantastical conversations about the secret might-be’s. The reality, as illustrated, is already horrifying. Let’s address the horrors in plain view before distracting ourselves with conspiracies.

      6. Your right of course, I just have a feeling that there is more than meets the eye concerning the NSA’s ability, and NSA’s capabilities are either downplayed, exaggerated or both. Conspiracy theory is a slippery slope into an “ooh brainhurt” situation.

      7. Amber, thanks for the reply. I noticed someone in the thread brought up the difficulty in any of us knowing exactly what the NSA is doing, but I believe we can surmise some things by what we already know. William Binney left the NSA in 2001 because he didn’t like the direction the agency was going. He was one of the architects of Stellar Wind. Binney says Stellar Wind was far larger than has been publicly disclosed and included not just eavesdropping on domestic phone calls but the inspection of domestic email. At the outset the program recorded 320 million calls a day, he says, which represented about 73 to 80 percent of the total volume of the agency’s worldwide intercepts. You can also read about Clapper’s comments to Andrea Mitchell where he discusses (paraphrasing here) setting up their data collection like a library. Which means collecting the data only to be used when they need it –

        Also read the Washington Post article here which talks about hos the NSA has violated law after law, only confessing because of the releases by Snowden –

        They have the capabilities to spy. They will use them. And it will only get worse. These instruments and programs were put into place for one reason, to spy not only on foreign governments and individuals, but domestically as well. They now call people who set animals free from pet stores terrorists under the Animal Enterprise Terrorist Act enacted in 2006. You don”t think that the NSA isn’t siphoning up all their digital data? And whoever they communicate with?

        Conspiracy theory? Not sure I’m worried enough. Sorry for the long winded response.

      8. Like I said, I obviously don’t think that the NSA is an innocent organization, or that it doesn’t secretly collect data on Americans. I think this post (and the additional extensive post that covers the history of NSA surveillance on Americans) shows that I DO think it’s very serious. I am not saying that you should not be worried about the NSA. What I’m saying is that you should be worried about what the NSA, homeland security, and the DOJ are doing with that collected information in perfectly plain sight right now to hundreds – thousands of human beings. I’m saying that we do not need a conspiracy theory about what data is being collected to be infuriated, disturbed, or frightened. I’m saying that we have solid evidence, right in front of us at Guantanamo or on the ground in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and in the lives of American citizens who have already been tortured on behalf of counter-terrorism. I am not the person that you need to convince. I’m trying to convince YOU (and everyone else reading this) that worrying whether or not the government is reading your e-mails is like worrying about gum on your shoe when someone else, right in front of you, is being tarred and feathered to death in the public square.

      9. Well Amber, I am in agreement with you (as this is the majority of my blogs). What I replied to was your question on “How do you know there doing that”. That’s all. And wait…what…I have gum on my shoe??

      10. I guess I’m just not convinced that your reply was evidence that they’re saving private content for extensive periods of time for later use. But I hear ya. Thanks for contributing!

      11. Fair enough. As I said in my first reply, none of us can really know to what extent these programs are running. But knowing the human condition, if they have the capabilities to capture all data, they will. As far as reading all that captured data? I guess they would read it if and when they thought you were a threat.

      12. Amber, after the latest disclosures on what the NSA has been doing, do you still believe that they are not reading emails, listening to phone calls, and collecting as much data as they possibly can?

        Just askin’?

      13. Hey Pressure Valve, I feel a little confused. What latest discourse? This was written pretty recently. First, if you read the most recent post on this issue — I discuss in more detail how exactly the NSA does surveil. This post by no means suggests that the NSA doesn’t use surveillance and doesn’t collect data — it does. It does this in violation of international laws and against American citizens through loopholes. It takes very detailed and intimate data. But, according to experts, there is no means by which the NSA could collect and store more than data (as in, content, such as video files, photos, or audio files). What they collect are the letters and numbers associated with the transmission of data – such as the dates, times, IP addresses, coordinates, and phone numbers. That data is very intimate and personal, and its collection is, of course, a violation of human rights (though not according to the Supreme Court if the transmissions are through the internet). So, to answer your question most directly, yes, I still believe that the NSA is not collecting the actual audio recording of my phone calls. I don’t believe they have the capability or manpower to keep that much information on a global scale and actually monitor it. Perhaps they do. But, my opinion comes from what I’ve read from experts in technology and surveillance, and on the information provided by the NSA itself. I do believe that they are collecting data. I do believe that they are keeping it for at least several years. I do believe that it is being misused.

