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Whistleblowing isn’t Treason; Warrantless Surveillance is

Updated on June 29, 2013
$2 billion data center in Utah
$2 billion data center in Utah | Source

Washington, DC has been in a panic since the recent revelation and publication of the U.S. government’s NSA data mining activities by Glenn Greenwald of the UK Guardian, using information obtained by former NSA computer specialist Eric Snowden. Everyone from Fox, MSNBC, the New York Time’s editorial page, NPR and others have been asking whether whistleblower Snowden is a hero or a traitor. This query obscures what we should all be concerned about: the ineptitude of our government and the cost of mining all our data when it is nearly impossible to find terrorist activities with such a wide net.


The only conclusion we can make is that the U.S. government is too ignorant and lazy to differentiate between normal, daily electronic activity and terrorism, protests and plots. Our government is apparently unable to make cost-effective, science-based decisions regarding our national security. Moreover, they are less and less tolerant of peaceful protests that could disrupt the status quo.

Why should we trust governmental surveillance of our phone and Internet activity? They want to prevent unrest before it happens because they believe their own paranoid propaganda regarding “sleeper cells” and an enemy plot in every dissenting word. They tell us that the government creates “free speech zones” and has surveillance everywhere, in the streets, on our phones, and on the Internet, and that they do so to protect us. The people are to be controlled as much as possible. According to our government and too many people in America, freedom must must be subservient to security.

Under the Patriot Act and rules passed in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), citizens suspected of terrorism are not guaranteed access to a speedy, civilian trial. The Patriot Act eliminates the former warrant requirements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act for searches and arrests. These laws allow the policing arm of the government to interrogate you and hold you as if you were an enemy combatant, and they all too often equate protest with unrest and terrorism.

The new and improved NDAA makes a pesky jury trial unnecessary. ““The biggest thing about the [2012] NDAA was that you weren’t getting a trial … Nothing in here says that you’ll make it to an Article III court so it literally does nothing,” Dan Johnson, founder of People Against the NDAA, told Business Insider on Thursday. “It’s a bunch of words, basically.”” And under the new NDAA, signed by President Obama, citizens can be detained under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). The law expands the extra-legal rules used to arrest suspects. And the phone calls we are making and sites we are visiting can make us all suspects. Unless you follow the status quo and party line on all things and opinions, you too are suspect.

One group they have targeted using these laws is the Occupy movement. “Internal Federal Bureau of Investigation documents released last Saturday by a civil liberties organization show that FBI anti-terror units across the US targeted and spied on the Occupy Wall Street protests even before they got underway in September 2011.” Free speech apparently means nothing to the policing arm of the government when you challenge the moneyed elite, even peaceably. These and other laws criminalize protest like it is a terrorist threat. More and more the war on terror targets judicial rights such as habeas corpus and not actual terrorists. So, why should we trust their record keeping of our electronic activities?

Not only is the justice department using extra-legal means to arrest, detain and harass Occupy members, they have also targeted Food not Bombs for being a suspected terrorist group. I guess giving out food is a terrorist activity to the functionaries running the FBI and NSA. Environmental groups such as Greenpeace and animal rights groups such as PETA have also been on terrorist watch lists at one time. So if you are occupying a park, hugging a tree or giving out free food (or other “dangerous” activities), you too could be a terrorism suspect.

And let’s not forget that our government has been detaining people indefinitely overseas (and torturing them) since at least 2001. If a government has no qualms about harming citizens of other nations, how can be trust this abuse will not happen, or hasn’t happened, within our borders. And shouldn’t we be concerned about citizens of other nations around the world that we are detaining without due process of the law?

If watching our telecommunication activities wasn’t enough, the U.S. government has stripped citizens of much of their right to protest. Americans can be arrested for protesting anywhere near public or private buildings where events of “national significance” are taking place under the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011. So if any government business is happening in a government building or contractors offices, right where you might want to protest, they can arrest you.

