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

Getting "On the List"

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The most "radical" act I have ever taken part in is one I organized. It was a miserable failure, and I was embarrassed by it. I write about it now not out of pride, but as a way of letting readers know what it takes to get "on the list."

You may remember the lead-up to the Iraq war as a frustrating, heartbreaking time. Many of us believed that preemptive aggression was a way to further agitate people who hated the U.S. and would only make future terrorist attacks more likely. We could see right through all of the pretextual explanations for war. At the same time, as I wrote last fall, the anti-war movement seemed frustratingly ineffectual.

So -- what was my brilliant response to the impending bloodshed and the lackluster antiwar movement? To dress up like Jackie Kennedy and carry around shopping bags with Jesus on them. Though this may seem a bit off, I think history will prove this brand of "radicalism" much more sane than Dick Cheney's. Why the Jackie Kennedy imagery?
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.
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People in states that have yet to hold primaries should insist that Clinton and Obama take a stand on the frightening Homegrown Terrorism Bill before they give either candidate a vote.

All the Michigan/Florida controversy and Superdelegate issues aside, it seems like forcing the Democratic contenders to fight for their right to represent is better for all of us than the early anointing that generally happens. If they address actual issues, rather than engaging in irritating "red phone" banter, that is. They don't have so many differences (on Iraq, health care, the economy) that will affect our everyday lives, but their willingness to address our civil liberties emergency - or not - will reverberate for generations.

Right now, the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee is mulling over the Homegrown Terrorism Act. Obama is on the Committee and as of late last year had not taken a position on this bill that will create vast new arenas for the monitoring of U.S. citizens.

After nearly eight years of unchecked lawlessness and abuse of executive privilege, it's time make sure the next president knows that we will watch him or her like hawks, not grant extended powers in our already endemic surveillance society for monitoring everyday people who oppose a given administration's policies. Essentially, these candidates, who have pledged their lives to public service, are agreeing to be monitored by us and it's our job to do so.

Right now, the most important questions to many are, "Will you take the lead in repairing our looted and vandalized systems of government?" "Will you restore the rule of law?" "Will you resurrect our image in the eyes of the world?"

I am looking at both Obama and Clinton right now, and though Obama seems more promising, and had the mettle to take a stand on telecom immunity, I'm still not convinced that he is prepared to lead us out of our civil liberties emergency.

Rather than simply giving candidates our support or not, we could hold to the notion that it is our job not just to get excited by a speech, go to a voting booth, and cling to a fantasy that vacant campaign promises will become policy. Rather, with our vote we are giving them permission to be accountable to us.

We can promise the candidates that we will remain active stewards of democracy. We will insist that basic Constitutional safeguards remain in place. We are not afraid to press for impeachment, to protest, to create new parties whose representatives - unlike Congressional Democrats - will do what they were voted in to do.

If your state hasn't voted, contact Clinton and Obama's campaign offices and ask whether or not they will at the very least ensure that the vague language that could threaten first amendment rights is removed from the Homegrown Terrorism Bill and that independent civil liberties oversight of the commission is provided.

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We Accept - Even Welcome - Privacy Loss

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Giving up privacy has been normalized to a paradoxical degree.

On the one hand, few Americans seem to know that relative to most of the developed world, ours is a surveillance society nearing the level of Russia or China. On the other hand, we have come to accept daily incursions on our privacy and other basic rights for the sake of convenience or "safety."

For someone like me, in her early thirties, there has been a gradual and bumpy trajectory from an expectation of privacy at my jr. hight locker, to getting used to being filmed at the ATM, to feeling like an out-of-touch old lady because I want my emails to be private.

What about kids marinating in the camera-filled, reality TV existence we've created for them? As Allison Orr of Australia's EDemocracy notes:

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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birdseye-cutout.jpgPass the Freedom Fries!  The French are still filmed, monitored and intercepted less than we are, but barely. Their status also "deteriorated" in 2007.

The U.S. has been downgraded from "Extensive Surveillance Society" to "Endemic Surveillance Society," according to Privacy International's 2007 International Privacy Ranking released on Friday. We now share the "Endemic" distinction with China, Russia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, and the UK. I should have expected the following, really, after recently letting go of my email privacy delusions:

In terms of statutory protections and privacy enforcement, the US is the worst ranking country in the democratic world. In terms of overall privacy protection the United States has performed very poorly, being out-ranked by both India and the Philippines.
It's worth noting that Canadian and EU papers have reported on this, but I have yet to find coverage in a U.S. newspaper. It's up to you and me to let our friends and family and presidential candidates know that we rank at the bottom when it comes to:

The Accidental Communist

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While researching FBI surveillance of environmental groups today, I came across this passage in a December 2005 New York Times Article:

'One F.B.I. document indicates that agents in Indianapolis planned to conduct surveillance as part of a ''Vegan Community Project.'' Another document talks of the Catholic Workers group's ''semi-communistic ideology.'' A third indicates the bureau's interest in determining the location of a protest over llama fur planned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.'

While llama fur has never put me in Big Brother's sights, the notion of attracting attention due to "semi-communistic ideology" gave me pause. I noted yesterday how this type of surveillance can start with a germ of misperception and spiral out of control, and, well, naive about the draconian period of U.S. history we were entering, I may have inadvertently branded myself a Communist. A Red. A Bathroom Bolshevik Breeder.

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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