Thursday, July 18, 2013

The police/surveillance state of the nation

So is this really the best government money can buy?

In a heated confrontation over domestic spying, members of Congress said Wednesday they never intended to allow the National Security Agency to build a database of every phone call in America. And they threatened to curtail the government's surveillance authority.

Top Obama administration officials countered that the once-secret program was legal and necessary to keep America safe. And they left open the possibility that they could build similar databases of people's credit card transactions, hotel records and Internet searches.

The clash on Capitol Hill undercut President Barack Obama's assurances that Congress had fully understood the dramatic expansion of government power it authorized repeatedly over the past decade.

Sort of knocks the legs out from under that "didn't we already know about this?" crap, doesn't it?

"The statute says 'collection'," Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) told Cole. "You're trying to confuse us by talking use."

Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX), a judge, said: "I hope as we move forward as a Congress we rein in the idea that it's OK to bruise the spirit of the constitution in the name of national security."

More Ted Poe:

“Snowden, I don’t like him at all, but we would never have known what happened if he hadn’t told us.”

Poe, the least ignorant Texas Republican in Congress, reveals himself as the blind hog having found an acorn.

Is this just a failing of the Congress, though? No. The corporate media, with its toadies and sycophants fascinated by power, access, and influence is choking on reporting the story again. That's going to have to be its own post, but here's a link regarding coverage of the Snowden/NSA affair: as of yesterday afternoon, just one English language website -- Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller -- had posted former President Jimmy Carter's remark that the United States "no longer has a functioning democracy". There were many articles focusing on his comments about the Zimmerman verdict, however (he supported the jury decision). But Carter may also have been referencing Citizens United and the process by which American elections are funded. From late yesterday...

"It's accepted fact," Carter said during a speech in Atlanta. "It's legal bribery of candidates. And that repayment may be in the form of an ambassadorship to someone who has raised three or four hundred thousand dollars to help a candidate get elected."

So the answer to better government must be that Democrats just have to raise more money than Republicans. Except that Obama accomplished that, and we still have the same problems. Only worse. 

Back to who's watching you that you're paying for. And this isn't about drones.

Drive down many highways, boulevards or small side streets in America, and your movements are being noted by electronic cameras. Eyes in the sky controlled by local police departments snap photos of every passing license plate and store the data, sometimes forever. Even the smallest of agencies now deploys these high-tech voyeuristic machines, creating massive databases where more than 99 percent of the entries represent innocent people.

All, warned the American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday, for a one-in-a-million chance that the cameras might aid in the apprehension of a serious criminal.

"Plate readers are the most pervasive system of location tracking that people haven't heard of," said Catherine Crump, a privacy lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union. She wrote the ACLU report released Wednesday questioning the way such cameras are being used. "Even though virtually all of us have had our cars logged into these databases, few know this technology exists." 

More and more on that. Do you feel safer yet? How about last week, when the Texas state troopers confiscated women's hygiene products? And claimed they also found jars of urine and feces, then later reneged on the word "confiscate" and sourced the tip to the "blogosphere"?

How about now?

In emphasizing the more aggressive, confrontational aspect of police work over community service—hurting people instead of helping people—they may be shifting the profile of the typical young person attracted to police work. Browse the dozens of police recruitment videos on YouTube, for example, and you’ll find that many of them feature images of cops tackling suspects, rappelling out of helicopters, shooting guns, kicking down doors, and siccing dogs on people. The images are often set to blaring guitars or heavy metal music. These are the videos that police departments send to high schools and colleges to attract new recruits. At the very first step in the process of staffing their departments, then, these agencies are deliberately appealing to people who are likely to be lured by the thrill-seeking, adrenaline-producing, butt-kicking aspects of law enforcement. Build an entire police force of people who fit that description and you have a force of cops who seek confrontation instead of avoiding it and who look to escalate volatile situations instead of resolving them peacefully. 

This is America, the greatest country inthawerld. The police have never arrested the wrong person or even busted in the wrong house; cops don't just arbitrarily shoot people's dogs. Our criminal justice system has never convicted or, God forbid, executed an innocent man. We do not torture people, and as of 2013 we don't have racial problems or gun safety issues or even concerns about our government spying on us. See, we voluntarily gave up all our privacy to Facebook. Nothing to hide, nothing to fear, like Lindsey Graham and Josef Goebbels both said.

It seems to me that all of these millions and billions of dollars could be better spent. Not just the money government spends on defense or security, but also the money being given to elected officials and those aspiring to be.

Surely we are not getting our money's worth when it comes to investing in our politicians. The answer, obviously, is to help them raise and spend even more money. And discuss who has raised and spent the most money for the purpose of assigning probability to election outcomes.

Or maybe it's only a prospect list for those vendors who would like to skim off a few bucks for their own livelihood. And gain some access -- get invited to the good parties; the quiet rooms.

Whichever it is, it doesn't seem to be working right.


Unknown said...

You know who would be outraged about this sort of thing?

Senator Barack Obama from Illinois, circa 2008.

That guy should REALLY start complaining about the President's police state!

Gadfly said...

I read the plate scanner story yesterday. Noted that in the Metromess, in Mesquite and Grapevine, data rentention there is indefinite.

And, Katy, in summer 2008, Dear Leader flip-flopped on the telecom immunity issue. (Of course, I was already planning to vote Green before that.)

Greg said...

While I can't help but be bothered by the databases being compiled, I also have to remind folks that those things you do in public are, by definition, pubic rather than private.