The Makings of a Police State-Part III

National Security Letters: In Peril or Deep Trouble?

When even one American - who has done nothing wrong, is forced by fear to shut his mind and close his mouth then all Americans are in peril- - Harry Truman

I don’t know what you think of our ex President Harry Truman; as with all our presidents he too came with a mixed bag of good and bad. For our discussion here it really doesn’t matter where we stand on Truman. On the other hand, the quote provides an excellent starting point for my Part III of the Makings of a Police State: National Security Letters. I wish we could bring President Truman back to life and ask him the following question:

Mr. President, if forcing only one American to shut his mind and close his mouth means that all Americans are in peril, what happens when thousands of good American citizens are forced to shut their mouths?

I wonder what his answer would be. Perhaps something like ‘…then all Americans are in real deep trouble!’ Or, ‘…then we are all doomed!’ Or maybe, ‘…then all Americans deserve it for not rising up and grabbing our pitchforks!’

If you think I am talking in riddles and hypotheticals, you are dead wrong, and can be thankful to our media for keeping you in the dark. Here is a documented statement on the state of our liberties when it comes to the government forcing us to shut our mouth when we see and witness evil & wrongdoing:

A federal appeals court may have slapped the Federal Bureau of Investigation last year for its misuse of gag orders to prevent discussion of government investigations conducted under the authority of National Security Letters, but that hasn't slowed the feds very much. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, despite a court's finding that such gag orders are constitutionally suspect and should be subject to judicial review, the FBI continues to muzzle recipients of the controversial letters, preventing them from participating in public debate over the Patriot Act and the security state.

National Security Letters are powerful tools that allow federal agents to obtain information about investigation targets from third parties, such as telephone companies, financial institutions, Internet service providers, and consumer credit agencies on their own say-so, without judicial review. Some 47,000 such letters were issued in 2005 alone, according to the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General (PDF). The letters don't receive much public discussion, probably because many of the recipients are also issued gag orders, forbidding them to discuss the experience.

Okay, let me preempt you before you rush and make wrong assumptions about who the recipients of these government gag orders are, before you start envisioning the stereotyped boogie-looking-men in shalvars with long flea-infested curly dark beards:

Unable to speak out about their experiences as the subjects of National Security Letters, recipients of such letters, including businesspeople and librarians, can only stand on the sidelines while the discussion is conducted in theoretical terms.

That’s right! We are talking about good ole ordinary American citizens like librarians, small business owners, and in some cases healthcare providers. Also, the 47,000 number mentioned above is only for the year 2005. In a report published by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee an Inspector General Report delivered to Congress found that there were 143,074 NS Letters requested in two years, between 2003 and 2005. And here is another fire-raising fact from the same report:

From the 143,074 NSLs requested, there was only 1 confirmed terrorism-related conviction.

That’s right. And each NSL may demand tens of thousands of records containing private information on Americans. So please do the math by multiplying 143, 074 with let’s say 1000 to be safe, and let it sink in. Now put that number next to the ‘1’ terrorism case they had, and try to come up with a single sane reason or justification for our government going after, demanding, obtaining and then keeping these records.

Okay, back to what our President Truman considered ‘being in peril.’ Let’s get a bit up close and personal with one of the thousands of NSL recipients. This one happens to be extraordinarily brave since we have his name. Thousands of other recipients are prohibited, or intimidated into think they are, from disclosing their identity - thanks to the Gag Provision imbedded in this unconstitutional police tool called NSL, handed to our federal police by our Congress. Let’s get a bit acquainted with the brave NSL and gag order recipient, a librarian named Peter Chase, through an article published by the Baltimore Sun:

“In 2005, Mr. Chase, the director of the Plainville, Conn., public library and then-vice president of a consortium of 26 Connecticut libraries, received an FBI demand for library patron records via a National Security Letter authorized under the Patriot Act. The FBI also imposed a gag order prohibiting him from speaking to anyone about the demand - including Congress, when the Patriot Act was up for reauthorization in 2005.

