The FBI wants back doors to all communications equipment and software. The NSA is grabbing trillions of phone records of American citizens. And reporters’ research apparently is a subject of interest at the Department of Justice.
All of this and more has triggered a surge of renewed interest in a recent video by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in which he declares that “1984,” the George Orwell novel about ultimate government disinformation, manipulation and control – is here.
“Dystopian novels were just that, bad utopias,” he said, “but not practically possible. One could always sigh in relief that such surveillance, such invasion of privacy, was not technologically possible.
“Now we have the technology. Drones that measure less than an inch, weigh less than an ounce and hover noiselessly outside your bedroom window are not a dystopian future but today’s reality,” he said.
“The individual who feared ‘1984’ when it was written in 1949 need now shout from the top of his or her lungs, for technology had made the unthinkable, thinkable,” said Paul.
What are the recent developments that prompted the interest?
The National Journal raised questions over confirmation that Verizon, which has more than 100 million Americans as customers, secretly has been handing over documentation of its telephone calls to the National Security Agency.
“Calibrating the appropriate level of outrage will probably occupy us for most of the day,” the report said.
WND reported that the FBI wants changes made in industry requirements so that the agency would possess a back door to all communications software and hardware.
The FBI has complained that its agents cannot always get a court order and obtain access to the communications they want.
And the Department of Justice’s pursuit of telephone records for reports – to the point of alleging that one prominent Fox News reporter possibly engaged in criminal activity – is now just one of the major scandals plaguing the Obama administration.
Paul cited the term “doublethink” from George Orwell’s novel that was so influential that government policies and actions considered oppressively invasive and a violation of rights are called “Orwellian.”
“The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation.”
That, Paul notes, was fiction. “It could never happen in America.”
But then he cites his own battle over provisions of the recent National Defense Authorization Act, which would allow indefinite detention of Americans without a trial on the whim of a president.
But another point proposed is one Paul believes even fewer Americans know about: The idea of indefinite detention even after a jury acquits a defendant.
It was late in the evening when the amendment was proposed and a voice vote sought.
A “flicker of rebellion” swept through his thought process, recalls Paul. They “wanted to limit [the right to] trial by jury by voice vote.”
So he questioned it.
“I was accused of obstructing proceedings.”
Other senators counseled him not to worry about – it would all get taken care of. All it did, they said, was confirm what current law already allowed.
He wasn’t reassured.
“If current law allows people to be found innocent by a jury and still be held indefinitely, shouldn’t we do something about it?” he wondered.
So he demanded a recorded vote on the amendment.
With a public record of senators’ votes, the amendment failed.
Regarding the NSA’s access to Verizon customer phone data, Paul said:
The National Security Agency’s seizure and surveillance of virtually all of Verizon’s phone customers is an astounding assault on the Constitution. After revelations that the Internal Revenue Service targeted political dissidents and the Department of Justice seized reporters’ phone records, it would appear that this administration has now sunk to a new low.
When Sen. Mike Lee and I offered an amendment that would attach Fourth Amendment protections to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act last year, it was defeated, and FISA was passed by an overwhelming majority of the Senate. At the time, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid remarked that FISA was “necessary to protect us from the evil in this world.”
The Bill of Rights was designed to protect us from evil, too, particularly that which always correlates with concentrated government power, and particularly executive power. If the president and Congress would obey the Fourth Amendment we all swore to uphold, this new shocking revelation that the government is now spying on citizens’ phone data en masse would never have happened.
The fight over the NDAA continues, with a number of states taking action to block its controversial sections 1021 and 1022 that allow for indefinite detainment of U.S. citizens without due process.
It has generated opposition ranging from former Al Gore consultant Naomi Wolf to Ronald Reagan Justice Department official Bruce Fein.
Under the law adopted by Democrats, “Journalists aren’t safe. Union leaders aren’t safe. Activists aren’t safe, Liberty is not safe,” said Wolf, an author of half a dozen books.
Among the states opposing it are Indiana, South Carolina, Virginia, Nevada and Michigan.
Groups including the Tenth Amendment Center, The Bill of Rights Defense Committee, The American Civil Liberties Union and Demand Progress have all been working since early 2012 to oppose the NDAA. And last year, federal District Judge Katherine B. Forrest ruled that Section 1021 was facially unconstitutional because it had the potential to violate the First Amendment.
A group of journalists and activists sued President Obama, Leon Panetta and a host of other government officials claiming that they were forced to curtail some of their reporting and activism due to fear of violating the NDAA. Among the individuals were Pulitzer Prize-winning former New York Times foreign correspondent Chris Hedges, MIT linguist Noam Chomsky and “Pentagon Papers” activist Daniel Ellsberg.
In the following interview, Hedges explains what has happened in the Hedges vs. Obama NDAA lawsuit to date, the next steps and what he sees in America’s future.
A campaign also has been announced by PANDA, or People Against the NDAA, to build a backlash against the Washington power grab.
Spokesman Dan Johnson said, “The goal of this operation is to stop the indefinite detention provisions of the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) in all 50 states across America by Dec. 31st, 2013.”
In her order, Forrest wrote, “The government put forth the qualified position that plaintiffs’ particular activities, as described at the hearing, if described accurately, if they were independent, and without more, would not subject plaintiffs to military detention under Section 1021.”
But she continued, “The government did not – and does not – generally agree or anywhere argue that activities protected by the First Amendment could not subject an individual to indefinite military detention under Section 1021.
“Here, the stakes get no higher: indefinite military detention – potential detention during a war on terrorism that is not expected to end in the foreseeable future, if ever. The Constitution requires specificity – and that specificity is absent from Section 1021,” the judge wrote.