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article imageOp-Ed: US becomes surveillance state with no privacy rights

By Ken Hanly     May 21, 2013 in Technology
Washington - The US government, as part the "war on terror," has erected an expensive and extensive surveillance empire, that monitors not just AP reporters but everyone's communications throughout the US and no doubt far beyond.
In 2010 the Washington Post documented the rise of the US surveillance state in a report called "Top Secret America". It should be republished every year to remind Americans of the enormity of what is happening in their country. Almost every few weeks a new scandal emerges about surveillance the latest being the US Department of Justice's spying against the Associated Press apparently in an attempt to find the source of a leak about a failed terror mission in Yemen. However, in the process as CEO, Gary Pruitt, of Associated Press pointed out, the government sought and obtained information far beyond anything that could be justified by an specific investigation. In a letter of protest to Attorney General Eric Holder Pruitt said: "There can be no possible justification for such an over-broad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters. These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the news-gathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP's news-gathering operations and disclose information about AP's activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know."
However, the spying on AP is just the tip of the iceberg. The National Security Agency NSA every day collects and stores 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls, and other communications. Government monitoring includes Twitter, and Facebook. According to an article in the UK Daily Mail: "The US Department of Homeland Security's command center routinely monitors dozens of popular websites, including Facebook, Twitter, Hulu, WikiLeaks and news and gossip sites including the Huffington Post and Drudge Report, according to a government document."
The Department of Homeland Security began its program to monitor social media in 2010. As usual this program was operated in conjunction with a private company General Dynamics. The program searches via keywords some of them seemingly innocuous such as "wave", "pork" or "Mexico". One can imagine what mountains of material these key words yield. However the government has plenty of resources not just to ferret out information but to store and analyze it as well. As the Washington Post report found: "Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on Top Secret programs related to counter-terrorism, homeland security, and intelligence at over 10,000 locations across the country. Over 850,000 Americans have Top Secret clearances. ...In the Washington area alone, 33 building complexes for Top Secret work are under construction or have been built since September 2001."
One of the larger complexes for collecting data is the Utah Data Center. This center is expected to be operational by around September of this year. It will be heavily fortified and cost the US taxpayer about $2 billion at a time when budgets are being slashed and many states face crippling cutbacks to trim budget deficits. Stored at the facility will be huge databases of all forms of communication including emails, mobile phone calls, Google searches, travel itineraries, purchases and on and on.
This data collection program can be used to mine profits by such companies as Raytheon, a company perhaps better known for manufacturing cruise missiles. Not surprisingly, the company finds that there is a market for surveillance software in the surveillance state. The company is developing "Riot" software which can be used to mine an individual's social media usage. This can help track their movements and behavior. You may think that when you post information about your whereabouts or travel plans on the web, this is seen only by your friends but Big Brother is watching as well with the help of your friendly neighbourhood member of the military-industrial complex Raytheon.
A demonstration video is appended below. Just click on "Watch on You Tube" to see the video, as for some reason embedding has been banned. Perhaps they wanted You Tube to remove it too but did not achieve that aim. This is the same company that banned employees from reading Wikileaks cables!
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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