Now, thanks to the American Civil Liberties Union, Mr. Chase has finally won the legal battle and has torn the Bush administration's tape from his mouth. So he's speaking out, and this is what he has to say: "The government was telling Congress that it didn't use the Patriot Act against libraries and that no one's rights had been violated. I felt that I just could not be part of this fraud being foisted on our nation."”

Here is what I find the most disheartening, alarming, and simply frightening point in the above story: Peter Chase is one of only three brave Americans who have actually challenged the gag order imbedded in NSLs. Meaning what? Meaning of over 200,000 people who have received these unconstitutional police letters and the accompanying gag orders, ONLY 3 have found the courage, conviction, and real patriotism to stand up and challenge this assault on their constitutional rights and those of the entire nation. If this doesn’t rattle us Americans, the inhabitants of the land of the free, then may we deserve this and the highly probable worse to come.

Less than two months after the September 11 terrorist attack, while driven by panic and hysteria, our elected representatives rushed to enact the PATRIOT ACT, which was speedily, and conveniently, drafted by the Executive Branch. This unconstitutional set of laws handed our federal police and intelligence agencies unprecedented power to secretly and arbitrarily spy into Americans’ lives without any justification, any evidence of wrongdoing, or any oversight whatsoever.

Here are a few highlights on National Security Letters (NSL):

A National Security Letter (NSL) is a letter request for information from a third party that is issued by the FBI or by other government agencies with authority to conduct national security investigations. Government agency issues the request for information without prior judicial approval. Obtaining NSL requires no probable cause or judicial oversight. They also contain a gag order preventing the recipient of the letter from disclosing that the letter was ever issued. The non-disclosure rules have helped prevent the full extent of the NSL program from becoming known, as the FBI has systematically underreported to Congress the number of letters sent. Unlike other subpoenas and warrants, no approval from the Judicial Branch is required to issue an NSL. An NSL may be issued by "the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or his designee in a position not lower than Deputy Assistant Director at Bureau headquarters or a Special Agent in Charge in a Bureau field office designated by the Director” with no checks and balances in place until after the NSL has been delivered.

An internal FBI audit found that the bureau violated the rules more than 1000 times in an audit of 10% of its national investigations between 2002 and 2007. According to the September 9, 2007 New York Times report on the FBI's use of NSLs to obtain broader information for data mining purposes, "In many cases, the target of a national security letter whose records are being sought is not necessarily the actual subject of a terrorism investigation and may not be suspected at all. Under the USA PATRIOT Act, the F.B.I. must assert only that the records gathered through the letter are considered relevant to a terrorism investigation." (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/09/washington/09fbi.html?_r=1 )

In April, 2008, the American Civil Liberties Union alleged that the military was using the FBI to skirt legal restrictions on domestic surveillance to obtain private records of Americans' Internet service providers, financial institutions and telephone companies. The ACLU based its allegation on a review of more than 1,000 documents turned over to it by the Defense Department in response to a suit the rights group filed in 2007 for documents related to national security letters.

The fear factor and the accompanying hysteria were the initial ingredients leading to the enactment of these laws befitting dictatorships and police states. The Bush-Cheney Administration’s war-mongering and absolute power-externally and internally, doctrine, kept the Patriot Act alive and in full implementation. The media fulfilled its significant role in promoting the fear-mongering which was, and is, the necessary ingredient in hushing the critics and hooraying the architects and implementers of the Patriot Act. Then came the President of Changes, and here is what he’s been doing to not only keep these unconstitutional police powers alive, but actually bolster them even further:

Last month, in a letter from the Justice Department to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Obama administration went on record supporting the extension of key provisions of the USA Patriot Act, including the provision that gives the government the power to subpoena library records of any individual. The sections that our president is so keen to keep alive and take even further; allow roving wire taps on multiple phones, access to business records, and a never-used provision to conduct surveillance of a non-U.S. citizen who may not be part of a recognized terrorist group.

