It made sense after the attack on the US in 1993 to address shortcomings in our national security. We had no warning from our government and media were essentially useless in informing us we were a nation at risk. Since that time, the executive and legislative branches have taken steps to address the lapses.
As usual, few in Congress could foresee the consequences, intended or unintended. Warnings are in front of us, and we need to pay attention.
After the World Trade Center was bombed in February, 1993 shortly after Bill Clinton entered the White House, wheels began to turn. In 1994 Democrats held the majority of power. Congress passed the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA). That act helped pave the way for the Patriot Act President George W. Bush and Republicans spearheaded shortly after Sept. 11, 2001.
These steps were aimed at protecting Americans. They were a reaction to direct attacks on our country. However, the size of the federal bureaucracy and the growth in our intel and law enforcement on the federal level would increase with time.
As then-junior senator Barack Obama campaigned for the White House, pundits led us to believe he would institute some sort of reforms on the government’s ability to spy on everyday Americans. Obama campaigned on the importance of privacy:
“We need to find a way forward to make sure that we can stop terrorists while protecting the privacy, and liberty, of innocent Americans,” then-Sen. Obama said when he voted against Michael Hayden’s confirmation as CIA director in 2006. “As a nation we have to find the right balance between privacy and security, between executive authority to face threats and uncontrolled power. What protects us, and what distinguishes us, are the procedures we put in place to protect that balance, namely judicial warrants and congressional review. … These are concrete safeguards to make sure surveillance hasn’t gone too far.”
Once in office, after a number of Islamist attacks within the United States, Obama changed course.
By the end of his second term, as he prepared to leave the White House, Obama expanded government agencies’ ability to spy. At this point, many of us realized the government had in a figurative sense wiretapped the whole country. A collection of agencies can easily spy on any of us because all our data is collected, and not just by the intel and law enforcement sectors. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created by President Barack Obama and now-senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) collects all our financial data. Healthcare agencies collect our income and health data. IRS gets the goods on our income.
Obama took it a step further just before President Donald Trump took office. The Electronic Frontier Foundation—as close to nonpartisan as an organization can get—took a dim view of Obama’s actions:
“With mere days left before President-elect Donald Trump takes the White House, President Barack Obama’s administration just finalized rules to make it easier for the nation’s intelligence agencies to share unfiltered information about innocent people.
New rules issued by the Obama administration under Executive Order 12333 will let the NSA—which collects information under that authority with little oversight, transparency, or concern for privacy—share the raw streams of communications it intercepts directly with agencies including the FBI, the DEA, and the Department of Homeland Security, according to a report today by the New York Times.”
The political assault unleashed on Trump is an example of what can happen when intelligence agencies or rogue agents within them decide to spy. A disinformation campaign could easily be assembled against any target. That campaign can be based on facts or falsehoods, and today’s release of WikiLeaks’ Vault 7 substantiates my claim.
Making this issue even more troubling is the fact the CIA appears to not have a grip on his own cyber-spying tools. As WikiLeaks noted in a press release announcing the release of Vault 7:
“Recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized “zero day” exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation. This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA. The archive appears to have been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.
“Year Zero” introduces the scope and direction of the CIA’s global covert hacking program, its malware arsenal and dozens of “zero day” weaponized exploits against a wide range of U.S. and European company products, include Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows and even Samsung TVs, which are turned into covert microphones.”
Besides the Vault 7 release, The New York Times also released information about procedures for agencies who want to share information on or the other has scooped up. The NYT documents should increase our concerns.
These disclosures, as well as information revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, indicate we are all subject to the government or a rogue actor within our government accessing our personal information. The massive surveillance complex represents vulnerability for our freedom. Theoretically, a government contractor or employee can decide to spy on you whether it’s justified or not. You might say, but that’s against the law. Fact is, the way the law is set up, it really isn’t. You won’t even know you’ve been spied upon. There are no requirements for disclosure. WikiLeaks warned:
“By the end of 2016, the CIA’s hacking division, which formally falls under the agency’s Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI), had over 5000 registered users and had produced more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other “weaponized” malware.”
The fallout from various Islamist attacks on our homeland extends beyond personal and financial losses for the victims. We are all victims. We have indeed become the United States of Surveillance. And nothing good can come of it for the innocent regardless of skin color, faith, or political leanings.
Former intel chief James Clapper has been doing TV talkies and denying President Trump was “wiretapped.” As Brendan Kirby shows us in an article at Lifezette, there are good grounds to distrust what Clapper is saying. Clapper has served every president in a national security capacity of some sort since President George H. W. Bush. That is a long time, long enough to construct a fortress few might penetrate. It was Edward Snowden who leaked information indicating Clapper was not truthful when he testified before Congress. Clapper faced no charges, and it’s my opinion he had enough goods on whoever might have to bring those charges or prosecute a case that he had made himself a very effective protective wall.
Ironically, as we watch various nat sec types parade across our TV screens, we should be mindful that although many attacks on the homeland have been prevented, a notable number of them have not and thousands of Americans have lost their lives as a result.
Currently, protests have been launched across the land and most media are engaging with the Democrats’ Party in an attempt to derail the legitimately elected president of the United States. Those women with their quirky hats and students stomping out free speech at universities are being duped. So are you.
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/March 7, 2017)