America is Not a Location

By Piper Bayard

America is not a location. America is an ideal. It is the dream of a country in which freedom is paramount, and it is secure because the government is the servant of the people.

Because America is an ideal, Americans are not born. Rather, America, itself, must be born anew with each generation. Each generation has the choice of embracing the American ideal of a government that answers to the people, or of rejecting that ideal in favor of a more paternalistic system of government.

 

Actual photo of ideal elected American official at work.

Actual photo of ideal American government at work.

 

When the government spies on us with everything from street corner cameras to warrantless searches of random individuals to collection and analysis of our every electronic transmission and phone communication, we are no longer the masters, and the government is no longer our servant. It is our ruler. It is a parent searching our rooms and opening our mail on the off chance that we might be doing something it doesn’t want us to do. That is exactly what is happening now.

The difference between the government being the servant and the government being the master can be boiled down to one thing:  a warrant.

When an agency such as the NSA, FBI, DHS, etc., is required to obtain a warrant, an official paper trail is created by which the people can force the government to answer for who and how it searches, why it searches, and what it obtains. It is a record by which citizens can hold the government accountable for its actions in a court of law.

Since Edward Snowden dropped his NSA whistleblower bomb, the White House has gone from denying that the U.S. spies on its own citizens to unashamedly stating that it will continue to collect and analyze data on American citizens in the name of “national security.”

 

meme by bizarrojerri.wordpress.com

meme by bizarrojerri.wordpress.com

 

At this point, numerous disturbing facts have become public information:

  • Through various means, our government is collecting and storing every digital transaction American citizens make – every email, every phone communication, every bank transaction, every credit and debit card transaction, every check remittance, and every online health and education record.
  • Our government allows the other Five Eyes countries – Canada, New Zealand, the U.K., Australia – as well as Israel and unnamed others access to this raw data on American citizens.
  • Our government has written agreements with these countries for their unlimited access to our raw data, with only smoke and mirror oversight of what data they collect or how they use it. It is an “honor among eavesdroppers” arrangement.
  • Our government trades information about American citizens and intelligence operations with corporations in exchange for their data on American citizens.
  • When trigger words* like “snow,” “bust,” or “sick” alert one of the countless analysts in both the government and the private sector who are tasked with pawing through this hoarder’s mountain of raw data, they are free to peruse and interpret the threads of our lives at their personal discretion.
  • Everything these analysts do is off the public record. No probable cause. No individual warrant. No accountability.

 

U.S. Government Serving Up Americans to the World

U.S. Government Serving Up Americans to the World

 

The administration rationalizes all of these acts with the all-encompassing buzzwords “national security” and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Originally, FISA was enacted to allow data collection on foreign terrorists. Warrants were based on probable cause, and the judges of the FISA court approved them. These boundaries slipped substantially with the Patriot Act. Now, under the current administration, there are no meaningful boundaries at all, with the FISA court essentially rubberstamping every administrative request* to spy on American citizens that comes their way, issuing blanket orders that are nothing but fishing trips, subjecting Americans to data collection and retention with no probable cause.

One example of a typical FISA-approved blanket order is the Top Secret order to Verizon Wireless signed on April 25, 2013, which was published by The Guardian on June 6, 2013.

This order was requested by the FBI, which in turn receives its orders from the White House. It forces Verizon Wireless to give the NSA information on ALL telephone calls in its system on an “ongoing daily basis.” Telephone calls originating and terminating in foreign countries are specifically excluded—the height of irony considering the original purpose of FISA was solely to collect data on suspect foreigners. For full text of this order, see Verizon Forced to Hand Over Telephone Data–Full Court Ruling Dated April 25, 20143 (below).

At its core, our government has given itself authority and provision to maintain a wiretap on every American and foreigner within U.S. borders.

No probable cause. No discretion. No accountability to the public. Each and every one of us is now assumed guilty until proven innocent. Each and every one of us now answers to the government master that was once our servant, turning the American ideal on its ear.

 

Ideal photo of actual U.S. government at work.

Ideal photo of actual U.S. government at work.