This same president, while an Illinois State Senator, considered the PATRIOT Act shoddy and dangerous and pledged to replace it. Well, as with all his promises of ‘change,’ he has done a hundred eighty degree change on this one, and been advocating for the continuation and expansion of this draconian police-state tool. You can read my brief piece on President Obama’s PATRIOT ACT Advocacy here.

While the federal police and intelligence agencies snoop on ordinary Americans and slap them with gag orders (forced by fear to shut their mouths), the public outrage appears to be in very short supply. Well, when you think of it, if of the known 200,000 + recipients only 3 refuse to shut their mouth, what would be a reasonable expectancy for hundreds of millions of Americans who don’t think these police-state practices affect their lives whatsoever?

How in the world did we get here? With hundreds of thousands of Americans being forced to shut their eyes, minds, and mouths, are we all in peril? In real big trouble? Doomed? And if you are like me and answer ‘yes,’ where is the outrage translated into action? Are we still sitting and waiting for a lobby and interest driven Congress to act in our behalf? Do we hope to see a President’s changes on his promised changes do yet another 180 degree change and change this? Or have we given up all hope and chosen to sit on the sidelines with our mouths shut waiting to be totally doomed?

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Comments

  1. Sibel – This will sound "easy," but I think that a huge part of the problem is that we're very much politically divided in this country. (Historically, political division always deepens when economic inequality widens, and we've never been more unequal than what we are today.)

    If I had to place myself on a political continuum, I'd locate myself pretty far to the left. But I'm not somebody who lets others off the hook for wearing the same jersey as I do. What I have noticed, though, particularly among Republicans and conservatives in my own family, is that there is absolutely ZERO outrage re: the Patriot Act. One would think that with a Democratic President, these folks would change their position from zero outrage to being outraged that a Dem. President is using these powers. Nope. In fact, I often get shouted down for bringing up the Patriot Act, loss of liberties, and surveillance generally. I don't know if it's because the program began under Bush or not. All that I know is that all of the people I know who are centrists or right-of-center are very much cool with being spied on. Those on the left that I know are still pissed off about it, and view the Dem. leadership as a bunch of traitors. Obama was excused by many for flip-flopping during the Presidential campaign on the Patriot Act. Everyone thought that he had to do it in order to be seen as a candidate who took national security seriously. The thought was that if he maintained his anti-Patriot Act stance, it would be politically suicidal at that point in the campaign–that Americans whose heads had been filled to the brim with propaganda re: "keeping America safe" would see him as weak on nat'l security if he positioned himself against the Patriot Act. The truth, of course, is not only are our freedoms and liberties being trampled by having this apparatus aimed at us, but it makes us exceedingly less safe b/c it necessarily means that our spy agencies are wasting valuable time and resources by focusing on us.

  2. I try to keep up on this thru as many reputable sources as possible. And now (for whatever reasons)I'm seeing a lot of frustration in these.

    So I'll try really hard to not list things that you've already heard a million times.

    Just after these NSL's became law I called my mutual fund companies to find out how this could potentially affect me. In each case I literally went from the first level customer service people up to senior management. And every time it was shocking how little (or nothing) they knew about this.

    I politely pointed out the obvious. Since you're a well-known firm with a wide range of clients, isn't in your best interest (good company pr and keeping your job?) to know as much about this as possible?

    All I got was corporate talking points, we're too busy, how the hell am I supposed to do that with my current work load, etc? For a second I was tempted to just pull my accounts and go elsewhere. Now though (for various reasons) that's not an option.

    Now, since millions of us obviously care about this, how come there's no action? Part of it (IMO) is everybody for themselves. At first there might be a united front which can be effective (done in the right way). But I've lived in Europe and Asia. I've traveled quite a bit. And in all of these places, I've seen the same thing. When push comes to shove, people will do and say anything to survive. Add to that the curent govt. hyping we must protect the homeland. We must kill all the terrorists. Anything to manipulate fear to justify their wars, programs and jobs.

    Why won't millions act? Fear and laziness. My life sucks in many ways. But at least I'm not homeless. I still have my job. So I'll keep my mouth shut and go along. Out of sight and out of mind.

