UPDATE 6/11/13 Bob Weaver - The United States government has the most massive spy machine known to mankind, using advanced technology the machine has since 9-11 and the passage of the Patriot Act reached into the daily lives of every American.

The ACLU reports that, every day, the National Security Administration intercepts and stores around 1.7 billion emails, phone calls, texts, business transactions and other electronic communications, now with the "protection" of FISA.

While many Americans have been outraged that the government is going to take their guns and that gun ownership should be allowed without background checks, including the right to own military assault weapons, few have been outraged by the greatest encroachment of civil liberties in the nation's history, accepting the invasive practices as a trade-off against terrorism.

It's fascinating that the issue has become the topic of "main stream" media, when the practice, not the details, has been known for years.

In recent years, main stream TV media has focused on entertaining and polarizing its viewers with a daily hubris of whose on first base.

While the issue will now be politicized, "knowledgeable" members of Congress will make hay over their positions, they being the one's who have allowed the decimation of privacy, long treasured by Americans and supposedly protected under the constitution.

Right wing politicos will blame President Obama, including our local Creston News columnist Alvin Engleke, who wrote this week "It is now clear that the Big Eared One and his dutiful minions keep tract of all our telephone calls, letters, internet and credit card usages," although the spying was moved forward by the Bush administration, with America living in fear of terrorists attacks.

Few recall a dimes worth of history, the former FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover and his million person list of "subversives," or the outrageous violations of the Nixon administration, or the McCarthy years of accusing citizens of being communists.

Would it be illogical to consider it's a "Big Brother" problem, maybe connecting it to the famous Lord Acton quote, "Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely."

While the government is saying they are not listening to phone conversations, under FISA, they have given themselves approval to investigate anyone they want, at will and without a warrant.

Most US citizens at one time would be upset if private corporations like Google, Twitter, Facebook, credit card outfits and the like made available their personal communications and transactions, but it seems o.k. they do it at the governments bequest, with Facebook making most of its money by selling personal information.

The information gathering, that which has been admitted to, is an awesome treasure trove to use, abuse and manipulate (including the markets and business) on just about everything and everybody, but we trust the government will do the right thing.

guys. Bob All of this has been happening while we were sleeping, entertaining ourselves to death.


By Bob Weaver OPINION AND COMMENT 3/10/2007

George Orwell said we will live in a world where fear protects freedom, war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength.

He said in times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act, so much so that when heard, people may refuse to believe it.

This could be those times, because "Big Brother is watching you."

The Justice Department has now confirmed the FBI stepped over the line, illegally using the USA Patriot Act.

Most Americans historically have held precious their civil liberties, which have been assaulted by the Bush administration even before 911, negating search warrants, subpoenas, due process and oversight.

Besides using presidential power to tap phones and e-mails without search warrants, the FBI says they improperly and illegally used the USA Patriot Act to secretly obtain personal information about people in the United States, a program likely extended to other national security agencies.

The Bush administration said they would use such power only against terrorist suspects or "enemy combatants."

The Bush White House granted itself executive power to intercept, listen in and access e-mails and telephone calls, reportedly made by several million citizens.

A Justice Department audit concluded for three years the FBI under-reported to Congress how often it forced businesses to turn over their customer data.

FBI Director Robert Mueller, in a press conference yesterday, said he was to blame for not putting more safeguards into place.

The audit by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine found that FBI agents sometimes demanded personal data on individuals without proper authorization and improperly obtained telephone records in non-emergency circumstances.

The Justice Department audit said "we believe the improper or illegal uses we found involve serious misuses of national security..."

The FBI "letters," or administrative subpoenas, sought by the Bush administration were to have been used in suspected terrorism and espionage cases.

They allow, without warrant or oversight, the FBI to require telephone companies, Internet service providers, banks, credit bureaus and other businesses to produce highly personal records about their customers or subscribers without a judge's approval.

The annual review or audit was required by Congress, over the objections of the Bush administration.

In 2000, for example, the FBI issued an estimated 8,500 letters. By 2003, however, that number jumped to 39,000. It rose again the next year, to about 56,000 letters in 2004, and dropped to approximately 47,000 in 2005.

Over the entire three-year period, the audit found the FBI issued 143,074 national security letters requesting customer data from businesses, all the while the FBI under-reported the activity at about 9,000.

There were hundreds of examples where the FBI did not follow their own procedure.

"In many cases, there was no pending investigation associated with the request at the time the invasion occurred," the audit said.

Senators were outraged yesterday.

The committee's top Republican, Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, said the FBI appears to have "badly misused national security letters."

The senator said, "This is, regrettably, part of an ongoing process where the federal authorities are not really sensitive to privacy and go far beyond what we have authorized."

"The report indicates abuse of the authority," Congress gave the FBI, said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont "You cannot have people act as free agents on something where they're going to be delving into your privacy."

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, said it "proves that 'trust us' doesn't cut it."

The American Civil Liberties Union said the audit proves Congress must amend the Patriot Act to require judicial approval anytime the FBI wants access to sensitive personal information.

"The Attorney General and the FBI are part of the problem and they cannot be trusted to be part of the solution," said Anthony D. Romero, the ACLU's executive director.

Under current law, authorities had 72 hours to wiretap or otherwise spy on citizens before obtaining a warrant.

That was not enough for the Bush White House, a search warrant becoming discretionary.

Sen. Arlen Specter was upset two years ago after finding out about more secret programs out there, without little if any oversight by Congress.

Opponents of such broad presidential authority have flashed back to the Nixon years, where millions of people were placed on an ill-defined enemies list, a time and place where both Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld sprung into government service.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, along with the FISA legislation, are products of that Watergate era in which the White House abused its power to spy indiscriminately on ordinary citizens.

They were suppose to protect the American people from such abuse ever happening again.

All seems forgotten, the need for vigilance and scrutiny over government invading civil and constitutional freedoms.

6/11/2013 - The Patriot Act tactics were turned over to FISA, with full steam ahead:

The USA PATRIOT ACT, allowed the federal government, generally directed by the Executive Branch, the power to:

1) SEARCH YOUR HOME AND NOT EVEN TELL YOU. The USA Patriot Act expands law enforcement's ability to conduct secret "sneak and peek" searches of your home. Investigators can enter your home or office, take pictures and seize items without informing you that a warrant was issued, for an indefinite period of time. (SECTION 213)

2) COLLECT INFORMATION ABOUT WHAT BOOKS YOU READ, WHAT YOU STUDY, YOUR PURCHASES AND YOUR MEDICAL HISTORY. The USA Patriot Act gives law enforcement broad access to any types of records - medical, financial, gun, library, educational, sales, etc. - without probable cause of a crime. It also prohibits the holders of this information, like librarians, from disclosing that they have produced such records, under threat of imprisonment. The court orders are issued by a secret intelligence court in Washington and judges have little power to deny applications. (SECTION 215)

3) SEIZE A WIDE VARIETY OF BUSINESS AND FINANCIAL RECORDS, and in certain instances access the membership lists of organizations that provide even very limited Internet services (message boards on your church website for instance) using "national security letters," or NSLs, which are issued at the sole discretion of the Justice Department. The Patriot Act expanded access to these NSLs, which also impose a blanket gag order on recipients and are not subject to judicial review. (SECTION 505)

4) READ PARTS OF YOUR E-MAILS AND MONITOR WHAT YOU LOOK AT ON-LINE. The Patriot Act lets the government get records that could show the subject lines of your e-mails and details about your Web surfing habits (like your recent research on Yahoo), all without probable cause. (SECTION 216)

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