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For many Americans, probably most, it came as no shock that Uncle Sam spys on his citizens 24/7.
We’ve been writing about the constant surveillance for a long time here at Capitol Hill Blue. Intrusion into the lives of ordinary citizens became the order of the day under the despotic leadership of the Federal Bureau of Investigation by J. Edgar Hoover.
It got worse under Presidents like Richard Nixon when keeping an enemies list became standard operating procedure for those in power.
But spying became even more prominent after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and passage of the rights-robbing USA Patriot Act, the single largest assault on the Constitution ever foisted on America by Congress.
The Patriot Act came into being as new data collection procedures also became available. In secrecy, the Pentagon put together the Total Information Awareness (TIA) program, a data-collection system that allowed the government real time access to the financial, communication and travel records of every American.
Congress tried more than once to shut down TIA, but the Pentagon — with the full backing and approval of the administration of George W. Bush — moved the program into its secret “black bag” program where it doesn’t have to answer to anyone, not even Congress or the Supreme Court.
Developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the system hooked into banking, travel and communications systems to download information on every financial transaction, any use of phones or email or Social Networking and travel reservations, plane trips, rail excursions, hotel stays or similar information.
Suppose you decide to take a trip by car and start out the journey with the purchase of gas at your local gas station. When you swipe the credit card at the pump, that purchase goes not only to the credit card company but also to the DARPA data computer operating in a normal looking building on Fairfax Drive in Arlington, Virginia.
That system now feeds into the National Security Agency, which has the power to open investigative files on any American it thinks is suspicious.
When you stop for gas again on your trip and use your credit card, the information goes to DARPA and the computer compares the first purchase to the new one and starts mapping the route of your travel. Hotel stays, charges at restaurants and other info build a detailed profile of where you went and when.
If the route matches a so-called “suspicious” profile, the trip becomes a “file of interest” to the FBI. Congratulations. The trip to visit family in another state just labeled you a terrorism suspect.
How do we know about TIA? For 23 years, my wife and I lived in a high-rise condo across the street from that innocuous building on Fairfax Drive. We would see the employees of the so-called “secret” agency in local delis, wearing their name badges with “DARPA” on the strap. After 9/11, the building was guarded night and day by Arlington County police cars sitting in front of the structure.
We got to know some of those who worked there. Some of them talked.
It became the worst kept secret in the neighborhood and now the secrecy in DARPA, TIA, NSA and the invasion of American lives by the federal government is another secret that is out in the open.
Will anything be done? Probably not. As Americans, we now know that we are spied upon for sure but we also realize that we have little control over the government that controls our lives and there really isn’t a damn thing we can do about it.
Or is there?
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