    Has Obama overturned any of Bush II's Exectuive Orders? Not I know of. The Patriot Act is still in place. Obama says we'll wait on sending further troops to Afghanistan until there's a "stable partner." Translation: Our puppet Kharzai is messing up. But we have no one else to put in his place. So we'll spin this however we have to for as long as we have to to justify our presence. We must not lose face.

    Not sure what else to say right now. So time to go to work. So I don't end up homeless again.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I would be very interested to see just a simple listing of all of the personal information to which the Patriot Act gives the government access. As far as libraries go, as long as I can read what I want without being penalized…that is all I really care about. I don't care who knows what I read. And chances are, no one in the universe cares what I read…unless they are doing some kind of a statistical study…then all they would really care about is some faceless, nameless demographic…or maybe they are working on more ways to manipulate the public and need to mine data to sharpen their skills. The grocery store, and who knows how many other merchants, already sell my name and shopping preferences to various markets. Who knows what the government is really doing with all this information they seem to think they are entitled to collect. They are not going to tell us because they don't want to give away all their secrets. I don't like that, but on the other hand, there are some pretty devilish people running around out there and I would not like to see them get violent or destructive.

    Medical records and finances are another story though. I do expect those things to remain private. Obviously, so do most people judging from the recent uproar about the healthcare legislation.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Yet another well written passionate piece by Ms. Edmonds who is my hero and inspiration.

    JB

  5. Fables And Other Realities



    Fascism: The convergence of corporate and government power.

    I read a news report today that said Russia is now seeking to emulate China as an authoritarian capitalist state. It seems Fascism is the coming wave for all governments. Is the use of NSLs anything other than our own government's latest tactic to also emulate China? All this is to me is another example of Total Information Awareness by another name. As Shakespeare wrote:

    A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

    Now consider my perspective. I HAVE worked on nuclear weapons. I HAVE been to places like Iran, Morocco and Pakistan. I HAVE worked in the belly of the telecommunications beast. I HAVE a left-wing/progressive/socialist mindset. Is it any wonder I have been unemployed for three years?

    The key thing to note about our new, futuristic police state is that all of this information being gathered on all of us will NOT be compartmentalized within government. It WILL be shared with corporate security regimes. Ultimately it will be ONE large database on all of us and used by the national security/corporate/police state to identify and neutralize any perceived threat to it's hegemony and control. It's Cheney's 1% doctrine used against all of us. Only worldwide fascism aka the Corporate Totalitarian State will provide the Ruling elites with the information power to maintain their privelege. As John Trudell says above:

    In wars for souls, Profits are in casualties.

    Here's another of his vids from 2003 entitled "The Futuristic Police State"



  6. I screwed up the links. Here they are again.

    Fables And Other Realities

    The Futuristic Police State

    I'm still figuring this HTML stuff out so bear with me.

  7. Sibel, look: an espionage arrest!

  8. Kingfisher says:

    The latest piece from Jim Bamford in the NY Review of Books.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Sibel, this is a classic example of psyops/police state 101. I am surprised it took this long. http://cryptogon.com/?p=11760

  10. Hi Sibel, here's a link to a new article in "The Nation" by Julian Sanchez. It doesn't mention you by name, but it defends some of your issues.
    http://www.thenation.com/doc/20091102/sanchez

    Best,
    yvonnejayne

  11. Greg Bacon says:

    The PATRIOT Act wasn't the work of the Bush-Cheney Junta alone, the framework had been drawn up during Clinton's term in office after the OKC bombing, but the Congress wouldn't go along with it's draconian measures.

    They needed a galvanizing event, like say another Pearl Harbor type incident to shove that down out throats.

    Which came on 9/11.

  12. Bill Bergman says:

    Yet, we do retain many outlets, only waiting for the willing.

  13. On another note, I'd be interested in Sibel and Mizgen's take on this guy:

    International Arms Trafficker Viktor Bout May Be Released

  14. Anonymous says:

    Anon the Neocon:

    In as much as the NSL business lacks oversight, it's constitutionality bears questioning.

