Results tagged “domestic surveillance” from Six Hours A Week: Adventures in American Exile

Homegrown Terror: Change We Can No Longer Believe In

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lichtdom.jpgAlmost exactly four years ago I wept during a layover in Pennsylvania as a jubilant fellow diner gushed about the election results in a noisy air port sports bar. I was on my way to present at a graduate student conference in Germany.

Within about 15 hours I had landed in Munich, ridden a train, napped on the conference organizer's futon, and found myself touring the Museum of National Socialism in Nuremberg. The excursion wasn't my idea -- I actually really didn't know where I was going, but took a fellow presenter up on the idea of sight seeing. Soon we were immersed in the ascent and horrors of the Nazi era.

Jet lagged and deflated by the specter of a second Bush term, I wandered through exhibits that provided a visceral understanding of how the National Socialists gradually seized power, arrogated rights, and eventually created a continent-wide horror show. The beginnings of the exhibit felt unnervingly familiar. For the first time ever, in that bizarre post-election continent-jumping jumble, I believed that "It Could Happen" in the U.S.

Before then, the Bush/Hitler rhetoric seemed like much of the reactionary Left propaganda.  What I had been exposed to was, actually, because it hadn't been tied to any thorough or legitimate critique. It took walking through the history stage by stage to understand how the U.S. population could become vulnerable. I wouldn't use the word fascism to describe what was happening in the U.S. for another three years, but somewhere I knew that there were seeds of it in the post-9/11 Bush presidency's bulging PR budget, "with us or against us" domestic and international rhetoric, and Patriot Act excesses.

Little did I know at the time that most of the people in my life were government or private intelligence operatives and that someone had been assigned to befriend me at the conference and completely scrutinize the trip. Do many grad students take time off from work to fly to Germany to present at a conference? If you feel like you need to compensate for years of career indecision by presenting as much as possible to get into the PhD program of your choice, you do. Maybe you do even if you just love to travel.

The fascism I was already living with would eventually be administered by unsupervised private contractors who clearly needed to come up with some sinister alternate narrative to make up for the fact that they had spent millions of dollars creating a Truman Show-like existence for an innocent person. Trips like mine remain suspect years after the fact, fodder for elicitation (Why was the tile guy assigned to elicit about it as recently as August? What was I supposed to have been cooking up in Nuremberg?).

This cowboy "intelligence" community allows sociopath contractors free reign to project all of their fears and hatreds in the name of patriotism. It allows those working at the behest of corporations to have access to your government file, to all of your medical and other records so that they can wreak havoc in your life to protect their profits. It allows them to manipulate the prejudices of Good Americans who will gladly elicit information, plant substances, or sabotage work if they are convinced that the object of their derision is a terrorist or an enemy of God. In America, this is what fascism looks like. Neither the contractors nor the hapless everyday joes they manipulate see themselves as fascist collaborators, but part of the gang, foot soldiers for God, good citizens. Or they just don't care because the money's good.

Here we are four years later. Tonight it's hard to imagine flitting off to Germany. I continue leading a largely sequestered existence, most recently to avoid the locals who have been trained to see me as an enemy of Christ or communist/terrorist and have so far failed in their attempts at vigilante justice. In this context, I wept for joy at Obama's victory. As we look toward this transition, there is no vague feeling of dread -- dread has constituted most days for the last 1.5 years. Rather, I look forward with the stark consciousness of having faced banal evil day after day. I know what it looks like, what it does to a community and to a life.

I hope and pray that we can reverse much of the radical change of the last eight years, that the rule of law can be restored, that we all say "It Can't Keep Happening Here." The price of liberty, after all, is eternal vigilance. I didn't learn as much in the Nuremberg museum; it took a homegrown campaign of terror to teach me what liberty is all about.

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rankin.jpgNow I have an inkling of how it feels to be Britney Spears. The girl is a walking economic stimulus agent. Her very existence supports thousands of individuals -- from paparazzi to copy editors to advertising executives. My case has been that of an unwitting commodity for intelligence contractors who have given nearly everyone in my life the opportunity to make some cash off of information, solicitation or entrapment.

These are people with bumper stickers like "Live Simply So Others May Simply Live." People who take their dogs on generous afternoon hikes on the sides of mountains before studying the I Ching. Individuals who ride their bikes, buy organic, and play benefit concerts in their quasi-hipster alt-country bands. Who among them would like to think of themselves as akin to Nazi collaborators? I can't even simply equate them with "Good Germans" who stood by and did nothing as the Jews were dehumanized and eventually carted off. They were/are modern day willing executioners.