  9. This is really interesting, You’re an overly skilled blogger. I’ve joined your feed and
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  10. Re: title
    How is personal privacy not a human right? Though “personal privacy” sounds like some kind of marketing term, it really is a fundamental right to not be monitored without your permission.

    1. First of all, privacy is not a right protected by the constitution, save for the exception of the 9th amendment which basically states “because the constitution doesn’t state that we can violate your privacy: we can’t.” But the passing of several laws since 9/11 would argue otherwise, that in the face of terrorist threats your privacy is an acceptable sacrifice.
      But, I do realize that the headline of this article somewhat contradicts itself–on purpose. The argument of the post is that in the conversation surrounding NSA surveillance, most Americans choose to discuss whether or not their personal conversations are being overheard or their e-mails are being read (which they aren’t), rather than discussing how surveillance affects humans rights in much more volatile ways–indefinite detention, torture, extraordinary rendition, the fourth amendment, etc. The juxtaposition of “personal privacy” rather than the “right to privacy” v. “human rights” was purposeful. I’m sorry if that was confusing. The more recent NSA surveillance post might offer clarification.
      Thanks for contributing!

      1. Hi… Well, just to be clear in your/my language, here: just because something is not explicitly in the constitution doesn’t mean that it isn’t a fundamental human right.

        But, moving on… I don’t think I read the full article originally, and I see that you’ve retracted it, or publicly apologized for it. It brings up interesting ideas, though — how do different types of surveillance affect us? I’d say that monitoring the public without their permission (and we can now say that we have been) is actually just as important as, say, the usage of drones…. because how drones, surveillance or killing, are used will be determined by *information.* How will we be targeted by those drones? If law enforcement is using properly gathered evidence, then only by evidence that was collected with a warrant issued for reasonable suspicion. If law enforcement has a large collection of data, they can decide to target a person, on whatever whim, based on data that was collected without permission by the citizen and without a warrant. Without this data, the drone itself is harmless. The potential for abuse in a heavily monitored population is endless.

  11. NO I don’t care about my privacy. To prove it here’s my phone # 856-813-0412. Anything I can do to help keep those $agheads from blowing up another building I’m for it! If you want to debate it I’m game, just call my number! don’t hide behind a computer

    1. Please refrain from using derogatory language in my comments. Those kinds of racist epithets are not welcome here, and if you use them again I will not approve your comment. I don’t want to debate. I’m not interested in arguing with you or anyone else. This is a platform for discussion and it is not “hiding” to write a blog article under my full name.

    2. Nick ya don’t need to take things so personal, there are plenty of folks willing to argue with ya mano a mano in New Jersey. If you are trolling for a debate you are doing it in a very risky way, and disrespecting all Muslims and Arabs due to the actions of some just ain’t right. You want to trade your liberty for safety, more power to ya, just don’t be surprised that you end up losing both.

    3. Nick / This being not a dating blog / for the exchange of phone numbers
      Amber right in firing a warning shot across your bow/ be more respectful.

  12. I think what you mean by “personal privacy” is actually hust another form of human dignity.
    Even if the surveilance had no effect whatsoever on my life, the idea that somebody can decide to take away some of my rights in the name of preventing “greater evil” pisses me of, especially if the argumentation is mostly based on buzzwords like “terrorism”, “child pornography” or “national security”.

    (About a month ago i wrote my own piece about this drama:

    Have a nice day.

    1. Nope, I meant personal privacy. But, dignity is also a part of that, I suppose. Like I’ve said a few times–YES, NO ONE SHOULD BE SNOOPING ON YOU. It is absolutely a violation of your rights and an invasion into your personal life that is not warranted. This post isn’t saying that by any means. What it’s saying is that worrying whether or not the government is reading your private emails or watching your porn, became a much larger and more prominant argument than the violation of human rights like the right to life. Or indefinite detention. Or torture. Or international war crimes. Which are all a result of surveillance and yet somehow not as a big of a deal to people as their own phone calls being heard — WHICH AREN’T EVEN BEING HEARD.

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