5 Worst Aspects of Being Under Surveillance/Investigation

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consv.jpgI first posted this in November and then removed it because it seemed too personal. Recent events have compelled to put it back up. We all want to be safe. The specter of terrorism does require vigilance. But destroying individuals' personal relationships and creating a general sense of fear and distrust cannot advance the cause of liberty. No one should be, in effect, imprisoned without having committed any crimes, or been tried for crimes. We all must be aware of the human element of the vast surveillance apparatus before its cancerous growth metastasizes beyond all control.

Yesterday's Wired Threat Level pointed out what it means for our government agencies to have total access to our communications. Ryan Singel lists the reasons there is a difference between your ISP and the government having access to your private information. Among them, the government can: put you on a watch list, find a tenuous connection between you and suspected bad guys in order to justify further surveillance, and build secret files on Americans' First Amendment-protected political activities.

This inspired me to reflect on some of the things I've learned about what sucks most when the government intrudes on one's daily life.
People Entering Your Life Under False Pretenses
Alfred Hitchcock kicking you in the stomach from the beyond the grave. That’s about how it feels to find out that someone you trusted and cared for only entered your life to gather information about you.  Not only has he/she probed your ideologies under the pretext of great interest in you, but has been granted access to the most intimate aspects of your past and present. The sense of betrayal is overwhelming. As is imagining your information being transmitted to faceless analysts, dissected, and preserved in bureaucratic coffers. You reel from disbelief for weeks, months. Your life no longer feels like yours, but a surreal narrative penned by contemptuous strangers. Hard to imagine getting through it without professional help.

Losing Your Sense of Protected Citizenship
It’s safe to say that many Americans (at least native-born white or otherwise privileged Americans) feel an innate sense of security. You have rights. If something happens to you when you’re traveling abroad, your country is there for you. At home, you are innocent until proven guilty. Then you find out you are the subject of a seemingly endless investigation, where you are suspicious until proven otherwise. (But after they’ve committed a staggering amount of resources, don’t they have to find something to justify the expense?) You realize that your individuality means nothing: entrapment and humiliation are fair game, and you’ve escaped both through luck and improvisation. This makes you afraid to travel, to enter unfamiliar situations with unfamiliar people, to ever leave your house without someone knowing where you are. Losing that sense of safety -- discovering that you have reason to fear aspects of your own government -- is devastating.  Where are you safe in the world?

Loss of Privacy
Discovering that your cell phone has been used to listen to you, or having previous email conversations regurgitated back to you by strangers, can make you suddenly hate the technology our lives hinge on. You used to live on your laptop but can no longer express yourself with abandon in email. You can’t relax and catch up with friends on the phone. With hidden cameras and microphones in every room, and people following you everywhere you go, you are never alone.

Having to Remain Guarded and Suspicious
Once you know for certain that it has been someone’s job to betray you deeply, you have to reassess the way you relate. You used to bring people into your life readily, eat and drink with new friends on your travels, and make your life an open book.

But suddenly some old friends can’t look you in the eye. Last month they were concerned about the mortgage, but now have new appliances, an investment portfolio, and a keen new interest in when exactly you will be traveling and with who you’re in touch. They tell odd, unnecessary lies. You realize that for months certain people have only called or texted to find out when you’ll be where. As soon as it’s clear you don’t trust one person, another appears. Old acquaintances come out of the woodwork like never before. You become hyper-sensitized to inconsistencies. Random people pop into your life and want to build intimacy rapidly. They’re too busy to have time for their own friends, but have all the time in the world for you. They flatter you. They find you fascinating.

Your hairdresser knows about trips you never told her about and for the first time wants to know exact details about your upcoming travels. You suddenly have a deep understanding of what you saw of the vestiges of totalitarianism in Russia: the way suspicion remains such a pervasive societal attribute.

Your paranoia is justified and has in a few instances protected you from dangerous situations. But it sucks. You don’t want to have to live this way.

That Deep Chasm Between You and Just About Everyone

You’ve been through things that few people in the U.S. can relate to. Some friends are supportive and some think you’ve lost it. The stress and isolation are overwhelming. You’ve been lucky to meet work and academic deadlines. The public at large is concerned with I Phones and Dancing With The Stars while you’ve gotten a preview of the fascist shift. You feel like Cassandra. The danger seems so urgent and overwhelming, but neither Congress nor the public at large seems poised to act. You want that sense of security again, and you want to believe that the U.S. can still be a place where the dream is that we all deserve that security equally. You feel grateful that your life isn’t much worse, but don’t think that anyone should have to live this way.


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wingtip said:

Criminal Law -

Can the police lie to me and make up evidence against me just to get me to make a statement?

Yes. The higher courts have ruled that the police can lawfully lie to you, make up that other evidence exists, and still question you to try to get you to incriminate yourself.

