Social Repression and Internet Surveillance: H. Res. 1695, 1955 & S.1959
By Nikki Alexander
01/04/08 “ICH” — – Perhaps a clear and simple law is needed that states: “Congress shall pass no law abridging the freedom of speech. Speech includes ‘the broad and constant streams of information’ freely exchanged on the Internet.” Does the Internet need to be singled out? Or is this self-evident in the First Amendment to the Constitution? “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Clearly, Jane Harman (D-CA) who sponsored H.Res.1955 does not respect the Constitution. Nor does her partner, Dave Reichert (R-WA), who authored the original bill, H.Res.1695. Both bills seriously violate the most precious amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) are preparing to follow suit with a Senate companion bill, S.1959. Did any of the 404 members of the House of Representatives who voted for the passage of this bill understand that they violated our Constitutional rights, once again? The “immanent threat” charade seems to nullify their capacity for critical thinking and erase their memory of the Constitution, as well as their oath to defend it. How many Senators will succumb to terrorist fear tactics and betray the American people?
Among the Powers granted to the Federal Government by the People of the United States which one authorizes Congress to investigate the so-called “belief systems” of private citizens? Which Power granted by the People endows Congress with authority to investigate the motivations and clairvoyantly predict the intentions of private citizens? Which Power granted by the People authorizes Government surveillance and censorship of the Internet? Which Power granted by the People authorizes the Government to data mine the personal records of US citizens, subjectively filter the personal beliefs of Americans and categorize them for acceptability or to infiltrate local communities and eradicate ‘unacceptable’ beliefs? Which Power authorizes the Federal Government to gather intelligence on American citizens for use by Federal, State and local law enforcement? What is the Constitutional authority for Frau Harman’s storm troopers to terrorize the public through “vertical information sharing from the Intelligence Community to the local level and from local sources to State and Federal agencies”?
Is this Congress aware of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution? “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Is this Congress unclear about its Constitutional boundaries? Which rights are reserved to the People? The Ninth Amendment to the Constitution states: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the People.” The Tenth Amendment states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the People.” In other words, the People retain all rights not specifically granted to the Government. The rights to think freely, to exchange information, to choose values and beliefs and to freely associate with others are reserved to the People.
If current employees of the Federal Government are not happy with the laws that govern this country and would prefer to live under totalitarian regimes they are free to exit and live elsewhere. They are not free to pervert our laws to conform with their own personal belief systems and ideologically based values. In fact, they have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution as a prerequisite for holding public office.
This bill establishes a National Commission and Center of so-called “Excellence” to censor and crush social concerns which are subjectively perceived to be “threats” by RAND spokesmen, who supplied the content for this bill. RAND coined the folksy epithets “homegrown terrorism,” “violent radicalization” and “ideologically based violence” to invalidate expressions of social conscience that conflict with corporate interests. RAND does not propose restraints on corporate abuse or explore US policy corrections that acknowledge the validity of these concerns. Rather, it characterizes individuals who care deeply about international human rights, national sovereignty and ecological protection as “homegrown terrorists” who have been “violently radicalized” by “extremist belief systems.” This bill quotes RAND ideology verbatim.
The People of the United States did not elect RAND Corporation or its emissaries on Capitol Hill to rewrite the laws of our nation “to advance political and social change” that serves the special interests of selected individuals. Our Constitution was carefully crafted to protect citizens from precisely this type of despotism. Regardless of emotional pretexts which appeal to fear, it is not the Constitutional prerogative of Congress to investigate, evaluate, censor or suppress the personal beliefs of United States citizens.
The Internet, which is a public channel of communication, is being systematically strangled by surveillance devices that police the flow of information; filtering web servers, search engines, web sites, email content and keystrokes. Specifically, the information-sharing networks of citizens whose concerns are inconsistent with global corporate objectives are being censored, blacklisted and suffocated. In direct violation of our Constitution, channels of communication which are protected by the First Amendment are under surveillance by the National Security Agency. The Open Net Initiative reports, “With respect to online surveillance, the United States may be among the most aggressive states in the world in terms of listening to online conversations.”
This bill is a direct assault on Internet privacy and freedom of speech. Packaged as a pretext for “preventing terrorism”, the authors of this bill claim that, “The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens.” Even if this gibberish were true, it would not legitimize Government censorship. There is no Constitutional authority for Government supervision of information freely chosen by American citizens. This assault on the First Amendment is a transparent attempt to police the Internet by slandering the personal values of citizens and denouncing their activities, a practice well underway in Britain where Internet Service Providers are required to install software with secret “offender” lists that block out blacklisted websites.
