In today’s time my story is not one that is unique. Many voices have met the Nazi-type censoring that was supposed to be a part of a dark past preceding World War II. The difference today, than so many years ago, is that we have access to a form of communication that reaches across the world through a media that has the destructive forces scrambling to stifle it. The internet was promised to Americans to be a free society, one which allowed a person to express under our First Amendment rights according to our beloved Constitution, their ideas, their beliefs, their hopes, and dreams, and even their criticisms.
On 9/11 we watched in shock, tears, and anger as a satanic cult of Islamic terrorists used hi-jacked passenger planes to murder over 2977 victims. Our lives changed on that day. Since the days of World War II, our country had not experienced such a feeling of Nationalism and Unity. We were angry, and we wanted retribution for the atrocities made against so many innocent lives. We faced the reality we were in a War for not only our lives but our civilization.
How did American freedoms protected by the Constitution, namely the Bill of Rights erode before our very eyes? To know this we must step back to the Carter Administration and Senator Ted Kennedy. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was introduced on May 18, 1977, by Senator Ted Kennedy and was signed into law by President Carter in 1978. The FISA resulted by investigations into the legality of domestic intelligence activities in response to President Richard Nixon’s usage of federal resources to spy on political and activist groups, which violates the Fourth Amendment. The Act was created to provide Judicial and congressional oversight of the government’s covert surveillance activities of foreign entities and individuals in the United States, while maintaining the secrecy needed to protect national security. The act allowed surveillance, without court order “surveillance will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party” after surveillance begins.
This period of time set into motion, the mentality of “Big Brother”, that the government knew better than its citizens how to keep “Us” safe. Ushered in came the “Patriot Act”, the first across the board monitoring to identify conversations and networks that created a threat of further terroristic acts. The Patriot Act when it was drafted created much concern on passing, and was a subject of heated debate at the time. Reassurances that the information gathered would NOT infringe on American Citizen’s rights of illegal search and seizure as defined by the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights as framed in our Constitution. Information gathered would only be of foreign interests of a destructive nature, to track financing, planning, and contacts within our borders. The first violations were made public in 2007, when the disturbing news was leaked after audit of the program, that blanket sweeps were being made and were not all inclusive of “terrorist” threats. It was also made public that the normal practice ofNSA was to implement the usage of this wiretapping illegally without court review and proof of any probable cause. At this point in time, the Patriot Act should have been expunged from our applicable laws, it was too much power in too few hands, and those in control of the act were not under scrutiny by the American voter. Instead of trashing the Act, new restrictions were made on application of the Act. Request for warrants had to be drafted and presented to a newly created “SECRET” FICA court, “Foreign” Intelligence Surveillance Court and if those “SECRET” eleven appointed by the President judges determined that there was probable cause to issue a warrant for collecting a individual’s communications via the phone, wireless, or internet, then the warrant would be issued, and the “spying” by the NSA could take place.
PRISM was first publicly revealed on June 6, 2013, after classified documents about the program were leaked to the Washington Post and The Guardian by NSA insiderEdward Snowden. The leaked documents included 41 PowerPoint slides, four of which were published in news articles. The documents identified several technology companies as participants in the PRISM program, including Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google, Facebook, Paltalk, YouTube, AOL, Skype, and Apple. Another NSA whistleblower William Binney has stated that PRISM was allowed in multiple across the board orders allowing the collection of over 100 million American citizen’s phone records. Binney stated, “The telecoms were giving NSA access to their communication lines. The devices that the NSA put in different rooms around the AT&T fiber-optic network, or Verizon’s network, couldn’t collect everything. They could get most of it, but they couldn’t get it all. So in order to get all the data, they had to go to the service providers to fill in the blanks. That’s what the PRISM program is for—to fill in the blanks. It also gives the FBI basis for introducing evidence into court.” This across the board fishing expedition is exactly what was feared would happen from the inception of these Acts in full violation of U.S. Citizen’s Fourth Amendment rights in protection of illegal search and seizure.
Statements of several of the companies named in the leaked documents were reported by TechCrunch as follows:
- Facebook: “We do not provide any government organization with direct access to Facebook servers. When Facebook is asked for data or information about specific individuals, we carefully scrutinize any such request for compliance with all applicable laws, and provide information only to the extent required by law.”
- Google: “Google cares deeply about the security of our users’ data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government ‘back door’ into our systems, but Google does not have a backdoor for the government to access private user data.”
- Apple: “We have never heard of PRISM. We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer data must get a court order.”
- Microsoft: “We provide customer data only when we receive a legally binding order or subpoena to do so, and never on a voluntary basis. In addition we only ever comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers. If the government has a broader voluntary national security program to gather customer data we don’t participate in it.”
- Yahoo!: “Yahoo! takes users’ privacy very seriously. We do not provide the government with direct access to our servers, systems, or network.”
- Dropbox: “We’ve seen reports that Dropbox might be asked to participate in a government program called PRISM. We are not part of any such program and remain committed to protecting our users’ privacy.”
When questioned regarding PRISM on June 8, 2013, highly placed NSA intelligence official-turned-whistleblower William Binney confirmed and clarified a 2011 allegation by U.S Senators Mark Udall and Ron Wyden that the U.S. Justice Department needed to “correct the public record” on the extent to which the U.S. government collected information on U.S. citizens under a secret interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Binney stated: “the government is using a secret interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act which allows the government to obtain any data in any third party, like any service provider… any third party… any commercial company – like a telecom or internet service provider, libraries, medical companies – holding data about anyone, any U.S. citizen or anyone else. In other words, the government was using the antiquated, bogus legal argument that it was not acting (under) color of law using governmental powers, and that it was private companies just doing their thing (which the government happened to order all of the private companies to collect and fork over)”
Reflecting on the leaked DHS document in 2009, that any reference in the Domestic Terrorist Profiling Directives to known Islamic Terrorist groups had been removed and in their place as recommended by The Southern Poverty Law Association, Tea Party Members, Ron Paul Supporters, Veterans, Pro-Life, Pro-Israel, Pro-Gun, and Christian Faith based organizations were listed instead. In the report Rightwing Extremism, There is no error in this mass targeting across the United States, gathering our most private conversations, photos, messages, photographs, and contacts, we are the enemy, WE ARE THE TERRORISTS.
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This came apparent to me just this past Saturday. As an investigative reporter, blogger, legal analyst, and Conservative activist I have always had that look over my shoulder mentality since the current administration came to power. Each and every new Executive Order rubbed me the wrong way. Often kept in quiet conversations with my law professor, we both had a sinking feeling in the pit of our stomachs that our country was hijacked, and our beloved legal system based on our Constitution was not only under attack but was threatened to be destroyed. After a short private conversation on Facebook with one of our Lady Patriot writers on a current topic under investigation, I excused myself to tend to dinner. After an hour or so, I returned to my computer and noticed I had been logged off of Facebook. I proceeded to log in, only to find out that my profile had been deactivated by Facebook. No warning, no notice, no reason, just years of work, and thousands of friends gone. I cannot officially state with 100% proof that this action was done against me in efforts to censor my voice. But when something quacks like a duck, waddles like a duck, and looks like a duck, more than likely it is a duck.
Julia Sieben is Co-Editor of Lady Patriots and a regular contributor to The D.C. Clothesline.