‘Police State U.S.A.’ exposes the truth about our ‘good masters’ — they still want to rule over others

Police State USA

Most people have heard it explained that if you place a frog in a pot of water and slowly boil it that the frog will happily swim in its personal little death trap. The incremental rise in temperature deadens its senses (no pun intended) to what is really going on until it’s far too late. By the time the frog realizes he is in danger, he is essentially cooked. That is where the United States finds itself today, and that is why ‘Police State U.S.A.’ by Cheryl K. Chumley is worth checking out.

The problem with the American police state (itself a very different animal than what traditionally comes to mind when someone hears the term) is that it has come about by slowly chipping away at individual liberties. Tens-of-thousands of seemingly insignificant laws are passed, each one worded in a way that allows politicians and those in positions of power to filch just a wee bit of freedom here or there. Over time those “wee” bits have added up, and we now find ourselves in a world where the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is setting up roadblocks and pulling over random people for “voluntary” DNA samples that don’t come across as voluntary to the individuals who are being ushered to the side of the interstate.

Besides, is it even lawful for NHTSA officers to pull over Americans who have done absolutely nothing wrong? In 2014, the answer appears to be: ” Don’t worry about it. Just do what we say.”

One of the many illustrative quotes in ‘Police State U.S.A.’ comes from Daniel Webster:

“Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, bu they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.” — Daniel Webster

What Cheryl K. Chumley does so well in her book is the way she highlights many of the random stories that a person hears about on the radio and says, “What? Is that true?” into one place. She chronicles examples of local, state and federal overreach to paint a picture of a nation that has long forgotten how important “the right to be left alone” really is.

Most Americans aren’t familiar with asset forfeiture laws or property seizures and how it could affect them as law-abiding citizens. (Hint: some laws are seemingly written by men who view “innocent until proven guilty” as a quaint little phrase only fit for Hollywood movies.) Likewise, many Americans don’t consider the implications of having a president who says things like “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone, and I’m ready to use them. And I’m not just going to sit around and wait for Congress to pass legislation.”

Checks and balances? Laws? The legislative process and the rule of law? Psssht! Who needs all that when you’ve got the imperial presidency at your disposal and an administrative state eager to do your bidding?

Ms. Chumley does an excellent job of detailing the current and future threats to our rights to life, liberty and property, but she does so in an approachable manner. Whereas many journalists and D.C. politicians talk down to their audience, Ms. Chumley (a writer with The Washington Times) delivers her information in ways that are reminiscent of conversations you might have with an intelligent and friendly neighbor.

‘Police State U.S.A.,’ unlike many other books that cover civil liberty infringements, does a great job of compiling all those times when the pot of water had the temperature turned up just a notch before our so-called “good masters” slipped their hands behind their back. Many books focus solely on the hot-button issues (e.g., The Patriot Act), but Ms. Chumley’s book deftly runs the gamut to show readers just how insidious of a web our power-hungry “masters” can weave.

As Americans, we are caught in a deadly trap of our own making. ‘Police State U.S.A.’ is a worthwhile primer for anyone who is interested in untangling the nation and setting their fellow Americans free.

Editor’s Note: In full disclosure, I work with Cheryl K. Chumley. However, I promise you that I would not create a blog post on ‘Police State U.S.A.’ if I did not feel it was worth mentioning. I would be more than happy to discuss my professional relationship with her in the comments section, if need be.

 

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What an Army Brigadier General’s sexually explicit emails tell us about the dangers of NSA spying

The Washington Post recently wrote up a piece on the military’s top brass “behaving badly.” While the story itself is important — if the Pentagon’s leaders can’t maintain their military manner, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out how the junior ranks will respond — one case in particular caught my eye. Army Brigadier General Martin P. Schweitzer rightly got himself in quite a bit of trouble for writing lewd emails about North Carolina Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers — but when viewed within the context of the recently NSA spying scandals it becomes much more interesting.

The Washington Posted reported on the emails:

“First — she is smoking hot,” Schweit­zer wrote [to Brigadier Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair.] “Second — briefing went well … she was engaging … had done her homework. She wants us to know she stands with us and will work/push to get the Fort Bragg family resourced.”