 

Spy on suspected terrorists. Do it unapologetically. Do it inside or outside our borders. But let there be probable cause. Let there be warrants. Let there be public records. Let there be accountability. If we are to remain American, we must not allow the government to exercise such omnipotent power with impunity.

Freedom is the essence of the American ideal. It is about shouldering the responsibility for ourselves, for our safety, and for our governance. It is not about perfect security from cradle to grave. When we abdicate our responsibility for our freedom in favor of comfort and the illusion of safety, we become wards of the state. What were once our rights as responsible adults are now merely our privileges as subjects, granted or withheld by our rulers at their whim and discretion.

We must demand more of our leaders. Freedom can be won, and freedom can be surrendered, but Freedom will never be given back once successfully taken by the ruling class. Unbridled surveillance of American citizens is that taking.

Like nuclear weapons, the surveillance train has left the station. But like nuclear weapons, we have the choice about how we will use that technology. America is at a crossroads. Will our generation shoulder the responsibility for our freedom and set firm boundaries on the actions of our government? Or will we devolve into a location on a map? The choice belongs to each of us.

 

This Means You

This Means You

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Verizon Forced to Hand Over Telephone Data–Full Court Ruling Dated April 25, 2013. The Guardian, June 6, 2013.

NSA Collecting Phone Records of Millions of Verizon Customers Daily, Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian, June 6, 2013.

NSA PRISM Program Taps in to User Data of Apple, Google, and others. Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian, June 6, 2013.

Obama Blasts Media ‘Hype’ Over Secret Program, Calling Them ‘Modest Encroachments on Privacy’. Brett LoGiurato, Business Insider, June 7, 2013.

US, British Intelligence Mining Data from Nine U.S. Internet Companies in Broad Secret Program. Barton Gellman and Lora Poitras, The Washington Post, June 7, 2013.

Here’s the Law the Obama Administration is Using as Legal Justification for Broad Surveillance. Brett LoGiurato, Business Insider, June 7, 2013.

Obama: No One is Listening to Your Calls. Michael Pearson, CNN Politics, June 9, 2013.

Edward Snowden: The Whistleblower Behind the NSA Surveillance Revelations. Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill, and Lora Poitras, The Guardian, June 9, 2013.

US Agencies Said to Swap Data with Thousands of Firms, Michael Riley, Bloomberg, June 14, 2013.

British Spy Agency Taps Cables, Shares with US NSA , Reuters, June 21, 2013. (Info on Five Eyes)

NSA Shares Raw Intelligence Including Americans’ Data with Israel, Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian, September 11, 2013.

NSA and Israeli Intelligence:  Memorandum of Understanding–Full Document, The Guardian, September 11, 2013.

What Makes US-Israeli Intelligence Co-operation ‘Exceptional’?, Matthew Brodsky, The Guardian, September 13, 2013.

Judge Upholds NSA’s Bulk Collection of Data on Calls, Adam Liptak and Michael S. Schmidt, New York Times, December 27, 2013.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court Orders 1979 – 2014, Electronic Privacy Information Center, May 1, 2014.

 

 

 

Why Remembering Matters

By Piper Bayard

America is not a location. America is an ideal. It is the dream of a country where the government answers to the people, and not the other way around.

Because America is an ideal, Americans are not born. Rather, America, itself, is born anew with each generation that embraces the ideal and chooses to take up the mantle of responsibility for its self-governance and its freedoms. For America to exist, each generation must make that choice, and each generation must defend the ideal.

Today, we honor those who have fallen in defense of the American ideal. May each new generation remember these American men and women and honor their sacrifices that they shall not have died in vain. If the day comes when we forget these soldiers, we will have forgotten ourselves and our purpose, and in doing so, we will no longer be Americans.

A most profound thank you to all who serve in our armed forces and clandestine services.

Canstock 2014 Memorial Day Boy saluting flag

1-800-ZAPP-ASS: Sparking Congress into Action

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

Are you feeling abused by your political system? Disgusted with your congressmen and elected officials? Ready to move to Central America to find some semblance of organized government?

