Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

July 30, 2013

We the People: Land of the free?

By John Wund
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — East Germans (before reunification) were controlled by the watchful eye of the department of State Security, better known as the “Stasi.” Many state security officers were identifiable by their uniforms, but the German ministry also employed a web of undercover informants that were directed to infiltrate various organizations, both within and outside East Germany. During this oppressive era, at least one of every 40 Germans worked for the police/surveillance state apparatus. We know about the Stasi because, as the East German government collapsed, brave people rushed State Security headquarters and stopped the destruction of most of the collected files.

We also know our own National Security administration is collecting massive banks of data (oops, I mean “metadata”) both within and outside the United States. We weren’t supposed to find out about that program, however, because now the “job” of Obama’s NSA has become more difficult. And what (in exact detail) is that job? Well, that’s a secret! Of course, it must have something to do with state security, right? After all, that’s what their name says.

The NSA, of course, has been wiretapping since the days of Nixon, but then what they did was illegal (Fourth Amendment, and all that, at a time when the Supreme Court actually cared about our founding scrap of paper). Now, however, it appears the PATRIOT Act has unclipped most of the leashes holding our own Stasi in check.

Only a handful of people know details about our surveillance and infiltration programs and how the PATRIOT Act is being used to justify them. One of that handful, Senator Wyden (Intelligence Committee), calls it a “’secret law’ — a secret interpretation of the PATRIOT Act, issued by a secret court, that authorizes secret surveillance programs.” He can’t say much more because, you see, it’s classified! It’s a secret!

As American citizens, you might think we all have a “need to know” some of these secrets in order to make changes if we don’t like what our government is doing. Well, apparently you’d be wrong. In fact, most of our representatives are told they don’t have a need to know, either.

Fortunately, however, due to some recent “leaks,” a few of those “secrets” are no longer hidden. For example, it’s no longer a secret that “intelligence” gathering agencies think the PATRIOT Act allows them to use your cell phone to track your position, record phone calls, listen to conversations (even when the phone is turned off!) and take pictures. Seems just a bit over the line, doesn’t it?

But, the US House of Representatives doesn’t agree with you! Last week, it defeated an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act that would have required a warrant before phone records are seized (like the Fourth Amendment once guaranteed).

Ben Franklin famously said, “who can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Police states are only tolerated because they promise security to a timid, fearful people. Is that what we’ve become?

Our state security apparatus needs to be examined and pruned, top to bottom. Brave citizens confront and limit such tools of power. Cowardly people look the other way.

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This column represents alternative thoughts to other published columns in the Crossville Chronicle. “We the People” is published each Wednesday. Opinions expressed in “We the People” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact John Wund, editor, at jwund@frontiernet.net.