Have you ever heard the old saying that the ends justify the means? What that basically means is that if the outcome is good, then whatever means are required to obtain it are justified; no matter how evil or bad they are. An extreme example of this might be burning down your house to rid it of a single mosquito.
So, when it comes to government, or your peace and security, I have a simple question: Do the ends always justify the means? What I mean by that is, are you comfortable with your government violating your rights just to keep you safe? I can only speak for myself, but I’m not; and I think that were men like Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, and Thomas Jefferson alive today, they wouldn’t be either.
Ben Franklin once said, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” The pretty much sums up how I feel about sacrificing your freedom for the promise of safety or security; I feel that if you’re willing to give up the one, you deserve neither.
I could probably write a book about all the freedom we have willingly surrendered just so that we can feel safe and secure in this country, but for brevity’s sake I would like to focus on just one of them; the right to privacy.
People often mistakenly say that their right to privacy is protected by the 4th Amendment. That simply is not the case. The 4th Amendment does not protect that right, it merely identifies a pre-existing right and states that the government cannot violate it without first obtaining a warrant issued upon probable cause and supported by oath or affirmation; describing what is to be searched or seized.
I don’t care what those 9 clowns in gowns have ruled; you are under no obligation to let any law enforcement officer search you or your property unless they first obtain a warrant. Suspicious behavior is not sufficient justification for the violation of a fundamental right. The same goes for your privacy inside your home, you have the right to be safe in knowing that the prying eyes and ears of government are not intruding upon your private conversations and correspondence.
But are you; truly secure from the prying eyes and ears of your government, that is?
I think if people knew the extent to which they were spied upon and monitored that they would never leave their homes and they would unplug most of their electronic devices that connect them to friends and family members. People simply do not realize the extent to which they are monitored, surveilled, and spied upon. The sad thing is I don’t think they care either, as long as the ends justify the means; meaning that it keeps them safe from whatever the current manufactured threat might be.
I recall back when I first enlisted in the Air Force, I was stationed at Castle Air Force Base, near Merced, California. As it was a SAC Base, (Strategic Air Command), it underwent plenty of exercises to test its wartime readiness. During one such exercise an SR-71 spy plane made a pass by the base and a few of the photos it took were published in the base newspaper. Now, we never saw or heard that plane pass overhead, yet you could read the name tags on people’s uniforms even though that plane was thousands of feet above us travelling at just under the speed of sound.
Did you know that the U2 spy plane flies at the upper reaches of the atmosphere at an altitude of about 70,000 feet? That’s 13 miles up in case you were wondering. Yet the images that plane captures often look as though they were taken a block or two away.
Then there are all the spy satellites orbiting the Earth, any one of which could be looking down upon you while you sit in your backyard barbecuing or mowing the lawn.
How are you to know when those prying eyes are focused upon you; all without your knowledge or consent?
What about all those traffic cameras you see mounted atop the stop signs as you travel through town; each of which records you as you make your way from Point A to Point B. Then there are all the security cams and cameras in ATM’s that can be hacked and used to track your whereabouts.
People watch movies or TV shows that show this level of surveillance and they pass it off as fiction, when in reality the surveillance we undergo is probably far more intensive than is portrayed on the TV shows and films. Take for instance the movie Enemy of the State, starring Will Smith and Gene Hackman; you see how the government spies upon Will Smith’s character simply by using satellites and other tracking devices.
Then there are the shows, like NCIS Los Angeles, that show how easily one can be tracked using all the surveillance apparatus in a city or town. I think these shows give us a glimpse into the reality of how intense we are monitored and spied upon so that we become desensitized to it, and to show that this spying is often done for the overall public good.
But let me ask you something; when can the deprivation of a fundamental right be for the overall public good? In other words, do the ends justify the means?
And that’s just the video and photographic surveillance we are subjected to; I haven’t even begun to discuss the electronic surveillance we are under.
Most of you own a smart phone of some kind; be it an Android, a Galaxy, or an iPhone. Are you aware that, under the program called Optic Nerve, the government can turn that phone into a monitoring device without your knowledge? That’s right the government can use your own phone to spy upon you without you even being aware that it is doing so.
Are you aware that your government has almost carte blanche access to your internet activity? Google, Facebook, AOL and Yahoo all work with the government, giving them access to their servers so that they can freely search the internet activity of their customers.
