Tuesday, August 03, 2010

An American Stasi?

The surveillance state

The "Stasi" was the former Communist East German Secret Service, notorious for spying on its own citizens

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reported on July 25 that “there are 72 fusion centers around the nation, analyzing and disseminating data and information of all kinds. That is one for every state and others for large urban cities.”

What is a fusion center? The answer depends on your perspective. If you work for the Department of Homeland Security, it is a federal, state, local, or regional data-coordination units, designed to improve the sharing of anti-terrorism and anti-crime data in order to make America safer.

If you are privacy or civil-rights advocate, it is part of a powerful new domestic surveillance infrastructure that combines data from both the public and private sectors to track innocent people and so makes Americans less safe from their own government. In that respect, the fusion center is reminiscent of the East German stasi, which used tens of thousands of state police and hundreds of thousands of informers to monitor an estimated one-third of the population.

The history of fusion centers provides insight into which answer is correct. Fusion centers began in 2003 under the administration of George W. Bush as a joint project between the departments of Justice and Homeland Security. The purpose (pdf) is to coordinate federal and local law enforcement by using the “800,000 plus law enforcement officers across the country” whose intimate awareness of their own communities makes them “best placed to function as the ‘eyes and ears’ of an extended national security community.” The fusion centers are hubs for the coordination. By April 2008 there were 58.

The growth has continued under the Obama administration. Indeed, Obama has also continued Bush’s concealment of domestic intelligence activity by threatening to veto legislation that authorizes broader congressional oversight or review of intelligence agencies by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). As a result of that threat, the GAO provision was removed from the Intelligence Authorization Act.

Due to secrecy, it is difficult to describe a typical fusion center. But if the Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center is typical, this is what one looks like.
Indiana’s center has essentially become an arm of Indiana law enforcement…. It has 31 full-time staffers and two part-time employees. Some … are state employees. Others are assigned to the center from other agencies, such as the FBI, Transportation Security Administration, and Marion County Sheriff’s Department. They are joined by workers from the Department of Correction, the Indiana National Guard, the Indiana State Police, the Department of Natural Resources and local campus police…. There are also private sector analysts on contract. Previously those analysts were from EG&G Technical Services of California. The most recent contract with EG&G called for payment of $1.1 million….

Fusion centers invite reports from public employees such as firemen, ambulance drivers, and sanitation workers as well as from the private sector such as hospitals and neighborhood watch groups. They often operate tip hotlines; this means a “suspect’s” name could be submitted by a disgruntled employee, a hostile neighbor, or an ex-spouse who seeks child custody.

What or who is targeted by this sweeping coordination of data? To get an idea, let’s look at the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) program, which the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence said “should be a national model.” In June 2008 the departments of Justice and Homeland Security recommended expansion of the LAPD program to other cities.

In April 2008 the Wall Street Journal reported on a new LAPD policy that compelled officers to report “suspicious behaviors” to the local fusion center. LAPD Special Order #11, dated March 5, 2008, defined a list of 65 suspicious behaviors, including using binoculars, taking pictures or video footage “with no apparent esthetic value,” abandoning a vehicle, taking notes, and espousing extremist views. Local police were converted into domestic surveillance agents.

Voices of caution were present from the inception of fusion centers. Former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr stated: "Using the resources of federal and state law enforcement to encourage the citizenry to submit to the government information on the political, social and even religious views of other people, is in itself outrageous. For the government to then data-base that information, disseminate it widely, and clearly imply that views with which it may disagree provides an appropriate basis on which to surveil citizens and collect information on them, is beyond the pale. It is also a poor and inefficient use of police resources."

Political Abuse

Violation of privacy rights, excessive secrecy, lack of congressional oversight, the inevitability of inaccurate and noncorrectable information, the lack of due process for the accused, the encouragement of racial/religious profiling, the creation of a “snitch” nation, the merging of the military with the private sector, the political abuse of dissidents – the objections scroll on. Specific abuses scroll on as well....

Only Aberrations?

Clearly, the elaborate infrastructure of fusion centers has spied on peaceful citizens. Those who believe the abuses are aberrations, rather than an inherent or intended function, may argue that increased transparency will bring accountability and solve the problem. But that belief is naive. At least four reasons indicate that a lack of transparency and accountability are built into the system — the absence of real congressional oversight being number one.

Second, the ACLU and others have filed numerous Freedom of Information Act requests. They have had to fight tooth-and-nail for any scrap of information.

Third, as the ACLU (pdf) notes, “[T]here appears to be an effort by the federal government to coerce states into exempting their fusion centers from state open government laws. For those living in Virginia, it’s already too late; the Virginia General Assembly passed a law in April 2008 exempting the state’s fusion center from the Freedom of Information Act.

According to comments by the commander of the Virginia State Police Criminal Intelligence Division and the administrative head of the center, the federal government pressured Virginia into passing the law…. [T]here is a real danger fusion centers will become a ‘one-way mirror’ in which citizens are subject to ever-greater scrutiny by the authorities, even while the authorities are increasingly protected from scrutiny by the public.”

A massive database on peaceful citizens, a tip hotline that encourages turning in of neighbors, the casting of suspicion on daily activities, enlisting private workers as national surveillance agents — this is a police state in the making. And if its creation is invisible to most people, well, that is another characteristic of a police state. You are not a believer until it knocks on your door … in the middle of the night.



