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The times, they are a-changing

Register • Jan 5, 2014 at 11:30 AM

It’s a new year and a new world, and I’m not sure how much I like it.


The world is always changing and our country changes, too. But the last 15 years have seen changes the likes of which I never dreamed I would see in my lifetime. I have witnessed the systematic destruction of numerous freedoms and rights.

Any notion of privacy is gone forever. If the government is interested in you, it’s a walk in the park for it to monitor every email, text, call, tweet, letter or any other communication coming to or from you.

Our phones, iPads and other devices allow for round-the-clock tracking of our location. Cameras take our picture inside and outside of buildings and on city streets. Others monitor our driving.

Traffic checkpoints scoff at the constitution: You must prove to the officers at the checkpoint that you have NOT done anything wrong before being allowed to proceed. Say farewell to “innocent until proven guilty” At checkpoints, you are guilty until you prove your innocence.

Now, however, due to Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s massive surveillance program, the public has been somewhat awakened to what’s at stake. With the program under fire, the government is praying that judges rule it constitutional. Fortunately for the government, U.S. District Judge William Pauley III has stepped to the table, ruling not only that the program is legal, but that it’s a necessity.

“The collection is broad” he admitted, “but the scope of counterterrorism investigations is unprecedented”

Just how “broad” is the collection? Pauley sums it up thusly: “This blunt tool only works because it collects EVERYTHING” (emphasis added).

Pauley wrote that the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks “succeeded because conventional intelligence gathering could not detect diffuse filaments connecting al-Qaida” He said the NSA’s program allows it “to detect the faintest patterns left behind by individuals affiliated with foreign terrorist organizations” and to “draw connections it might otherwise never be able to find”

Actually, for the record, the Sept. 11 attacks succeeded because already detected patterns, information and warnings were ignored or dismissed by those in charge.

Nevertheless, Pauley ruled the program was a vital extension of antiterrorism action in the wake of 9/11.

"As the Sept. 11 attacks demonstrate, the cost of missing such a threat can be horrific” Pauley said.

With that rationale, ANYTHING can be justified. This is what I feared most after Sept. 11 -- that the attacks would be used as an excuse to usurp our freedoms, a way to literally bring Big Brother to life. And now we’re getting the courts’ blessing.

The whole matter is almost assuredly going to wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court. The ruling it makes will set the way for our nation’s future. If the NSA prevails, you can bet it will just ramp up its snooping. As history has shown time and again, what we believe the CIA and NSA are permitted to do and what the organizations actually do bear little resemblance to each other.

Given the scope of its snooping abilities, it must be tempting for the NSA to use the information it learns to its own advantage. It must have dirt on our elected officials and even our judges themselves. It’s hard not to wonder how that information might be used, what kind of pressure might be applied to ensure the desired vote or verdict. It would not take much; on a divided court one judge’s ruling could sway the verdict.

Let me make it clear: I certainly have no knowledge that anything like this is happening or has happened, but it’s hard not to wonder.

At one time I would have thought such a thing impossible. At one time, I would have thought that what’s happening to our country was impossible, too.


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