Fear not! Bayard & Holmes stand ever prepared to turn your problems into our opportunities. We are proud and excited to bring you our latest ingenious program calculated to lower your stress and increase your happiness. We call it 1-800-ZAPP-ASS. Here’s how it works. . . .

For a meager donation of $1.99, you can dial or text 1-800-ZAPP-ASS and deliver an electric shock to the Political Offender of your choice—congressmen, elected officials (no Executive Privilege applies), or a fervent, annoying, neighborhood political party radical. You can even use this device to zapp some sense into social media ranters, or those college kids still young enough to know everything who come to our doors, clipboard in hand, and tell us how misguided we are in our political views.

Actual photo of Political Offender  hit by 1-800-ZAPP-ASS

Actual photo of Political Offender
hit by 1-800-ZAPP-ASS

All proceeds will be placed in a special fund to assist those affected by the government shutdown, along with the growing numbers of unemployed people and their hungry families who are so desperate for work they are now studying Mandarin or Phillipino in the hopes they will be re-hired for their own outsourced jobs some day.

Sound amazing? But wait! There’s more!

The top 12 most-zapped Political Offenders will win all expense paid vacations to Camp Cheerful Summer Camp for Adults in the beautiful blue Caribbean on the coast of Cuba.

Our highly trained Happiness Specialists will be waiting for your favorite Political Offenders with a very special fun activity designed just for them. We call it Politicalboarding.

With Politicalboarding, the Political Offenders are restrained in a room together where they are subjected to each other’s company. Then, they sit through 72 non-stop, fun-filled hours of Ted Cruz filibustering, only interrupted by diaper changes and electric shocks when their eyelids droop. After that, the Political Offenders will be forced to stand at attention until they have memorized each one of the over 2,500,000 words in the Obamacare statutes and regulations.

No worries! This is nothing like waterboarding. In fact, Political Offenders at Camp Cheerful aren’t even given water.

Once they can recite Obamacare like a Baptist Circuit Preacher quoting the Holy Bible at a tent revival, the Political Offenders will be treated to a sumptuous banquet of gluten-packed, dairy-packed, sugar-loaded, freeze dried, GMO whole wheat bread crust and a draught from the local sacred spring of Baca Podrida (translation “Rotting Cow”).

After their meal, the Political Offenders will be strapped to chairs and turned upside down in a dunking booth. Then, since Baseball is not only our religion but the All-American Sport, major league hopefuls will practice their throws. Just so you know, this isn’t waterboarding, either. It’s Strategic Dunking.

Text, phone, tweet, email, or FaceBook now and contribute your $1.99 to zapp Congress into action. Let’s remind these self-serving bozos who exempt themselves from everything from NSA spying to Obamacare that we have a special interest, too. We call it “America.”

If you would like to suggest anyone to receive a shocking wake up from 1-800-ZAPP-ASS, please feel free to do so below. However, in the interests of delicacy and the fact that social media platforms take years to build and can be destroyed in seconds, please only refer to your Political Offenders by clean and clever code names.

Now, now! No crowding, and no personal attacks on each other in the Comments Section. We’ll leave that sort of unethical, unprofessional behavior to the politicians.

Egypt: The Corner of Theocracy and Democracy

By Jay Holmes

When the people of Egypt ousted President Hosni Mubarak on February 12, 2011, most Western media outlets assumed that the anti-Mubarak protestors were de facto pro-democracy. However, Egyptians are not so cohesive, and they have a complex variety of political factions and goals.

Egyptian Protestors Tahrir Square Nov 2011 Lilian Wagdy wikimedia

Image of Egyptian protestors by Lilian Wagdy, wikimedia commons

The protestors ranged from sophisticated, well-educated individuals seeking representative government to foreign agents acting on behalf of Iran, wanting to establish an Islamic theocracy. The single largest group of these Egyptian activists was, and still is, the Muslim Brotherhood.

After Mubarak departed, the Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), led by Commander-in-Chief Mohamed Tantawi, took control of the Egyptian government. This was a temporary measure until a new government could be formed.

