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The United States government is spying on the American people.
A shadowy organization known as the National Security Agency has been given authority by the Bush/Obama administrations, Congress and the Courts to potentially track, collect and read every email and listen to every phone call you've ever made.
You and I have no knowledge of when they're eavesdropping and no legal recourse.
"It is an incredibly invasive system of surveillance worldwide that has zero checks of any kind," says Guardian newspaper journalist Glenn Greenwald who broke the story. The government's objective, he says, is nothing less than "destroying all remnant of privacy."
The U.S. government is also using the IRS, FBI and other agencies to harass diverse groups - ranging from the Tea Party on the right to the Occupy Movement on the left - anyone who expresses legitimate grievances against the government.
It must stop - Now.
Both the Obama and Bush administrations likely carried out these acts of surveillance and harassment in violation of the U.S. Constitution. That they legitimized their deeds via the Patriot Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is no excuse for spying on law abiding Americans.
Who's being spied on? Well, if you have a phone or email account with Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, Google, Microsoft (Hotmail), Facebook, YouTube, AOL, Skype, or Apple, then NSA can access your data for collection, analysis and storage without your knowledge.
"They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type," says the career intelligence officer who courageously leaked the story to the Washington Post and Guardian. The Wall Street Journal reports that NSA even collects credit card transaction data.
The NSA top secret spying program - known as PRISM - has been in full swing since 2007, says the newspapers. Our government admits to these facts, and to constructing a Utah data storage center with enough computer memory to likely hold every word Americans privately share over their entire lives.
No one - no one - can be trusted with such a treasure house of information.
One has to wonder how Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement would have fared under such a system. It is clear that the veil of secrecy cloaking NSA's vast spying operation makes responsible management of surveillance impossible.
It must end - Today. Those who approved spying on the American people need to be held accountable, and criminal investigations need to be conducted. The Patriot Act and FISA should be revoked, and the Department of Homeland Security broken up.
A non-government, non-military bipartisan blue ribbon commission of respected citizens needs to be given full powers to investigate NSA. Illegal spying abuses must be ferreted out and unlimited data collection ended.
Some will say the threat of terrorism is too great to bring spying abuses into the sunlight. I suggest that those arguing for greater secrecy look at the all-seeing surveillance networks of Russia under Stalin and Putin, Germany under Hitler, and Iraq under Saddam Hussein, to see the greater risk of unlimited secret police powers.
There is no place in a democracy for carte blanche spying on a nation's people.
I suggest that the investigation of our spy network start with the higher ups, with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who arrogantly declared that: "The unauthorized disclosure of information about [the PRISM spying] program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans."
Let us see how Mr. Clapper responds when every email he has written and phone call he has made since 2007 is subpoenaed for public scrutiny.
Likewise with anyone in the Bush or Obama White House, Congress, or the Courts who played a role in this abuse of power.
In the days after 9/11, Americans, seeing terrorist enemies on every airline flight and under every bush, allowed Congress to pass the Patriot Act and to create the Department of Homeland Security. We did not give permission for NSA's unlimited spying powers.
If you don't think this is scary, consider your next email or phone call. NSA may be listening and storing every word. Does that make you feel safe?
President Obama dismisses federal invasions of privacy as a minor "inconvenience" However, there is no greater threat to democracy than mass secret surveillance of citizens.
It must stop - Now. And if it means that legislators and Supreme Court justices and even presidents go to jail - if that is what it takes to make Americans safe from the prying eyes and ears of secret surveillance by our own government - then let the heads of state roll.
Blue Ridge Press Senior Editor Glenn Scherer lives in Vermont. ©2013 Blue Ridge Press.
Published: June 20, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 10