The historical ancestor of these anti-constitutional laws is the COINTELPRO program that lasted from 1956 to 1971. “The FBI's counterintelligence programs (COINTELPRO) of the 1950's, '60s, and '70s formed one of the most infamous domestic initiatives in US history, targeting organizations and individuals whom the FBI saw as threatening the racist, capitalist status quo. Through surveillance, misinformation, frame-ups, and assassinations of radical leaders, the FBI sowed mistrust, ruined reputations, turned husbands against wives, and cost many their jobs or lives.”

Surveillance under the NSA’s PRISM and other programs are reminiscent of the COINTELPRO program of the Hoover years. The White House wants us to trust them, but they clearly don’t trust us.

The PRISM program uses a complicated algorithm to cull through billions of daily calls and emails in an attempt to pinpoint suspect activity. It is a type of pre-crime intervention that is costly and ineffective. The program targets ALL Americans without warrants at a cost of anywhere between $10-20 billion a year. They collect data about who, when and where communications are being sent and for how long. Since there is a 0.00001% chance some individual out there is a terrorist, why suspend the rights of everyone?

The NSA also has has a massive $2 billion complex in Utah where they collect and search through 5 zetta bytes (5 billion terabytes or 5 trillion gigabytes) of data to find any possible information that might lead to the prevention of terrorist activity. Not only is this plan ludicrous on the face of it, it is highly ineffective at preventing terrorism and there are no guarantees that the data won’t be used in the future to eliminate political dissent of average citizens who disagree with the government’s policies.

As with COINTELPRO, the PRISM program can collect, map and analyze racial and ethnic demographics. Why wouldn't Republicans, who are already attacking the voting rights of minorities all over America, use this data to arrest “suspected” immigrants with names like Rodriguez and Chen? Moreover, can we trust the Obama White House that has ordered more detentions and deportations of immigrants than any other administration in history, with this data?


What’s to prevent the NSA from racially profiling those with foreign sounding names like Abdallah and those that email foreign nations in the Middle East? I would usually balk at such seemingly paranoid talk, but racial profiling and harassing of social movement groups such as the NAACP and ACLU is exactly what the government did with data collected during COINTELPRO.

Even the conservative, security-obsessed Washington Post is concerned, “It's one thing if the NSA looks for patterns in the data that suggest a nascent overseas terrorist group or an imminent attack. It's another thing altogether if the agency observes, say, patterns that suggest the birth of the next Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street movement. [Washington Post]”

As Senators Udall and Wyden, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, have pointed out on Udall’s government webpage, “‘As far as we can see, all of the useful information that it has provided appears to have also been available through other collection methods that do not violate the privacy of law-abiding Americans in the way that the Patriot Act collection does,’ Udall and Wyden said.”

However, more conventional means of data collection would mean less profit for the surveillance industry and wouldn’t keep us as afraid and malleable. An informed, active citizenry free from modern surveillance is the last thing the ruling elites want.

Tex Shelters


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    • forbcrin profile image

      Crin Forbes 4 years ago from Michigan

      Tex, even a the absence of a warrant today does not mean to much. You know my story, and the warrant never existed...

    • profile image

      Sanxuary 4 years ago

      Think of all the things your child could be in serious trouble for today for only speaking. My greatest struggle was the quote that even thinking a sin was a bad thing. With practice a few years later I did find my mind to be clear. Even with that said we still sarcastically say things we do not mean. Entrapment is illegal but permission to make up anything on the words of people in private I could only imagine how someone can frame anyone. Paranoia is what everyone had in Russia and regardless of the methods paranoia is the same. Unmentioned is how we arrived to where this all happened. The Government deliberately contracted its dirty work out to mitigate liability. Security is one of the dirtiest businesses you could ever imagine. Its entire responsibility is to protect the interest of the client at all cost. This includes taking the fall for the client by destroying their own employees if needed. The scandal of torture at Abdu-Gharib was started by contractors who got the Military to follow their lead. The fact that other civilians have become whistle blowers is because they are contractors. I am disappointed by those who blow the whistle on foreign intelligence but spying on citizens should be a major concern. Contracting National Security and forcing Corporations into the spy business is a very bad idea and a plan with way to many loop holes. Has it not become obvious that contracting non-government agencies is a threat to their own security.