    But the following statement reveals an ignorance of the way the process proceeds: "over 200,000 people who have received these unconstitutional police letters and the accompanying gag orders"

    In penning the Making of the Prison state Mrs. Edmond's is playing the shill of the ACLU.

    Further proof that besides the lack of common sense by the authorities in gagging Mrs. Edmonds, there is a paranoiac ideology underlying most of what Mrs. Edmond's has to share with us.

    5% is fact, 95% is distorted ideology.

  15. Sibel, I will put the link up, but in Bloomberg yesterday, a large hedge fund purchased a 9.5% stake in Corrections Corp of America.
    Here is what William Ackman said about the purchase.
    "You've got a real estate company, in our opinion, with the government as a tenant. It's going to do well in any economic environment, as long as people commit crimes(or even maybe, keep passing more laws) and as long as we punish them". He further states, "The is one of the best real estate businesses in the world. The biggest risk to Corrections Corp. is that people stop committing crimes, and I think that's a low probability event.".
    Geez, Mr. Ackman, so it's easy to say that if there was a funeral company that specializes in burying soldiers, then there would be a low probability that war would stop either.
    This makes me sick
    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=a96APKKcMHgQ

  16. Sibel Edmonds says:

    Just Out:

    Military.Com Cover Story
    Perle, Feith, Grossman & Espionage.

    Kudos to the site: they were able to get statements from these slime balls!!

    http://military.com

  17. Kingfisher says:

    "Further proof that besides the lack of common sense by the authorities in gagging Mrs. Edmonds, there is a paranoiac ideology underlying most of what Mrs. Edmond's has to share with us."

    Paranoiac ideology? Says Anon the Neocon; the same guy who a few weeks ago called Sibel a Chekist. Neoconservative ideology is rooted in Russophobia that borders on the delusional; a paranoiac ideology if there ever was one.

    Paranoiac ideology. I bet you thought Saddam was in league with al-Qaeda too.

    Are you seriously going to continue to come here and whine, after proving your shameful lack of testicular fortitude by failing to call Sibel’s bluff? *

    * ”Call[ing] Sibel’s bluff”: Those who continue to contend that Sibel is a fabricator or a fraud can prove it by pushing for the Government to look into the files (the casefile #’s will be provided) and publicly make the case that she is full of bs.

  18. Sibel

    Excellent post!

    Love "Light" and Energy

    _Don

    http://www.theominousparallels.blogspot.com

  19. Sibel, just read the story at Military.com. In the comments section someone offered their opinion that, given that you graduated from a 'left' university all your allegations are motivated by a desire to take revenge on Bush for what happened to Gore in the 2000 election. I'm glad somebody's finally got you figured out.

    Anyway here's an interesting article: Pentagon used psychological operation on US public, documents show

  20. Anonymous says:
  21. Edit_Mommies says:

    Explicit, concrete information is very easily passed, through indirect means.

    Weaker people are still responsibly affective in substitution for:

    1. pharmaceuticals

    2. confident swim apparel and

    3. that arousing smell of dog shit on your way to get the morning paper.

    Should we hold the Justice Department accountable for reproducing a sufficient number of offspring to carry out this necessary litigation? As an American citizen I want 20 Gold Rings for the all the unrecognized Pagan holidays on which I may possibly impregnate a member of the Justice Department. I also would like to change my last name to Bridge-Troll.

  22. greatdogs says:

    The good folks over at history commons have some background on the librarians who were dubbed the 'Connecticut Four'. To get to it just type 'Patriot Act' in the search box over at history commons.

    Sibel, thanks again for all you do, and I couldn't help but notice Mr Feith could only muster a personal attack on you rather than challenge your story.

  23. greatdogs says:

    Crrection: Perle, not Feith. Can't tell one crook from the other without a program!