That, and what came next, led prosecutors to turn over the e-mail chain to the Army inspector general for a full investigation.

“He sucks 🙂 still needs to confirm hotness,” Sinclair teased in a reply.

More than an hour later, Schweitzer responded with an apology for the delay, saying he had masturbated “3 times over the past 2 hours” after the meeting with the congresswoman.

Inappropriate. Out of line. Worth more than the “memoranda of concern,” since they would have done far worse to a junior NCO for a similar offense. Regardless, think of these emails within the context of the millions upon millions of communications that are swept up by the NSA on a daily basis. Think of the politicians, judges, law enforcement personnel and business leaders who have their personal emails and text messages on file within NSA databases. How many embarrassing emails does the federal government have on hand to make sure people within positions of power “play ball” on controversial issues?

During the State of the Union the president wanted to talk about raising minimum wage for new federal contractors to $10.10 instead of the legitimate privacy concerns millions of Americans have in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks. During the State of the Union the president wanted to crack jokes about “Mad Men” workplace environments for women instead of the millions of women the NSA spies on every day through the collection of “metadata” (i.e., whatever data the government wants at any given time). It’s a shame, because the nation is due for a serious discussion regarding the 4th Amendment.

While you may not make obscene jokes or engage in career-threatening behavior with your friends and coworkers, the likelihood that a policy maker or business leader who affects your life has done so is rather high. (Paging Anthony Weiner. Paging Anthony Weiner. You have a call at the front desk, Mr. Weiner.) It makes no sense to slough off privacy concerns because you consider yourself a model of decency — or because you’re depraved and don’t care because your ambitions start and end with your Xbox.

It’s fun to laugh at the officer for making masturbation jokes with his buddies. It feels good to get on a moral pedestal and shame him for objectifying a woman, but the truth is that everyone has skeletons in their closet. Nobody is perfect, and a federal government that has unmitigated access to our personal correspondences is bone-chillingly frightening. The fact that the president of the United States chose to ignore the issue in favor of applause lines (e.g., “I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds!”) is, at this point, just sad.

Obama is like Bill Murray’s ‘The Man Who Knew too Little’: The buck stops with the NSA

While I was recently home on vacation, I heard on the radio that President Obama “didn’t know” that the NSA was spying on Germany’s Angela Merkel. I burst out laughing and told my father that in Barack Obama’s world, the buck stops with the NSA. It looks like I’m not alone with the observation. He’s ‘The Man Who Knew too Little.’

The New York Times reports:

As a practical matter, no president can be aware of everything going on in the sprawling government he theoretically manages. But as a matter of politics, Mr. Obama’s plea of ignorance may do less to deflect blame than to prompt new questions about just how much in charge he really is.

In recent days, the president’s health and human services secretary said that despite internal concerns and a failed test run Mr. Obama was not told about serious problems with the new program’s website until it was rolled out this month. Other officials said the president was not aware that the National Security Agency was tapping the phone of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and other friendly leaders until this summer, although intelligence officials said Tuesday that others in the White House had known. …

“It seems to me there’s a pattern here — with any bad news coming out of the administration, the excuse is the president just didn’t know about it,” said Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois.

“There’s a point at which the I-didn’t-know excuse really violates the idea of the buck stops here,” he added.

The conservative who doesn’t realize it yet, Jon Stewart, puts it nicely:

“It may be a be concerning that the president was not kept in the loop about the program that was named after him, but in his defense it appears that there are fairly few loops … he’s in.”

You can not be for an ever-expansive federal government on one hand, and then not own up to its failings when they happen. Saying “I didn’t know” that the NSA was spying on world leaders for five years is not a good PR move. In fact, it’s just the opposite. You can only believe the president was left in the dark — for years — and didn’t bother to ask tough questions of the spy agency if you believe that he’s incompetent or ill-suited for the task at hand.

The New York Times continues:

[President Obama] has seemed uninvolved at significant junctures. He has said he learned from news reports about Operation Fast and Furious, a botched federal investigation into gun smuggling that allowed weapons to fall into criminals’ hands.

His staff knew about an investigation into the targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service, but did not tell him until it was becoming public. Likewise, aides said the president was unaware of a Justice Department decision to secretly obtain reporters’ phone logs in a leak case.