    • texshelters profile image

      texshelters 4 years ago from Mesa, Arizona



    • texshelters profile image

      texshelters 4 years ago from Mesa, Arizona



    • texshelters profile image

      texshelters 4 years ago from Mesa, Arizona

      If only I had the power to rewrite the laws. I am asking for warrant, even a broad warrant, for surveillance. There are more than two choice, shooting them down or letting the planes his the towers. There are many ways to intervene if Bush had paid attention. thanks. The government has taking information collected and abuse our rights in the past. What would stop them now? Get a warrant!


    • forbcrin profile image

      Crin Forbes 4 years ago from Michigan

      Who gave him the title of "hero"? The guy is a nut job. OK, maybe I understand his position on spying on the American people, which I don't actually, but from there to showing every single spying target is a little bit too much...

      I am glad that so far, the White House is following a wise policy. In the end, I think the only country in the world who will let him in will be the USA... I would not spend too much money prosecuting him, the guy has some mental problems and he should be checked into a nut house for a while.

      The man does not have too much of a life right now.

    • lovemychris profile image

      Cape Wind Girl 4 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

      "Ars Technica posted extensive public chat logs from Snowdenthat confirms what I had suspected since finding his campaign contributions to Glenn Greenwald's straight crush Ron Paul.

      So let's talk about this man that has been granted hero status by the Left's loudest prognosticators and provocateurs. The transcripts released by Ars Technica are about a lot more than Snowden's previous contempt for leakers. He hated social security, loved Ron Paul and his ideas, and peddled the NRA's garbage about fighting the government with guns. He suggested punishing both leakers and publications that publish the leaks. All in all, Edward Snowden is a right wing, anti-government nutjob who has managed to become the hero of so many on the reactionary Left.

      Ed Snowden is not much more than your typical, teabagging, cookie-cutter right wing nutjob who hates Obama. He complained about everything from the president's appointment to the CIA to gun control to how Social Security has turned old people into lazy moochers.

      So Snowden was a man all for illegally spying on Americans when Bush was in office, but suddenly when Obama takes office and brings the programs under legal cover and gets a court involved, Saint Snowden can stand it no more. Shocked, shocked I tell you to hear there's gambling in Casa Blanca."


      Right wing cabal. YAWN

    • forbcrin profile image

      Crin Forbes 4 years ago from Michigan

      I found this particular article which has been running for a few days. So, we are paranoid about NSA and their surveillance programs, which after all are supposed to keep us safe?

      But not only that we subject ourselves to corporate surveillance, which is an invasive as it can be, but we pay a lot of money to let them do it. We don't have chips implanted under our skins, and we will never have. But we have smart phones that we buy at a very high price, and they are as effective as the implanted chips are, at no cost at all for those who want to read our minds and control us...

      Pay attention to the segment on Target and the pregnant girl. I suppose that one day, any grocery store in the nation will be able to find out terrorists, analyzing their data from the smart phones.

      Meijer in Lansing is trying to eliminate the printed coupons, and printed advertising. They try to make you sign for their internet coupons delivered over the smart phones...

      Maybe that is why the neocons are so much against government and for private business. It is bad to be spied by government, however if the spying is privatized, no good true blue blood American will to it. It is not patriotic to be against business and innovation. So private business does the spying and then they hand over the results to the government...

    • lovemychris profile image

      Cape Wind Girl 4 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

      What Snowden "blew" has been known since 2001. He's either slow on he uptake, or has an agenda.

      And Fox is making him a hero....that's how I know Snowden is no hero.

      Because I remember the treatment O'Reilly gave the son whose father died on 9/11.

      Same w Assange. He made deal not to release info neo-cons don't like.

      They are both RW operatives, imo.

    • Joseph G Caldwell profile image

      Joseph G Caldwell 4 years ago from southwest Pennsylvania

      Excellent well-researched hub!

    • Thomas Swan profile image

      Thomas Swan 4 years ago from New Zealand

      It was the same with Assange/Wikileaks. The government tells us that Assange and Snowden are the criminals, and the media follows suit. Notice how all the coverage becomes focused on the whistle blowers and not what they "blew" lol.

