Just before President Obama jetted off to Hawaii and the U.S. Congress broke up for its short Christmas recess on Thursday, Dec. 28, the U.S. Senate debated renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
It’s not for nothing the Chinese calendar calls 2013 the Year of the Snake.
FISA allows government spying on almost all our telecommunications. Several senators tried to attach amendments to the law, simply to provide some modest transparency and oversight to ensure that the government’s warrantless eavesdropping powers were constrained from abuse.
These senators were charged with “aiding terrorists” by the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Then in virtually identical 37-54 votes, Feinstein and her conservative Democrat comrades joined with virtually all Republicans (except for Senators Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Dean Heller) to reject each one of the proposed amendments and thus give Obama exactly what he demanded– he can continue to eavesdrop on Americans without any warrants, transparency or real oversight.
As columnist Glenn Greenwald pointed out: “Feinstein repeatedly argued that requiring even basic disclosure about the eavesdropping program – such as telling Americans how many of them are targeted by it – would, as she put it, “destroy the program”. But if “the program” is being conducted properly and lawfully, why would that kind of transparency kill the program?” [adcode]
And speaking of privacy, do you ever ride on public transportation – city buses or vans at the airport?
Transit authorities in several U.S. cities are installing audio/video enabled surveillance systems on public buses that will give them the ability to record and store private conversations, according to documents obtained by an online news outlet.
The systems are being installed in San Francisco, Baltimore and other cities with funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The use of the equipment raises serious questions about eavesdropping without a warrant, particularly since recordings of passengers could be obtained and used by law enforcement agencies or even viewed in real time.
So much for your public transport and e-mail privacy my fellow Americans.
But email and travel privacy as a right pale in comparison to being detained by the U.S. military, thrown into jail and held without charges.
Just a few days before the FISA renewal, Charles Savage reported in The New York Times that a few members of Congress had taken it upon themselves to decide that reaffirmation of the protections in the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights is unneeded.
Virtually ignored by most of the news media preoccupied with their meaningless “fiscal cliff” blather, here is what Savage revealed:
“Lawmakers charged with merging the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act decided on Tuesday to drop a provision that would have explicitly barred the military from holding American citizens and permanent residents in indefinite detention without trial as terrorism suspects…”
What that means is that instead of a flat-out prohibition against the military arresting and holding U.S. citizens without charges, the next time a president tries to lock up an American citizen without trial – as President George W. Bush tried – it will be left up to the courts to decide whether or not it’s legal.
Don’t Look Up
And if you are truly concerned about your privacy, earlier this year, Congress passed the FAA Reauthorization Act that authorized the deployment of fleets of aerial spy drones to cruise above the United States.
This followed a major lobbying effort by defense contractors to promote the use of drones in American skies: 30,000 of them are expected to be in use by 2020, some as small as hummingbirds, meaning you won’t see them tracking your every move. Some drones will be as big as passenger planes. They will be used by businesses, and certainly by police, as in Seattle where they have already been deployed.
Keep in mind these are the same aerial drones that can be equipped with much more than video cameras; they can and do carry lethal weaponry as proven in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. That should cut the crime rate in Detroit, Chicago and Los Angeles while removing the need for costly trials.
A U.S. Air Force document states that it will deploy its own military surveillance drones within the borders of the U.S. and may keep video and other data it collects with these drones for 90 days without a warrant.
And you thought police SWAT teams were a threat!
My point in choosing these few examples of the destruction of freedom in America, some that occurred in just the last week, is to emphasize your need to know – and that need for useful knowledge is one of the prime reasons we founded the Freedom Alliance more than two years ago.
In my monthly Offshore Confidential reports and in my periodic Special Alerts, I do my best to let you know the news others ignore – but also I tell you how you can protect yourself and your wealth.
If there ever was a year in which you needed to stay way ahead of the curve, 2013, the Year of the Snake, according to the Chinese calendar, is that year, a year of super tense times. The Chinese horoscope for 2013 warns of unsettled ground, sudden shocks to shake us out of false realities and unexpected events that create major change. Watch this space and avoid surprises.
We will do our best to make 2013 a happy New Year for you…
P.S. As a former U.S. Congressman, I learned the forbidden secrets of the rich and famous. And I’m here to tell you, you don’t have to be one of America’s elite to build a freer, richer retirement. I’ve put together 320 easy-to-implement strategies for protecting your financial future that were previously only available to the super rich. For my special report, click here.
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