Once in control, the SCAF assured Egypt and the world that it would suspend the emergency laws that had been in effect for four decades. It also said it would conduct fair and open elections, honor all of Egypt’s international agreements, and maintain peace and security. All of these promises were difficult to believe since the Military was involved in violence against the protestors; however, the SCAF appears to have done its best to accomplish these goals.

The SCAF greatly reduced military tribunals against civilians, and on some fronts, it made positive developments in human rights in Egypt. For example, journalists and foreigners are less frequently beaten, arrested, and kidnapped in that country. But members of non-Islamic religions continue to suffer heavy discrimination and live in fear–particularly Coptic Christians, who are frequently murdered by Islamic radicals while the Egyptian government looks the other way.

The SCAF conducted tainted but believable elections for the national parliament and for the presidency. To the dismay of the SCAF, the Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate, Mohamed Morsi, won the presidential election. The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist organizations have grown in political power since that time.

On the international front, Egypt’s relationship with Israel is much worse than it was two years ago, and Egypt has grown closer to Iran. Meanwhile, Egypt’s relationship with the US can be best described as Egypt politely accepting US aid while smiling and ignoring US concerns.

Western media corporations present Morsi as a “reformer” and a moderate. However, based on Morsi’s actions and his selective inactions, it appears he is simply paying lip service to moderation to continue to receive US aid and Western acquiescence to his rule.

Morsi is quick to tell the US and other Western diplomats that he intends to bring more security and human rights to all Egyptians, but he has been slow to take simple actions to back those words up. In fact, last month, on November 22, Morsi abandoned his democratic pretenses and decreed absolute powers for himself.

Since then, Morsi proposed a constitution that is Islamist in its composition and does not ensure equal rights for non-Islamists who would prefer a secular government. If Morsi supports an agenda of national unification for Egypt as he claims, he certainly hides it well. Loopholes in this proposed constitution grant near-dictatorial powers to the Office of the President and appear to make the document close to useless for the practice of government.

Egypt’s previously less organized non-Islamists were inspired to action this week. They took to the streets in the tens of thousands to protest Morsi’s dictatorial decrees and the proposed constitution. Unfortunately for them, though Morsi responded by rescinding his power grabbing decrees, he is going forward with a national referendum to implement the constitution.

The decrees gave power to Morsi, personally. The constitution would give him the same powers through his office as President of Egypt, making the rescinding of the decrees rather hollow.

Many Western media corporations are largely ignoring the referendum and the basic outline of the proposed Egyptian constitution. Still others are representing this as a “do or die” moment for democracy and human rights in Egypt.

I view it a bit differently. My best guess is that, since Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood allies will conduct the election and count the votes, they are not likely to lose at the polls. The referendum to implement the constitution with its excessive powers to the Office of the President will pass by a narrow margin.

While the referendum and the constitution are certainly important, they will not settle the question of whether Morsi will succeed in consolidating an Iranian-style Islamic theocracy in Egypt. For one thing, not all Muslim Brotherhood members are radical. Though the moderate members are now marginalized from power, they do remain alive and present in Egyptian politics.

Since the non-Islamists don’t feel represented by the government and the proposed constitution, they may not acquiesce to the constitution and the new Egyptian government as Morsi and his power brokers assume. Morsi’s and the Muslim Brotherhood’s success in consolidating power for themselves will depend on whether they can force their opponents to obey whatever state they create.

Underneath the referendum for the acceptance of the constitution, there is a deeper, long term game playing out in Egypt. The radical factions of the Muslim Brotherhood likely feel that if they bide their time, their opponents, lacking in any outside help or international interest, will simply exhaust themselves and give up without being able to force any real concessions.

If Morsi really does have the 51% majority that he claims to have, that still leaves over forty-two million angry Egyptians opposed to his rule. For the moment, they still have voices.

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*‘Jay Holmes’, is an intelligence veteran of the Cold War and remains an anonymous member of the intelligence community. His writing partner, Piper Bayard, is the public face of their partnership.

© 2012 Jay Holmes. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact us at the above links to request permission.