Saturday, July 21, 2012

You Can Check Out Any Time You Like, But You Can Never Really Leave

Welcome to the new American Garrison state. It is a prison without walls. The prisoners are largely zombified by a vacuous and narcissistic popular culture broadcasted into ever more spaces of everyday life and by pills for depression, anxiety, and pain. Prisoners are constantly observed by automated programs mostly operated by independent contractors without oversight. Any detections of wakefulness and dissent trigger secondary and more invasive surveillance systems. I have even warranted having my phone tapped on more than one occasion. Fear of indefinite detention is real as the ancient right of habeas corpus has been destroyed by the growing military-surveillance-industrial complex.
How did we get here? We have to go back a few years to look at the legislation that allowed the emergence of the military-surveillance-industrial state, a.k.a. the "Garrison State."
The Bush Administration appealed to the U.S. Constitution’s vague but broad description of presidential powers to push the privilege of executive authority (Leonnig, 2006). President Bush claimed unprecedented power, arguing he is not subject to bills he authorizes (Weisman, 2007). Bush’s Vice President Cheney claimed that his office was exempt from federal orders regulating handing of security information; in 2007 he tried to abolish the office responsible for enforcing those orders (Baker, 2007). However, perhaps the most ominous instances of sovereign exceptionality revolved concerned the ancient and foundational right of habeas corpus.
The Bush administration pursued secret detention and rendition of “terrorist” suspects within the U.S. and abroad. These suspects, some of whom are citizens of western “democratic” states such as the U.S., Canada, and Australia, often ended up in “secret” prisons abroad where they were (are?) subject to “aggressive” interrogation techniques including psychological and corporeal torture (Moore, 2007), and lacked access to juridical protections. Journalists seeking to publicize these events were threatened with censorship and criminal charges, including war crimes accusations (Stone, 2006). When forced to vindicate illegal extraditions and torture, the Bush administration asserted detainees were war combatants who lack protection by Geneva Conventions (DeYoung, 2007). U.S. judicial authorities stymied efforts by the wrongly accused to challenge detention and torture, arguing judicial review would expose state secrets (Sherman, 2007).
Dclassification of the CIA’s “family jewels” documented historically that U.S. politicians knowingly violated the constraints of international and national law across the second half of the twentieth century using banned strategies such as press censorship and harassment, targeted assassinations, and torture (DeYoung & Pincus, 2007, A1). As revealed by these documents, there is nothing new about the use of sovereign decisionality to strip individuals of all rights and protections. The very perseverance and typicality of these operations calls into question the existential viability of liberal protections.
What was new with the Bush Administration was the transformation of law to legitimize these acts of sovereign decisionality. After the Supreme Court’s ruling that enemy combatants were protected by Geneva Conventions, the Bush administration passed new rules in 2006, and again in 2007, for interrogation and prosecution allowing aggressive methods, retroactively protecting American military and personnel who previously tortured suspects, and severely limiting courtroom rights for those defendants fortunate enough to be granted trials (DeYoung, 2007; Fletcher, 2006a). The 2006 rules were justified by their purported role in preventing terrorist attacks:
This program has been one of the must successful intelligence efforts in American history. . . . It has helped prevent attacks on our country. And the bill I sign today will ensure that we can continue to use this vital tool to protect the American people for years to come. (Bush cited in Fletcher, 2006a, p. A4)
Continued allegations of CIA detainee abuse in 2007 met with claims that CIA interrogation programs were conducted “lawfully, with great care and close review, producing vital information that has helped disrupt terrorist plots and save lives” (cited in White & Tyson, 2007, p. A1). The rules passed in the summer of 2007 provided new protocols allowing “harsh interrogation” while offering only the most basic levels of biological protection to prisoners, rendering them simply bare life. Accordingly, a senior administration official stated any future use of “extremes of heat and cold” would be subject to a "reasonable interpretation . . . we're not talking about forcibly induced hypothermia" (quoted in DeYoung, 2007, p. A1). 
Foreigners were not the only ones to have basic rights violated. Passage of the Patriot Act in October 2001 expanded legal surveillance while public concern about personal security fostered support for heightened surveillance. Then, in 2006, Bush justified the “need” for greater wiretap authority by appealing to changing technologies which demand application of more pervasive surveillance systems: “The nature of communications has changed quite dramatically,” Bush warned in an address, “The terrorists who want to harm America can now buy disposable cell phones and open anonymous e-mail messages. Our laws need to change to take these changes into account” (cited in Asthana & DeYoung, 2006, p. A1). In 2007, Bush’s administration revised the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which stipulates the conditions under which the government can conduct surveillance. Revisions expanded potential targets for surveillance and warrantless surveillance (Pincus, 2007). Additionally, federal authorities unveiled a new initiative which allowed federal, state, local and tribal agents to use data from spy satellites for domestic enforcement of civil and criminal law (Warrick, 2007). Meanwhile, federal money brought surveillance cameras to small towns to protect against terrorist threats (Fahrenthold, 2006). Additionally, the Homeland Security Department created a unit to combat “homegrown terrorists,” targeting radicalization at prisons and universities (Hall, 2007, p. A4).
Obama’s legacy is just as bad, although the scandals about torture have subsided. Laura Pitter, counterterrorism adviser to Human Rights Watch: "From a legacy perspective, he's basically the first president in history to authorize indefinite detention without trial in the United States of America (cited in Perez & Hughes, 2011, p. A6). The legislation allowing indefinite detentions is the Detention Authority Provisions in S. 1253, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012. The ACLU wrote a letter to Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Commision on the Judiciary regarding regarding Sections 1031, 1032, and 1036 because they allow indefinite detentions without trail, even for American citizens.
Link to the ACLU Letter (A Must Read)