If this was anyone else, comedians would be likening the president in all the worst ways to Bill Murray’s ‘The Man Who Knew Too Little.’

Think of all the bad news stories that have come out over the past five years that the president “didn’t know” about. Now ask yourself how your employer would respond if you pulled the “I didn’t know” card with Barackian aplomb. Would you still have a job?

Hollywood’s hilarious ‘Stop Watching Us’ video — plenty of Nixon, zero Obama

NIxon

Hollywood is upset about the NSA spying scandal first exposed by Edward Snowden. It’s livid. In fact, it is so angry that it thinks Richard Nixon is still the president.

Maggie Gyllenhall, Oliver Stone, John Cusack and Will Wheaton all lend a hand to ‘Stop Watching Us’, which is hilariously edited together without a single photo of President Obama making the cut.

Someone should tell “Wesley Crusher” that it’s hard to take his group’s concern over NSA surveillance  seriously when President Obama (the guy who has a “Terror Tuesday” kill list) is missing in action.

Instead of including a shot of Diane Feinstein, the woman who defended NSA spying revelations on the grounds that innocent Americans might become terrorists “in the future,” we get Richard Nixon.

Instead of seeing an image of President Obama — the guy who came up with the amazingly Orwellian-sounding ‘Disposition Matrix’ — we get Richard Nixon.

Instead of getting pictures of White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, whose job is to spin, spin, spin NSA scandals away on a daily basis … we get Richard Nixon.

Classic.

Watch the video and have a good laugh. The only other option would be to cry.

Nixon Stop Watching Us Hollywood

Oh hey, there’s Nixon again.

Nixon Stop Watching Us

And there he is again. Weird. It’s almost like it’s 1970 instead of 2013.

John Cusack Stop Watching Us

Apparently, John Cusack hasn’t been reading his New York Times, or he’d know that Richard Nixon isn’t the president and hasn’t been for a long time.

Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive branch will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it. That is one reason we have long argued that the Patriot Act, enacted in the heat of fear after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by members of Congress who mostly had not even read it, was reckless in its assignment of unnecessary and overbroad surveillance powers. …

A senior administration official quoted in The Times online Thursday afternoon about the Verizon order offered the lame observation that the information does not include the name of any caller, as though there would be the slightest difficulty in matching numbers to names. …

The defense of this practice offered by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who as chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee is supposed to be preventing this sort of overreaching, was absurd. She said on Thursday that the authorities need this information in case someone might become a terrorist in the future.

Poor John. He wants so terribly to be taken seriously, but his ideological world view is so sacrosanct that he can’t bring himself to take part in a project that brings President Obama to task in any meaningful way. Maybe a few more years of scandals will bring him around.

Edward Snowden: The media’s 2012 election failure bears fruit

Snowden paper

Edward Snowden, depending on who you are, is either a “patriot” or a “traitor.” Until this point I have refrained from commenting on the man because sometimes it is best to take a step back and let the dust settle before charging forward. Now that it has, one thing is clear: The media made the 2012 election about the “war on women” and gay rights in between rounds of cudgeling Mitt Romney (justifiably, to an extent) for his “47 percent” line. Days were filled with on-air jokes about “Big Bird” and other immature sideshows, all the while the NSA was expanding its surveillance on millions of innocent Americans.

Did any serious journalist put pressure on President Obama in the run up to the 2012 election over his expanded drone program, the National Defense Authorization Act, or his “Terror Tuesday” kill list (also called the “Disposition Matrix”)? While the ultimate blame for failure rests squarely at Romney’s feet (the man’s plan for winning over Hispanics was to essentially tell them he hoped they’d all self deport), one can not deny that the mainstream media bent over backwards to keep Mr. Obama’s Bush-on-steroids approach to certain aspects of national security under wraps.