Apparently a vast cross-section of Americans have become too enamored of the "good life" to bother with cultivating silly qualities like moral fortitude. Seeing me humiliated or jailed was worth money for a new guitar or in vitro fertilization. My ruin was only a pit stop on individual aspirational highways. Even in so-called "progressive" circles, claiming one's own piece of the American dream is more important than rights, the law, or decency. Maybe if I were an abstract, distant, deserving indigenous Ecuadoran Amazonian? Perhaps then I would have merited solidarity?

The people in Missoula who have collaborated with tax payer- and corporate-funded contractors didn't expect that I would return for good. I left suddenly after one of the only people I trusted got sloppy and outed himself as a mole last fall. In the mean time, it seems I was supposed to be entrapped in some sort of drug-related incident. Our tenant/property manager (who has turned out to be a fake, industry-funded "global warming activist") has certainly behaved as though my mother's house was meant to be confiscated. My former friends and new acquaintances must have been assured I would never discover their complicity, and if I did I would be completely discredited anyhow: as a nut case or a criminal.

I can count 15 over 100 people in Missoula who either work for government agencies, for corporations, or were just hired as agents for either, who entered my life under false pretenses or were paid to use their proximity to me over the last year and a half. (That number leaves out many people like hair dressers and estheticians.) Now I will see these people at the farmers' market with their children, friends, husbands and wives. There is no Truth and Reconciliation Commission for victims of illegal corporate and government spying.

I know I am not like those Chileans who have to sit at the opera near their former torturers. I was not in a concentration camp. I am not a former Guantanamo detainee. 

Rather, I have faced the banal evil of America's 21st century. Those who live in opposition to the Bush administration and its policies, who would decry Chevron's genocidal ruin of the rain forest, would also take money from either to help destroy an innocent person -- so that they can have the shiny things they've always wanted or grasp the "American dream" they believe they deserve.

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Veterans Should be Revered

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walter reed.jpegI don't know many veterans yet. I will. 

Surviving a year of intense government-sanctioned spying has changed me. Post-traumatic feelings of safety and trust will be hard-won. The pain of constant betrayal twinned with the stigma of seeming crazy to those who can't fathom it are difficult to describe.  

So, I know how much this has impacted my life and how much time and effort it will take to recover, and how I'd just like to live in a spa for six months. Looking at it in relative terms, I was under a sort of cushy guerrilla house arrest -- as long as I was at home and not being manipulated or lied to by "friends" I was safe (though constantly monitored). 

I was never cold or hungry or exposed to depleted uranium, or dodging sniper fire. I didn't have to see friends and civilians killed, or hear agonized screams and cries. I wasn't required to kill.

Imagine recovering from combat. How do people come home to their families after facing such unending stress and horrors? How do they ever find "normal" again? Deal with becoming disabled and struggling to pay the bills, or being stuck at Walter Reed? We have over 300,000 troops suffering from PTSD and a veteran suicide epidemic.

Veterans should never have to want for anything again. They should finish their days in absolute comfort, have the best medical and psychological care, housing credits, and scholarships for their children. Veterans should not be homeless. That it took domestic, government-sanctioned repression for me to "get" to some small degree what it would be like to recover from military work is one of many unexpected gifts and ironies.

The NSA Gives me the "Glomar Response"

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dod-large.pngI don't know exactly why I didn't submit an NSA FOIA request when I became aware of being spied on. Looking back at all of the articles about domestic spying, it would have been the obvious choice. Since all of the craziness seemed so connected to my international travel, I assumed at first it was the CIA. Wanting to cover my bases, I made requests to a variety of agencies last summer, getting the runaround from the FBI (sending me to a variety of field offices, giving conflicting responses), semantic weirdness from the CIA (something akin to "we have nothing filed under your name in our automated indices"), and denials elsewhere.

Finally, last December I realized the NSA was most likely the agency offended by my Jackie Kennedy costume and Jesus shopping bag and so asked my lawyer to make a request. Until a few weeks ago I thought he had. But he only pretended to. That's right. When he was unable to produce either correspondence with the NSA or a Case Number, I made my own request (after firing him, of course).

Yesterday, I received my very own Glomar Response. Never did any of the other agencies I sought records from use Glomar. This means that, yes, I've been spied on with the NSA's blessing (seemingly by off-the-charts unethical and unprofessional Booz Allen Hamilton employees for the most part). But the details of just how my 4th Amendment rights have been completely disregarded and I've pretty much been imprisoned for a year without having been charged with any crime (etc.)? Those are too precious to national security to divulge.

Read all of the fun government speak after the jump. And, if you think you've sniffed out spooks in your midst, do your own FOIA request. Those of us who have been Glomared under this administration will have recourse one day, methinks.
tjalien.jpgTonight the pundits talk about Hillary's support among white women, and other demographic fluff, as we wait for the results of the "Chesapeake Primaries" on the day the Senate handed telecom immunity to a pleased White House.