There is not a single thing you do on the internet that is secure, unless you are an experienced hacker who has a very aggressive firewall to prevent the government from monitoring their activities.
One of the most frightening movies I ever watched was the film Snowden which told the story of how Edward Snowden came to the decision to expose the extent of his governments spying upon the American people. Most people are of a mind that Snowden should be charged with treason; that is if he is ever allowed to return to the U.S. I think he should be given a medal and a national holiday dedicated to him for exposing the extent to which your government spies upon you.
I’m not going to go into any detail on these, I just want to provide you with some food for thought as to the plethora of government programs that can be used to spy upon your electronic communications.
-X-Keyscore: which is a kind of search engine for spies in which they type in a few keywords and the program finds the results of both private and public messages containing those words.
-PRISM: a surveillance program run by the NSA that can target the electronic communications of people who are customers of the participating services; AOL, Facebook, Twitter, etc, etc.
-MYSTIC: a voice interception program that can capture all the phone traffic passing through the airwaves.
-MAINWAY: an NSA database that stores the data from hundreds of billions of phone calls made through the 4 major carriers of phone services.
-DNS Net: a program that allows for instantaneous wiretapping of any telecommunications device within the U.S.
-ECHELON: which is the overall collection of all electronic communications for monitoring and analysis of potential threats.
Those are but a small sampling of the many programs our government uses to spy upon us. All this data is collected and stored in huge databases; probably at Fort Meade, Maryland, which is the home of the National Security Agency. Each and every person living in the United States has a file at Fort Meade where all our electronic communications are stored. Some of us are probably flagged for more than simple passive collection; meaning the government has decided that we may pose a threat to them and therefore warrant a closer look. My file probably has one of those red flags attached to it; and to tell you the truth I’m honored. I think that if your name isn’t also flagged then you are asleep at the wheel when it comes to preserving the liberty men like Patrick Henry, Sam Adams and Thomas Jefferson risked their lives to obtain for you.
I have heard people tell me, “But Neal, if you don’t have anything to hide, then why do you care if they are watching and listening to you?” Is that so? Well let me come into your home and search through your belongings and listen to you and your family while you discuss ‘personal’ matters. After all, if you have nothing to hide…
We are told that the government has just grounds for doing this; that they go through all the proper legal channels BEFORE they collect this information. Is that so? So if they are collecting data on all of us, that means that they consider each and every one of us to be a criminal, because they’re spying upon us all. Where is the probable cause for this mass surveillance? Where are their warrants, supported by oath or affirmation stating that I might be engaged in criminal or terrorist activities?
I don’t like the fact that I don’t have any privacy; that at any time my government may be watching and listening to me. I feel like I’m living in a modern day reality of Orwell’s Big Brother where all the people are constantly spied upon and their thoughts analyzed as to whether they pose a threat to the system itself; with it having nothing to do with the actual security of the country.
If you understood what real freedom was you would be just as upset and frightened by this mass surveillance as I am. If you were a true patriot you would not support a government that goes to such great lengths to spy upon the people it is supposed to serve and protect.
Unfortunately you have been conditioned to believe that the ends do, in fact, justify the means; that it is okay for our government to spy upon each and every one of us if, in the end, it keeps us all safe. This is why people believe that the government can listen in on their private conversations. This is why people say it’s okay for cops to perform a search of your home or vehicle without a warrant. This is why no knock warrants and SWAT style raids are accepted as normal behavior by those sworn to serve and protect.
And it is to those who believe that this is normal that I will repeat my quote from Ben Franklin, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
In closing, there are 3 things that make a person free. First there is the right to privacy; the ability to be free from unwarranted invasions of their privacy by their government. Secondly there is the freedom of speech; the right to say and publish things that others might find offensive and which expose the criminal acts of their government. Finally, there is the right to defend all your other rights against all attacks; either by the public or by your government.
Having said that, how free are you when your communications are monitored and restricted. If you don’t believe me, try posting something which violates Facebook’s community standards or which criticizes Israel for their crimes against humanity. How free are you when you can’t say things, or display images because others find them offensive? How free are you when your right to defend your life, your property, and your liberty has been so restricted to be almost non-existent?
And if you aren’t free, then why the hell aren’t you doing something about it?