  24. Anonymous says:

    Sibel is featured briefly in this video, from approximately 6:23 to 6:50. The video is a good entry in Charlie Sheen's $14000 contest for people to make videos of "20 Minutes with the President".

    http://www.prisonplanet.com/charlie-sheen-contest-20-minutes-with-the-president-adaptation.html#

    Regards,
    "Tom Joad"

  25. Anonymous says:

    I was surprised to see this in Google News, they're not usually so forthcoming: http://www.lvrj.com/news/oath-keepers-pledges-to-prevent-dictatorship-in-united-states-64690232.html?numComments=2109

    yvonnejayne

  26. Anonymous says:

    @yvonnejayne Sorry to bring bad news, but it is better than pretending nothing bad is happening.
    "By refusing the latter order, the Oath Keepers hope to prevent cities from becoming "giant concentration camps," a scenario the 44-year-old Rhodes says he can envision happening in the coming years." The reason this is important needs to be understood by following the link to football stadiums. In Oregon, OSU, and U of O, built new stadiums with lockdown capability funded in part by the Department of Homeland Security. Yes, it is true, when Americans wake up, it is going to be bad.

    Simon

  27. Anonymous says:

    To Simon: Thank you. Just to clarify my previous post, I was expressing surprise that Google News gave any space to the story about the Oath Keepers, because Google News seems to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the MSM in refusing to cover Sibel's revelations. Like you, I see it as positive that they ran the story. Sorry I didn't make that clear. Thanks for the info on the stadiums. I choked on my coffee, reading that. I and surely many other people had no idea. Better to know.

    yvonnejayne

  28. Anonymous says:

    Sibel, Again, it is every American's responsibility to find and visit EVERY Fusion Center nearest them and get to know and love and pray for all the people entering and exiting it. Love will overcome any Police State and turn it into a Love State. God bless you and God bless America and her GD (Godly Designed) Document. Sincerely ShaJ AKA Shalom Jaye

  29. Daniel Edd Bland III says:

    Want to wake America up to the truth regarding 9/11? Here’s how…….

    http://blandyland.com/?p=388

    Please leave a comment voicing your support for this idea. It is a very small price to pay considering everything that has happened in our world based on the tragic events of that fateful September morning.

    Thanks,

    Daniel Edd Bland III
    http://www.BlandyLand.com

  30. Testing: This was my last post at 123realchange. Cookies must be enabled, and I had to register. It works!

    @Anonymous Thank you. That helps put the pieces together. In 1990 Sarkozy was hired to work at the American investment bank Dillon, Read, & Co. and left three years later to join First Boston Corporation, where he held several senior posts. If you follow Catherine Austin Fitts, she worked at Dillon, Read, & Co during the period: My company served as lead financial advisor to the Federal Housing Administration between 1994 and 1997. I watched both the Administration and the Federal Reserve aggressively implement the policies that engineered the housing bubble.

    Simon

  31. It’s horrifying that the USA in now populated by people who just cannot THINK anymore! People seem to really believe that since they are “totally innocent,” they have “nothing to hide,” so being stalked all the time by the PTB is just fine. (Foolish thinking for sure: Wait till your ill-chosen spouse tells the cops you bashed them, gets a restraining order that forces you out of the house, and steals all your silverware — You are now an official menace to society, and that information will pop up on every cop’s computer.) VERY interesting that it was mentioned above that these thoughtless people tend to be “conservative!”

    Here’s the reality: INFO-INEQUITY! — A society with inordinate info-inequity suffers a dire form of tyranny. It ends up being a divided society, divided roughly into two classes: those who watch but cannot be watched — and those who are watched but cannot watch. For example, in my state it is illegal to make a tape recording with a concealed recorder — if you are not an “official.” If an “official” abuses their authority and causes you harm, and you surreptitiously record that event, you can be arrested if you try to use your recording as evidence! On the other hand, any “official” can secretly record anything you say or do, and it can be published or used as evidence anytime.

    Do these “conservatives” who favor info-inequity think they will become the watchers, rather than the watchees? They may be in for a rude surprise. A free and democratic society cannot bear the cost of info-inequity and excessive secrecy.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

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