.......or the common law knock and announce rule are in general agreement that there is no constitutional impediment to the use of subterfuge. Entry obtained through the use of deception, accomplished without force, is not a “breaking” requiring officers to first announce their authority and purpose. United States v. Salter, 815 F.2d 1150 (7th Cir.1987) ;United States v. Contreras-Ceballos, 999 F.2d 432 (9th Cir.1993) ; Hawaii v. Dixon, 83 Hawai’i 13, 924 P.2d 181 (1996); State v. Myers, 102 Wash.2d 548, 689 P.2d 38 (1984) ;Commonwealth v. DeCaro, 298 Pa.Super. 32, 444 A.2d 160 (1982) ;State v. Iverson, 272 N.W.2d 1 (Iowa 1978) .


Kyeann said:

Wingtip -- that's interesting information. How are you applying it here?

I was a military journalist at the end of the Vietnam Era. Once I got out I informally started tracking some of the illegal surveillance the Pentagon did / does / is continuing to do. Finally, after 30 years, I wrote about some of what I found and experienced. A sort of summary is included in my article "Big Brother is Watching You" (part 1) at


The bulk of what I had to say is in "Personal Account - Earth: Blogging and The Emergence of DotCommunism" at


And I totally agree with You. Your observations of the way domestic surveillance and the personal awareness of it poisons Your life hit the nail squarely on the head. I hope You take time to read a bit about what I found. It's too long, but it is fairly detailed.

Anyway, Thanks for Six Hours a Week. It's a great idea, and I really think what You are doing here makes a difference.


Jonny Bananas said:

Thank you for your efforts. It takes serious courage to do what you have done. I admire your voice.

kevin barry said:

That what should and used to be seen as the greatest country in the world , a bastion of freedom and democracy, has slowly turned the peoples of the world against it , and is now avidly turning its own people against it can only be described as pitiful, but do not despair every so called democratic country in the world today (including mine , Ireland) is in reality a police state, obsessed with keeping its people docile and fearful, remember that is the way they want you/us to be , lest we revolt against their avaricious greed and cowardice, divide and conquer, ironically that was Caesars dictat also, question what happened to the Roman Empire, it eventually consumed itslf through greed and mistrust, helloooo, Wall street, FTSE, CAC, Dow Jones, etc,etc, I rest my case. Hallelujah. Power to the People, again , its coming folks, its coming.

There are many bad aspects of coming to the realisation that one is a victim of Warrantless domestic surveillance. But after the initial realisation, and going through the stages as You have aptly elucidated, I personally found that the final stage was, at last, sweet apathy.

As I wrote in in the last part of the Afterword of Personal Account - Earth ( http://thewall.civiblog.org/rsf/pa_earth.html#AFTERWORD_AND_THE_BAND_PLAYED_ON ):

"Hey, so what if somebody's watching from the shadows? What the hell. You can't live any sort of life looking over Your shoulder all the time. Spooks have always been with us, and always will be; it's as much a part of Human nature as warm blood, body hair, and live childbirth. No need to freak out about it. Just carry on as You always have. If You want to be Free, then, be Free. Do whatever - the - hell You were going to do anyway, despite whatever chance whoever You think might be watching, might be watching. To do anything else is, as has been said, to let them win."

I find that sometimes listening to Eckhart Tolle's lectures (and flipping through The Power of Now) sometimes helps, fwiw.


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Six Hours A Week Is:

A coping strategy, advocacy outlet, and form of protection. My life has been nearly destroyed by the unconstitutional practices of politically/socially-motivated private intelligence contractors and the corruption and cronyism that allow them. Apparently because I speak out in ways that prioritize the little guy and human and environmental health above gargantuan profit margins, and believe that facts are as important as PR spin, I was someone who had to be completely discredited. In 2007, after a few months of a surreal and relentless invasion of privacy and dignity, I started to spend six hours each week researching, communicating about, and advocating legal and ethical responses to assaults on our shared democratic and republican ideals. For most of that time I was writing from the perspective of someone whose life was manipulated into a constant state of terror and emergency. In 2010, many of the array of entrapment attempts seem to have failed and it seems no longer possible to get away with such excessive, obvious harassment and overt interference. As we take more practical steps to address what has been allowed to happen to my family, we do expect to see some more harassment and intimidation. But I should be able to chronicle it from a more measured perspective, rather than that of someone in constant fear. Part of me would like to go back and delete earlier posts, because even I find them hard to relate to in some ways. But this blog has been one of our only forms of protection as everyone in any official capacity ignored the truth and tried to spin and frame us into the troublemakers and perpetrators of one form or another. So I leave it up as a form of protection, a record of what has occurred, and (with luck) the account of our way back to credibility and some form of legitimate justice. All content on this site is property of Kyeann Sayer. All rights reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Kyeann published on April 1, 2008 12:00 AM.

Insist that Obama and Clinton Take a Stand on "Homegrown Terrorism" was the previous entry in this blog.

Getting "On the List" is the next entry in this blog.

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