By John W. Whitehead
Like clockwork, we’ve ticked back to the annual government shutdown scare. It’s always an entertaining show, with both Republicans and Democrats doing their best to one-up each other with heartbreaking anecdotes about the millions who will suffer in the event of a government shutdown and showy bravado over the need for greater fiscal stewardship, while conveniently failing to rein in two of the biggest drains on our budget—namely, the military and surveillance industrial complexes.
Indeed, the one area not impacted in the least by a government shutdown will be the police/surveillance state and its various militarized agencies, spying programs and personnel. Take a look at the programs and policies that will not be affected by a government shutdown, and you’ll get a clearer sense of the government’s priorities—priorities which have, as I point out in my new book, A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, little to do with serving taxpayers and everything to do with maintaining power and control, while being sold to the public under the guise of national security.
Domestic surveillance. On any given day, whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, is listening in and tracking your behavior. Police have been outfitted with a litany of surveillance gear, from license plate readers and cell phone tracking devices to biometric data recorders. Coupled with the nation’s growing network of real-time surveillance cameras and facial recognition software, soon there really will be nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.
NSA domestic programs. Government shutdown or not, the National Security Agency (NSA), with its $10.8 billion black ops annual budget, will continue to spy on every person in the United States who uses a computer or phone using programs such as PRISM and XKEYSCORE. By cracking the security of all major smartphones, including iPhone, Android, and Blackberry devices, NSA agents harvest such information as contacts, text messages, and location data. And then there are the NSA agents who will continue to use and abuse their surveillance powers for personal means, to spy on girlfriends, lovers and first dates.
Global spying. The NSA’s massive surveillance network will continue to span the globe and target every single person on the planet who uses a phone or a computer. The NSA’s Echelon program intercepts and analyzes virtually every phone call, fax and email message sent anywhere in the world. In addition to carrying out domestic surveillance on peaceful political groups, Echelon has also been a keystone to the government’s attempts at political and corporate espionage.
Roving TSA searches. If there is any absolute maxim by which the federal government seems to operate, it is that the American taxpayer always gets ripped off. Indeed, one of the greatest culprits when it comes to swindling taxpayers has been the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), with its questionable deployment of and complete mismanagement of millions of dollars’ worth of airport full-body, X-ray scanners, punitive patdowns by TSA agents and thefts of travelers’ valuables. Considered essential to national security, TSA programs will continue, not only in airports but at transportation hubs around the country.
Militarized police state. Thanks to federal grant programs, police forces will continue to be transformed from peace officers into heavily armed extensions of the military, complete with jackboots, helmets, shields, batons, pepper-spray, stun guns, assault rifles, body armor, miniature tanks and weaponized drones. Having been given the green light to probe, poke, pinch, taser, search, seize, strip and generally manhandle anyone they see fit in almost any circumstance, all with the general blessing of the courts, America’s law enforcement officials will continue to keep the masses corralled, under control, and treated like suspects and enemies rather than citizens.
Domestic drones. The domestic use of drones will continue unabated. As mandated by Congress, there will be 30,000 drones crisscrossing the skies of America by 2020. These machines will be able to record all activities, using video feeds, heat sensors and radar. A recent Inspector General report revealed that the Dept. of Justice has already spent nearly $4 million on drones domestically, largely for use by the FBI, with grants for another $1.26 million so police departments and nonprofits can acquire their own drones.
Thus, when it comes right down to it, whether or not the shutdown takes place, it will remain business as usual in terms of the government’s unceasing pursuit of greater powers and control. These issues are the backbone of an increasingly aggressive authoritarian government.
So where do we go from here? If public opposition, outright challenges, and a government shutdown don’t stop or even slow down the police state, what’s to be done?
Do what you must to survive. Go to work, take care of your family, pay off your debts. But when you’re not doing those things, which allow you to get by day-to-day, consider the future.
Pay attention to the political structure that is being created in the shadows, the economic system that is chaining us down with debt, and the feudal, fascist society borne out of the marriage of government and big business. Avoid the propaganda mills posing as news sources. Express your outrage, loudly and tirelessly, to the government’s incursions on our freedoms. Yet act locally—taking issue with any and every encroachment on your rights, no matter how minor, whether it’s a ban on goat cheese or installations of red light cameras at intersections and on school buses—because reclaiming our rights from the ground up, starting locally and trickling up, remains our only hope.
Resistance may seem futile, it will be hard, and there will inevitably be a price to pay for resisting the emerging tyranny, but to the extent that you are able, RESIST.
Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about the Institute is available at http://www.rutherford.org.