    • forbcrin profile image

      Crin Forbes 4 years ago from Michigan

      In all honesty, speaking about 9/11. Even if they had all the information and they knew minute by minute what was going to happen, would anyone think that America had been happy for killing "in cold blood" all the passengers in the planes, just based on intelligence?

      As much as I hate to do it, GW, not a bright guy we all know it, acted properly. Even if the planes had been shut down over Hudson Bay, the "freedom loving American public" would have goon viral...

      Besides, it seems that data is not actually collected by the government, but by the private enterprise. Google, Facebook, Microsoft are not government entities, and they have the data on their servers. They collect the data for years. They scan all the emails looking for trigger words to sell to whomever wants to buy the data.

      If the government reads my traffic, I don't really care as long as they don't act crazy before they have the proof. But I really do mind receiving mail from funeral houses around the US to "think about 'my funeral arrangements, so that I don't have a stress in my life from now on". Was the government selling my age to them and hell broke loose when I turned 63?

      Why would we be suspicious and against government processing data they are not actually collecting themselves, but be happy that Facebook as a good algorithm to sort out different buying patterns?

      McCarthy is probably salivating in hell today seeing what the technology can do. His witch hunt was conducted without modern technology, and what is worse is that the laws then, as now, allowed his madness to run his course...

      Hoover was probably as efficient as Beria was in the Soviet Union, and no one said anything all the way to the end. He was not acting legally, actually the law did not even know what he was doing, a lot of things were discovered after his passing...

      Also, there is a difference between a whistle blower and what this Snowden man did. He did not only release information to show how the government is spying on us. There were whistle blowers in similar matters before, but they followed a chain of command, and even today, we don't really know the substance of their whistle blowing. Allwe know is that they got in trouble for bringing to their superiors' attention things that were not supposed to happen.

      So far Snowden did not prove any abuse of the surveillance system. He proved that some agencies in government have a secretive agenda, and they are backed-up by the law. The laws were passed by the right authority in Congress.

      We should not be mad at the NSA, we should be mad at those who allowed NSA do what they are doing. Because like it or not, they are doing it legally...

      But, when situations like this happen, we all get lost in our passions, do a lot of damage, but in the end, the status quo is not changed. The secret court is still in place, the laws are not about to be made public or debated, and NSA keeps doing what they are doing, after all this noise legally.

      I love America, however it is frustrating to see people behaving like kids.

      You want NSA to stop spying? Rewrite the laws that allow them to do it. If they still keep doing it, then we have a case.

    • texshelters profile image

      texshelters 4 years ago from Mesa, Arizona

      I am not sure the gov't wanted 9/11 to happen, but they didn't seem to care enough to stop it when information came in.


    • texshelters profile image

      texshelters 4 years ago from Mesa, Arizona

      Guns are a different issue.



    • lovemychris profile image

      Cape Wind Girl 4 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

      Does anyone wonder, like me: with all this gvt wall of surveillance and military is it that 19 men got through and usurped NORAD air defenses?

      After all, PRISM was in place 7 months BEFORE 9/11, 2001.

      Seems to me the ones making it all happen are those who control the information.

      I think the powers that be are telling these "whistle-blowers" what to "leak", and they are tools, not hero's.

      Because....dear Assange and dear Snowden...where is the 9/11 info?

      With all this hardware devoted to spying......they can zoom in on a postage stamp from outer space.......

      How is it that anything happens but what they want to happen?

      Which means the gvt in power of this country at the time wanted 9/11 to happen: or else your outrage and fear about the gvt's power is over-rated.

    • cathylynn99 profile image

      cathylynn99 4 years ago from northeastern US

      terrific hub. I've been concerned since the surveillance was revealed but felt a little paranoid. your article vindicates my fears. I cherish my right to petition the government and do it often. if the trend to greater and greater quashing of protest continues, I could see myself in hot water easily.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      It takes a MASSIVE amount of insecurity to think the bought and paid for whores in government know who should do what, say what, or think what.

      By the same token, it takes the SAME insecurity to say that someone else shouldn't own a gun ...the government folks carry.


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