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NSA Surveillance, the Occupy Movement and Defending Our Constitutional Rights

NSA Surveillance, the Occupy Movement and Defending Our Constitutional Rights
Thu, 6/20/2013 - by Carl Gibson

According to the government's loose interpretation of constitutional law, all Americans are suspected terrorists. All 300 million of us.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees Americans freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, without probable cause. "Probable cause," however, doesn't have a strict definition, according to the National Security Agency when monitoring all of our phone calls, emails, text messages and social media activity.

The NSA also argues that the bulk of its surveillance is only for suspected foreign terrorists, yet foreign Facebook accounts make upjust 0.01% of the NSA's surveillance. Meaning the other 99.99% is us.

President Obama and the NSA allege that innocent Americans won't be monitored, though that makes about as much sense as saying people in a swimming pool who want to stay dry won't get wet. If any of your communication happens digitally, it's trackable. If it's trackable, it's being tracked. We're all caught up in this massive surveillance net, even though the vast majority of us aren't terrorists planning attacks.

Normally, if a government agency like the NSA wants access to an American citizen's communications, they have to submit a request to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to look over the requested information. As Stephen Colbert pointed out, the FISA courts haven't once denied government requests to snoop through our communications, and the NSA has admitted to listening to our phone calls without a warrant.

What this essentially boils down to is that the rules the government has imposed on itself are little more than a formality: the government will access our information regardless of any bureaucratic hurdles it has to jump, whether citizens are suspected terrorists or not.

While a lot of law-abiding Americans have been surprised to find out that their government was spying on them, people affiliated with the Occupy movement have known it for some time. Even though government agencies knew Occupy Wall Street was a nonviolent movement, they investigated the movement as they would a domestic terror cell.

In Boston, while federally-funded fusion centers like the Boston Regional Information Center (BRIC) were tasked with finding and investigating potential terrorists, the local cops and the feds were all focusing its resources on the Occupy Boston movement. Wespent tens of millions of state and federal tax dollars treating law-abiding Americans as criminals simply for expressing their constitutionally-protected First Amendment rights.

Dossiers were assembled on activists and were classified under "Criminal Act," "Extremists," Civil Disturbance," and "HomeSec- Domestic." This all took place while Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev went under the radar of counter-terrorism agencies despite repeated warnings from the Russian government.

Other documents released as a result of FOIA requests show that the violent crackdown and eviction of Occupy encampments in late 2011 was a federally-coordinated effort overseen by the Department of Homeland Security. Most Occupy activists weren't at all surprised to learn that the government was going widely beyond its stated goal of counter-terrorism, and was simply monitoring all Americans' communication at all times, regardless of the absence of any wrongdoing. If Congress were genuinely concerned about this, they would be present during briefings that addressed the scope of federal surveillance, rather than skipping out so they could fly back home.

NSA officials, the Obama administration and diehard Obama partisans have argued that if one isn't doing anything wrong, then one has nothing to worry about in terms of government surveillance. But what those aforementioned groups forget is that our country was founded by people who believed that citizens have certain inalienable rights that should never be breached by tyrannical governments.

Ben Franklin said that those who would trade liberty for a little temporary security will lose both and deserve neither. This latest episode is a clear indicator that our government has gone beyond its obligations to uphold the law and is blatantly violating constitutional freedoms. If we let this abuse happen without repercussions, our constitutional rights will soon only exist on centuries-old paper.

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