I'm a white woman. Clinton was generally my last choice until the field was narrowed to two. Because the Montana primary isn't until June 3, I had the luxury of waiting to see how she and Obama would respond to the FISA and Homegrown Terrorism debates before deciding.

Today Clinton neglected to vote on the FISA bill and she lost my vote.  She offers a Comprehensive Government Reform page on her web site, but won't stand up NOW against vast, illegal spying in our out of control surveillance society. Obama, on the other hand, voted against telecom immunity. I called Clinton's campaign office to let them know this decided it, and then donated to Obama's campaign.

I wish I could telekinetically impress upon MSNBC, CNN and all the rest: I don't care if Hillary cries, or wears a low-cut blouse, or would have stayed home making cookies, or screwed up on health care, gets pummeled by Chris Matthews, or has more experience than Obama. I don't consult my fallopian tubes before I check a ballot. Equality and justice are what matter to me. None of us (black, white, woman, Muslim, Jewish, LGBT) has rights if we don't have Civil Liberties.

(Also? Note to pundits: Ron Paul is not only the "anti-war" candidate. He is the Civil Liberties candidate. The other night a CNN talking head named "The Internet" as his demographic friend, rather than hundreds of thousands of Americans from a variety of backgrounds who are outraged by this criminal administration's war and its assault on domestic freedom.)

So, for now, Obama's got me even though I'm not riding his rhetorical "change" wave. We'll see how the Homegrown Terrorism Bill debate shakes down. Will he continue to show leadership rather than playing the safe Clinton game?

If you're feeling the warm and fuzzy Obama-as-second-coming vibe, I hope you'll cool down and make sure he knows that you're in his corner because he believes that a renewed America means an unwavering devotion to our founding documents. "Change" must mean the restoration of our democracy.

Update: In later updates on the FISA coverage it came to light that though Obama voted against telecom immunity, neither Clinton nor Obama voted on final passage of the bill. I don't yet understand why Obama would take a stand on telecom immunity and then NOT vote against the bill... More soon...

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Suffrage.jpgLast week, we saw Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's strategic flip flopping on whether "homegrown terror" constitutes the U.S's greatest terror threat.

Now we see language from the Homegrown Terrorism Act popping up in last Friday's seemingly strategically timed plea agreements from two men who were caught in a Los Angeles-area terror plot. This is not incredibly surprising, given that this case supposedly inspired the Act. But we have to wonder if it's a coincidence that the pleas are being entered now, while we await Senate debate on the Act. From a Justice Department press release:

In plea agreements filed this morning and court proceedings conducted this morning in United States District Court in Santa Ana, James and Washington admitted that they conspired “to levy war against the government of the United States through terrorism, and to oppose by force the authority of the United States government.”
Isn't enough that these men were caught in a heinous terrorist plot? That should put them safely away. Why the need to get them to use language about opposing the government's authority? What was their incentive to do so?

Further, what is "force?" Aren't we obligated as patriotic citizens to constantly question our government's authority? Like the suffragists on hunger strikes who were force-fed in prison? Like Civil Rights marchers?  From the bill:
montecello.jpgNow is an essential time to let your Senators know (here are their contact forms) that they don't have to pass another frightening bill to seem tough on terror. If you haven't heard about the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act, please see the links at the bottom of this post to understand how it could further curtail our freedoms and criminalize dissent. It's already passed in the House!

None of us wants to see more horrific acts of violence. On the other hand, we don't want to waste our time with redundant measures that likely won't prevent them, but will threaten the First Amendment.

I sent this to Sens. Tester and Baucus today. Adapt it as you wish!

Dear Senator Baucus,

I am gravely concerned about S 1959, the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act. I am troubled by the overly vague language and worried that in practice it will criminalize non-violent forms of dissent and stifle freedom of speech.

S 1959 has the potential to be used to target citizens who disagree with whichever administration is currently in power or who oppose powerful corporate interests. Most of the "home grown" terror we have seen has originated from white, Christian anti-abortionists. However, we know from the FOIA documents released so far that most of those targeted for surveillance by the current administration have been anti-war activists. Additionally, we have seen concerted efforts to label property destroying/anti-development extremists "terrorists" and tie mainstream environmental groups to them.

Surveillance is endemic in our society -- we have been labeled one of the world's top surveillance societies by Privacy International. Do we need to set up another commission to decide who to watch?

I look forward to hearing your position on this bill.

Thank you,


CNET
Huffington Post
NYC Indypendent 

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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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