Current headlines suggest that past concerns that these new laws would violate US citizens right to privacy were correct: Dana Priest and William Arkin of the Washington Post have documented this vast empire of private contractors and government organizations that monitor, assemble, and attempt to analyze vast amounts of data on Americans viewing habits, memberships, online activities, etc. Now, more evidence shows that concerns about the violation of US citizens privacy were valid:
Privacy rights violated at least once by U.S. intelligence-collection initiative, official says Ellen Nakashima, Published: July 20 The Washington Post
[excerpted] U.S. intelligence agencies collecting e-mail and other communications under an updated surveillance statute have violated Americans’ constitutional right to privacy at least once, a senior intelligence official acknowledged Friday.
The acknowledgment came in a letter Friday from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) declassifying several of Wyden’s statements regarding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act of 2008.
The FISA Amendments Act allows the government to collect, inside the United States and without a warrant, the communication of foreign targets located abroad. Americans’ communications can be picked up if they are talking to, or e-mailing, the foreign target. The communications are gathered from commercial providers under a directive from senior government officials, following court approval. 

Majia here: Under Obama the most notable expansion of the surveillance-security-military-state involves the expansion of the use of drones:

New Surveillance Devices Compromise Constitutional Right to Privacy 

The NSA Is Watching YouBy Amy Goodman, Truthdig 26 April 12

[Excerpted] "Three targeted Americans: A career government intelligence official, a filmmaker and a hacker. None of these U.S. citizens was charged with a crime, but they have been tracked, surveilled, detained - sometimes at gunpoint - and interrogated, with no access to a lawyer. Each remains resolute in standing up to the increasing government crackdown on dissent...."

"U.S. Relaxes Drone Rules: Obama Gives CIA, Military Greater Leeway in Use Against Militants in Yemen." The Wall Street Journal April 26, 2012

Influence Industry: Little lobbying opposition to bill opening up U.S. airspace to drones. By Dan Eggen & T.W. Farnam. Washington Post April 26, 2012:

New York Times: "New Guidelines for the National Counterterrorism Center" March 22 2012

[excerpt] "The guidelines will lengthen to five years — from 180 days — the amount of time the center can retain private information about Americans when there is no suspicion that they are tied to terrorism, intelligence officials said. The guidelines are also expected to result in the center making more copies of entire databases and “data mining them” using complex algorithms to search for patterns that could indicate a threat...

Surveillance abroad has also expanded:

By Craig Whitlock, Published: June 13The Washington Post Burkina Faso —

[Excerpted] "The U.S. military is expanding its secret intelligence operations across Africa, establishing a network of small air bases to spy on terrorist hideouts from the fringes of the Sahara to jungle terrain along the equator, according to documents and people involved in the project.

Privatization of the “war on terror” has further reduced transparency and accountability of the growing military-surveillance industrial society.

Privatizing the War on Terror By John W. Whitehead, 18 January 12

Janine Wedel's series on the Shadow Elite:
[excerpted] "Many contractors are integrally involved in formulating and influencing policy on issues ranging from defense (as seen in the mentoring program), to the economy and energy to homeland security and intelligence. Even when many, if not most, of these contractors perform admirably, whether contractors always have the public interest at heart, or whether, beholden to shareholders, they might have their own...."

Welcome to the New American Garrison State: You Can Check Out Any Time You Like, But You Can Never Really Leave

Transformation of American society into a “garrison state

Asthana, A., & DeYoung, K. (2006, September 8). Bush calls for greater wiretap authority. The Washington Post, p. A1.
Baker, P. (2007, June 22). Cheney defiant on classified material executive order ignored since 2003. The Washington Post, p. A1.
DeYoung, K. (2007, July 21). Bush approves new CIA methods. The Washington Post, p. A1.
DeYoung, K., & Pincus, W. (2007, June 22). CIA to air decades of its dirty laundry. The Washington Post, p. A1.
Fahrenthold, D. A. (2006, January 19). Federal grants bring surveillance cameras to small towns. The Washington Post, p. A1.
Fletcher, M. A. (2006a, October 18). Bush signs terrorism measure. The Washington Post, p. A4.
Fletcher, M. A. (2006b, September 6). Bush warns of enduring terror threat. The Washington Post, p. A1.
Hall, M. (2007, March 15). Homegrown terrorists’ focus of new unit. The Arizona Republic, p. A4.
Leonnig, C. (2006, January 7). Report rebuts Bush on spying. The Washington Post, p. A1.
Leonnig, C. D., & Rich, E. (2006). U.S. seeks silence on CIA prisons. The Washington Post, p. A1.
Moore, M. (2007, June 9). Report gives details on CIA prisons. Washington Post, p. A1.
Perez E., & Hughes, S. (2011, December 15). Obama Withdraws Threat of Veto Over Detainee Rules. The Wall Street Journal, p. A6

Pincus, W. (2007, April 14). Administration seeks to expand surveillance law. The Washington Post, p. A3.
Sherman, M. (2007, October 10). U.S. Justices don’t touch Bush policy on secrets. The Arizona Republic, p. A1, A6.
Shenon, P. (2007, October 19). Senators clash with nominee about torture. The New York Times, p. A1.
Stone, G. (2006, May 8). Scared of scoops. The New York Times, p. A21.
Warrick, J. (2007, August 16). Domestic use of spy satellites to widen. The Washington Post, A1.
White, J., & Tyson, A. S. (2007, March 31). Detainee alleges abuse in CIA prison. The Washington Post, p. A1.

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