China’s 60,000 strong Internet police force uses western surveillance technology to repress its citizens. There are currently 64 Chinese citizens in prison for signing online petitions. The Open Net Initiative reports that “Australia maintains some of the most restrictive Internet policies of any Western nation. Britain has been criticized for leading a ‘Web takedown’ culture where Internet Service Providers immediately remove content that is allegedly defamatory for fear of facing law suits.” Comcast, the second largest US Internet Service Provider is forging TCP RST packets with faked return addresses that disrupt file sharing among its customers, using equipment sold by the Canadian company, Sandvine. These are the exemplary democratic models of “lessons learned by foreign nations” that this bill declares the United States “can benefit from”; citing Canada, Australia and the UK.
The Baltimore Sun reported In November that George Bush requested $154 million in preliminary funding to “prevent cyberspace attacks”, which current and former government officials say is expected to become a seven-year, multibillion-dollar program to “track threats” in cyberspace on both government and private networks. A lawless administration which is notorious for covert surveillance and conjuring up fictitious threats of immanent danger can hardly be trusted to identify genuine threats or use this revenue in the public interest. Nor would an incoming administration be able to alleviate these unconstitutional invasions of our privacy. These Government crimes would be permanently institutionalized through the National Security Agency CAEIAE program, the Center of so-called “Excellence” designated by this bill. There is nothing excellent about unlawful surveillance and social repression by storm troopers.
What Harman describes as “vertical information sharing from the Intelligence Community to the local level and from local sources to State and Federal agencies” is equivalent to The Third Reich’s Ministry for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda which terrorized German citizens from Party Headquarters through a chain of command that reached all the way down into local communities. With modern telecommunications technology this terror campaign of “intelligence sharing” will persecute citizens in the privacy of their homes, monitoring their online conversations and reporting dissidents to the Gestapo. Lawmakers who voted for this malicious operation have forgotten that pogroms always begin by targeting a contrived enemy and expand exponentially to terrorize the whole society. We have laws for a reason.
Inventing a special “Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Officer” embedded in this unlawful operation to create rules for handling the Constitutional rights of US citizens should raise a red flag for lawmakers. Those procedures have been on the books for two hundred and thirty years. All civil servants in every branch of Government are required to uphold the Constitution and follow the rules established by the Bill of Rights. Assigning one individual to tailor those rules to an illegal Cointelpro operation is an indication of deep antisocial contempt for the Constitutional rights of all citizens protected by our system of law.
Masquerading as an “academic” assembly, the political appointees to this Commission will have “relevant expertise” in Information Technology, Juvenile Justice, Corrections, Counterterrorism, Intelligence and Local Law Enforcement. All members of the group will be endowed with sweeping investigative powers and unlimited access to classified files in all branches of government ~ A McCarthy Inquisition with a mandate to hold hearings, administer oaths, take testimony and propose “initiatives to intercede” in the so-called “radicalization process,” a RAND euphemism for crushing social dissent. This mandate to subjectively define and eradicate “unacceptable” social values and beliefs is a gross violation of our Constitution and Bill of Rights. The operation neatly sidesteps peer review systems and strict academic privacy safeguards for data collection that would be imposed on genuine academic scholars and conveniently bypasses the process of competitive bids for taxpayer-funded recommendations deemed “necessary” by this coterie of political insiders. If this assemblage of political appointees had wholesome objectives it would not have been released from congressional oversight and public transparency secured by The Federal Advisory Committee Act. The bill requires only that the Commission produce a public “version” of its findings before disbanding, permitting secret versions to permanently remain at the Center of so-called “Excellence” as a catalyst for Government abuse by Federal, State and local law enforcement agents trained to believe that their targets deserve persecution.
The Waco Texas massacre is a perfect example of citizens being assaulted without provocation by Government agents who ‘believed’ they were targeting “radicals”. The men, women and children who were poisoned and set on fire by Federal agents had not committed any crime, nor were their religious beliefs posing any threat to the community. Yet these Government agents tormented their victims for 51 days, violently destroying their homes and gassing 76 American citizens including 21 children. This bill would authorize exactly this type of ideological profiling perpetrated by self-righteous bigots under Color of Authority whose personal values direct them to commit acts of ‘ideologically based violence.’
RAND spokesman, Brian Jenkins whose personal ideology is fully incorporated into this bill said to Jane Harman’s Committee: “Unless a way of intervening in the radicalization process can be found, we are condemned to stepping on cockroaches one at a time.” This statement perfectly expresses the deep contempt for Constitutional law that pervades this legislation. Is there any doubt that exterminating people would come easily to someone who views his victims as cockroaches? This particular characterization of human beings is the precise terminology that was used by Nazis to justify exterminating Jews.
If members of Congress were the intended victims of this malicious legislation they would instantly comprehend why the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Make no exceptions to the rule of law. Violating the Constitutional rights of any group or individual jeopardizes the security of our whole society.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all Beings are created equal, that they are endowed by Creation with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness; that to secure these Rights governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed ~ that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Government long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind is more disposed to suffer than to right itself by abolishing the forms to which it is accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” ~ The Declaration of Independence, 1776.
Nikki Alexander is a freelance writer and fine art painter living in southern California.