The Left Hates Conservatives

Dennis Prager

Perhaps the most telling of the recent revelations of the liberal/left Journolist, a list consisting of about 400 major liberal/left journalists, is the depth of their hatred of conservatives. That they would consult with one another in order to protect candidate and then President Obama and in order to hurt Republicans is unfortunate and ugly. But what is jolting is the hatred of conservatives, as exemplified by the e-mail from an NPR reporter expressing her wish to personally see Rush Limbaugh die a painful death -- and the apparent absence of any objection from the other liberal journalists.

Every one of us on the right has seen this hatred. I am not referring to leftist bloggers or to anonymous extreme comments by angry leftists on conservative blogs -- such things exist on the right as well -- but to mainstream elite liberal journalists. There is simply nothing analogous among elite conservative journalists. Yes, nearly all conservatives believe that the left is leading America to ruin. But while there is plenty of conservative anger over this fact, there is little or nothing on the right to match the left's hatred of conservative individuals. Would mainstream conservative journalists e-mail one another wishes to be present while Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi or Michael Moore dies slowly and painfully of a heart attack?

From Karl Marx to today, the Left has always hated people on the Right, not merely differed or been angry with them. The question is: why? Here are three possible answers.

First, the left thinks the right is evil.

Granting for exceptions that all generalizations allow for, conservatives believe that those on the left are wrong, while those on the left believe that those on the right are bad, not merely wrong. Examples are innumerable. For example, Howard Dean, the former head of the Democratic Party said, "In contradistinction to the Republicans ... (Democrats) don't believe kids ought to go to bed hungry at night."

Or take Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., who, among many similar comments, said, "I want to say a few words about what it means to be a Democrat. It's very simple: We have a conscience."

Has any spokesman of the Republican Party ever said anything analogous about Democrats not caring about the suffering of children or not having a conscience?

Second, when you don't confront real evil, you hate those who do.

You can see this on almost any school playground. The kid who confronts the school bully is often resented more than the bully. Whether out of guilt over their own cowardice or fear that the one who confronted the bully would provoke the bully to lash out more, those who refuse to confront the bully often resent the one who does. During the 1980s, the left expressed far more hatred of Ronald Reagan than of Soviet Communist dictator Leonid Brezhnev. And, when Reagan labeled the Soviet Union an "evil empire," the liberal world was enraged ... at Reagan.

Those (usually on the left) who refused to confront communism hated those (usually on the right) who did. They called the latter "war mongers," "cold warriors," charged them with having "missile envy" and with loving war.

Today, the left has similar contempt for those who take a hard line on Islamic terror. The liberal and leftist media routinely place quote marks around the words War on Terror. To the left, such a war is manufactured by rightists for nefarious reasons (oil, self-enrichment, imperialism, etc.). Indeed, the Obama administration has actually forbidden use of the term "Islamic terror." America is at war with a nameless enemy. The real enemies the Democratic administration is prepared to name are the Republican Party, tea parties, Fox News and talk radio.

Third, the left's utopian vision is prevented only by the right.

From its inception, leftism has been a secular utopian religion. As Ted Kennedy, famously quoting his brother Robert F. Kennedy, said, "Some (people) see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say why not?" That exemplifies leftwing idealism -- imagining a utopian future. There will be no poor, no war, no conflict, no inequality. That future is only a few more government programs away from reality. And who stands in the way of such perfection? Conservatives. How could a utopian not hate a conservative?

To put in another way, the famous '60s left-wing motto "Make love, not war" embodies the problem as the left sees it: The left makes love in the world and the right makes war in the world. How could you not hate the right? The right, with its beliefs in a strong military; in individuals, not the state; taking care of themselves, their families and their neighbors; and in punishing criminals, is the anti-Love, a figure as reviled on the left as the antichrist is to Christians.

This hatred will only increase if the left feels its programs to greatly increase the size of the government are in any way threatened in the forthcoming elections. The problem is that this hatred does not decrease even when the left is in power.

Hatred of conservatives is so much part of the left that the day the left stops hating conservatives will mark the beginning of the end of the left as we know it.




I thought I might mention again for anybody who missed it last time round that my EYE ON BRITAIN blog is also a blog about socialized medicine in action. I lead off the blog every day with a story about some new horror of British government medicine. That the horror stories crop up DAILY probably tells you all by itself how bad the system is. Some days -- e.g. yesterday -- there are actually TWO such horror stories on the blog -- JR

The Ruling Elite called: "I just got off the horn with the Ruling Elite. We had an emergency conference call and to tell you the truth, they ain’t happy. You little people are not responding the way you are supposed to. A significant portion of you are not getting more optimistic because they tell you to. Instead of just reading the headline on Bloomberg that durable goods orders skyrocketed in June, you actually read the details that said durable goods orders plunged. It is getting difficult for the ruling elite to keep the masses sedated and dumbed down. These damn bloggers, with their facts and critical thinking, are throwing a wrench into the gears. Obama and his crack team are working round the clock to lock down the internet, but it will take time. Not that they are totally dissatisfied. They’ve been able to renovate their penthouses and purchase new mansions in the Hamptons with the billions in bonuses you supplied through TARP. The $1.2 trillion supplied by your children and grandchildren to buy up toxic mortgages off their balances sheets was a godsend. They will never call you suckers, to your face.”

What to expect from New York’s “workplace bullying” law: "Almost anyone who has been employed most likely has been bullied, and maybe some of us have bullied underlings (or even bosses) — though we never would admit it. Bullying is an unfortunate fact of life so, naturally, Progressives believe they can legislate it out of existence in order to form their More Perfect World. Not surprisingly, Progressive New York State is leading the way with a proposed workplace anti-bullying law, and 16 other states are pushing forward with similar legislation.”

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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