Imagine what the 2012 presidential debates would have looked like if Bob Schieffer and Candy Crowley read magazines like Wired and then asked the candidates substantive questions on national security:

In May 2010, a little more than a year after President Obama took office and only weeks before Stuxnet became public, a new organization to exercise American rule over the increasingly militarized Internet became operational: the US Cyber Command. Keith Alexander, newly promoted to four-star general, was put in charge of it. The forces under his command were now truly formidable—his untold thousands of NSA spies, as well as 14,000 incoming Cyber Command personnel, including Navy, Army, and Air Force troops. Helping Alexander organize and dominate this new arena would be his fellow plebes from West Point’s class of 1974: David Petraeus, the CIA director; and Martin Dempsey, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. …

What’s good for Alexander is good for the fortunes of the cyber-industrial complex, a burgeoning sector made up of many of the same defense contractors who grew rich supplying the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. With those conflicts now mostly in the rearview mirror, they are looking to Alexander as a kind of savior. After all, the U.S. spends about $30 billion annually on cybersecurity goods and services.

That’s a lot of money and a lot of power concentrated in one place. Is it necessary?

In May, Alexander discovered that four months earlier someone, or some group or nation, had secretly hacked into a restricted US government database known as the National Inventory of Dams. Maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers, it lists the vulnerabilities for the nation’s dams, including an estimate of the number of people who might be killed should one of them fail. Meanwhile, the 2013 “Report Card for America’s Infrastructure” gave the US a D on its maintenance of dams. There are 13,991 dams in the US that are classified as high-hazard, the report said. A high-hazard dam is defined as one whose failure would cause loss of life. “That’s our concern about what’s coming in cyberspace—a destructive element. It is a question of time,” Alexander said in a talk to a group involved in information operations and cyberwarfare, noting that estimates put the time frame of an attack within two to five years. He made his comments in September 2011.

That still doesn’t answer the question, but it does provide an important lesson: any cyber assault the U.S. government can dish out on its own people is also generally possessed by its enemies. And that includes “zero day exploits” being used against us:

According to news reports, [defense contractors are] developing ways to break into Internet-connected devices through chinks in their antivirus armor. Like safecrackers listening to the click of tumblers through a stethoscope, the “vulnerability researchers” use an extensive array of digital tools to search for hidden weaknesses in commonly used programs and systems, such as Windows and Internet Explorer. And since no one else has ever discovered these unseen cracks, the manufacturers have never developed patches for them.

Thus, in the parlance of the trade, these vulnerabilities are known as “zero-day exploits,” because it has been zero days since they have been uncovered and fixed. They are the Achilles’ heel of the security business, says a former senior intelligence official involved with cyberwarfare. Those seeking to break into networks and computers are willing to pay millions of dollars to obtain them.

Scary stuff, huh? It’s a shame that multiple news cycles were spent talking about the doomsday scenario predicted by women like Sandra Fluke, who gained a prime time slot at the Democratic National Convention because a radio host called her a slut. But why assume the nation would want to discuss the buying and selling of “zero day exploits” when there are Big Bird jokes to crack?

Is Edward Snowden a hero or a traitor? Is Moe Lane of Red State on to something?

[Other countries are spying on] us and that is how the game is played, and I didn’t ask for a twenty-something arrested-development anti-American man-child to arrogantly decide that American national security was less important than his frankly puerile transnational fantasy ideology. In fact, I would like the American government to go collect said man-child, and try him for espionage, please.

I would say Mr. Lane makes a rather astute observation: Edward Snowden could have held a press conference with Ron Paul and Rand Paul, Bernie Sanders and a wide range of pundits from across the political spectrum. He would have been hailed as a hero. From there he would accept the consequences, and if that involved a perp walk (imagine the fallout for the Obama administration for making such a move), so be it.

Instead, he went to China. And then to Russia. And now … who knows.

All we do know is that Edward Snowden is talking to people who do not care about the well being of Americans and who certainly do not care about the well being of individuals within their own countries. Snowden has sullied his own reputation by hiding behind thug regimes of the highest order.

In 2016, should Hillary Clinton become the Democratic nominee, history will repeat itself. The media will not want to talk about national security because a.) a female candidate is the perfect excuse to return to the “war on women” mantra and b.) talking about dead American bodies in Benghazi makes it hard to assume the mantle of Greatest … Secretary … of … State … Ever. “For-Eva Eva. Eva. Eva. Eva. Eva. Eva. Eva?” When this happens, remember Edward Snowden and demand more. The fate of the nation depends on it.