Sound a little ominous? That is only the tip of the ice-burg.
Now come reports that the Government keeps a file of every prescription drug we take. Such “files” are maintained through a 2005 law which, the Government claims, authorizes it to monitor and record all prescription drug use by all citizens via so-called “Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs.” And there is a slew of other under-discussed surveillance programs whereby the U.S. government stores vast data on our private activities: everything from every domestic telephone call we make to “risk assessment” records based on our travel activities.
As many surveillance experts have repeatedly argued, including House Intelligence Committee member Rush Holt, the more secret surveillance powers we vest in the government, the more unsafe we become. Cato’s Julian Sanchez put it this way: “We’ve gotten so used to the ‘privacy/security tradeoff’ that it’s worth reminding ourselves, every now and again, that surrendering privacy does not automatically make us more secure — that systems of surveillance can themselves be a major source of insecurity.”
In sum, the picture that emerges from the Post series is that we have a Secret Government of 854,000 people, so vast and so secret that nobody knows what it does or what it is.
And worst of all, many such acts are illegal - BUT - nothing is ever done to stop it.
Illustrating this is what happened after The New York Times revealed in December, 2005 that the Bush administration had ordered the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on American citizens without the warrants required by law and without any external oversight at all. Despite the fact that the 30-year-old FISA law made every such act of warrantless eavesdropping a felony, “punishable by a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than five years, or both,” and despite the fact that all three federal judges who ruled on the program’s legality concluded that it was illegal, there was no accountability of any kind. The opposite is true: the telecom corporations which enabled and participated in this lawbreaking were immunized by a 2008 law supported by Barack Obama and enacted by the Democratic Congress. And that same Congress twice legalized the bulk of the warrantless eavesdropping powers which The New York Times had exposed: first with the 2007 Protect America Act, and then with the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, which, for good measure, even added new warrantless surveillance authorities.
This Secret Government scares me - not because of what I am doing - but because of one axiom I find always holds true:
All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
- John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, 1st Baron Acton (10 January 1834 – 19 June 1902) - an English historian, commonly known simply as Lord Acton.
Lord Acton also said:
Every thing secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity. (Letter (23 January 1861), published in Lord Acton and his Circle (1906) by Abbot Gasquet, Letter 24)Seems we may need a lesson in History.