04:46 GMT +324 February 2017

    Big Brother Rising: US Turns Into Full-Blown 'Surveillance State'

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    The recent revelation that the NSA has plans to share intercepted private communications with other domestic intelligence agencies has caused a massive backlash, with many viewing the shift as “unconstitutional.” Two experts join Radio Sputnik’s Brian Becker to discuss if the policy is just a “giant fishing expedition for law enforcement.”

    A chair is pictured on stage as former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is awarded the Bjornson prize Molde, Norway, in this September 5, 2015 file photo
    © REUTERS/ Svein Ove Ekornesvaag/NTB Scanpix/Files
    The agency’s plan circumvented the US Congress and was revealed in a New York Times report last month. In response, a number of US lawmakers wrote a letter to the NSA director to express their concerns.

    Speaking to Loud & Clear host Brian Becker, Bryan Ford, a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, stresses that the legislative branch should not be left in the dark about any government policies.

    “We shouldn’t be finding out about what’s happening with the NSA form the New York Times,” Declan McCullagh, a technology journalist, adds. “It’s the Authority Oversight Committee. They should be finding it from the NSA itself. There is a failure of Democratic enforcement here.”

    The NSA’s plans to turn over private wiretaps to agencies like the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) or FBI without any warrants marks a major assault on constitutional privacy rights, McCullagh says.

    “It’s a huge transformation of the Fourth Amendment,” he says. “They [intelligence agencies] don’t think when they collect massive amounts of data. They don’t consider this searching [before getting warrants] unless someone goes and looks at it. This is an insane interpretation of what’s actually going on.”

    Ford adds that the “ongoing reduction” of the Fourth Amendment is just another step toward establishing a surveillance state.

    Another instance that proves the trend, he says, is a fierce struggle between the FBI and Apple over the encryption of iPhones. The agency demanded that the tech giant open access to the company’s encrypted phone in order to obtain data on terrorists linked to the San Bernardino shooting.

    “It was the iPhone that allowed the FBI to play the terrorism card as a test case in an attempt to use courts to get what they couldn’t get using Congress,” Ford says, adding that the agency was using an emotionally charged case to gain support from ordinary Americans.

    McCullagh says that the FBI’s attempts to set a precedent with Apple could have opened a Pandora’s Box.

    “The real issue is not the phone, but the fact that once this backdoor process is in place, all the other agencies, including the local agencies, will want to use the same backdoor, depending on the way you look at it.” McCullagh stressed. “Other countries around the world will be demanding from Apple to do the same things. It basically begins the race to the bottom of insecurity for everyone.”

    The FBI faced significant opposition from not only Apple, but the general public as well. According to Ford, many ordinary people were concerned about their own personal information ending up in the hands of law enforcement.

    Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who revealed the extent of the US government’s domestic surveillance apparatus in 2013, opened the eyes of many people to the issues surrounding surveillance.

    “It wasn’t until then, when [Snowden] got every ordinary person to understand what was going on, and what tremendous shift the intelligence community – especially the NSA — had made for its original purpose to surveil foreign targets,” McCullagh says.

    McCullagh explains that the ongoing process in the US has its roots in the Cold War era. After the collapse of the USSR, many American organizations formerly engaged in military affairs began constructing domestic surveillance infrastructure.

    This is why the US is waging a war against whistleblowers including Snowden and Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. Assange has been forced to remain within the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid US extradition.

    “They made a tremendous contribution in terms of revealing some important things to public, such as abuses in the Iraq War, and many other things,” he said. “There’s an important and legitimate debate about the Wikileaks’ method of actually leaking everything. That doesn’t diminish the importance or value of what they did.”


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    Fourth Amendment, constitution, surveillance, House Oversight Committee, Congress, NSA, DEA, Apple, United States, Washington
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    • avatar
      When the surveillers of the surveillers lift the veil of surveillance Big Brother's leaky plumbing is exposed.
    • Ivan Buckeye
      And before we know it, Americans who regular sites like Sputnik will suddenly have legal problems, say, with their taxes or mortgages, you know, things seemingly unconnected. Maybe that's a stretch....
    • Annin reply toIvan Buckeye(Show commentHide comment)
      Ivan Buckeye, That's the thing - most people arrogantly think that the only people the govt can punish are those on the govt dole, like food stamps or other programs... that's not even close to true.

      Anyone who has a pension. is on social security (which they paid into for their entire career), anyone who wants to build a garage or a shed on their property, even getting a library card can be stopped, if the govt decides it.

      Too many people figure this does not affect THEM, because they are not on welfare. It's not just your right to own a gun at stake anymore. The govt can keep you from getting a job, or a promotion, or even from owning and living in your own home. They can take everything from any one of us...any time they want and there is nothing we could do about it.

      Sue them, you say? You wanna live on the street, broke and hungry for YEARS while your case progresses through the court corruption system? Even with a lawyer.

      Anybody got a spare shed they'd like to rent out to a single woman and a cat??? - anywhere but here.
    • avatar
      Go watch fifth element..

      What will happen is insurance companies starts to dig about your health .. Once that gets publicly known that someone felt victim and bad shit happend because the person used a health app..

      Or it gets publicly known some fellow gets ruined by the tax agency because of his wallet app and extra taxing...

      We got this "Swisch" app in Sweden from banks that is used as private person to private person money transaction instead of using cash... Wait till the tax feds asks you why somebody put 1000 dollars on your account, you better save all your expense notes or you'll be charged for fraud.
    • avatar
      Syria Foreverin reply toIvan Buckeye(Show commentHide comment)
      Ivan Buckeye, no, it is not. That is it all about. Total control, or lets say, the people will not just be controlled, what they are anyway, next step is coming. If you don't obey you go to jail, or worse. In the USA a lot of bad things are going on. The US will fall apart and I believe there will be serious civil clashes inert the next 24 month. Take care.
    • Alabama Mothman
      We're heading towards a full blown totalitarian state also.
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