I received a request today to create a post from a link and three comments sent by a fellow Brocker. We met at the June 15 meeting here in Toronto and since the meeting, he has commented here on the blog as Bob. It is very nice to actually be able to match another name with a face here at IBS! Below is what he found interesting:
I think this article speaks for itself regarding U.S. treatment of its citizens, especially those who are most vulnerable or “easy prey.” I’ll quote three passages, just to highlight why I think it’s relevant for us.
“This article seeks to help readers make the connection between the public and secret behaviors of the U.S. government as it continues to oppress those individuals within its reach that occupy a politically marginalized status…”
“…If your government espouses freedom for all but abuses citizens of its own as well other countries, its pronouncements are pure propaganda. Your principal task then becomes to resolve that contradiction and, as best you can, align your personal with your public or political behavior. In the U.S. of A., that concern from the ‘70’s has come full circle…”
“…As always, particularly in these troubling times, don’t mourn, organize. Remember what Eugene Debs told us nearly one hundred years ago while he was in prison for opposing U.S. involvement in World War I:’While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.’ Finally, let me close by amending Jeremy Bentham’s opening aphorism above — ‘Secrecy is but another word for fear… and shame.'”
While I read the article, I was struck by the many parallels created between the situations demonstrated and so many facets of the experiences we have described here on the blog, all at the hands of the (supposedly) greatest democracy in the world. All are linked by fear and control, shame and punishment , confusion and lack of legitimacy, and all result in some form of torture, perhaps in varying degrees, but torture nonetheless. All emphases are mine.
The first interesting aspect of this article is the short description of the history of surveillance of US citizens by the US government. The Federal government has been wiretapping individuals prior to World War II when FDR authorized wiretaps of those suspected to be Nazi sympathizers. The National Security Act appeared in 1952 and after that, it was simply accepted practice to spy on citizens. As Noam Chomsky says, “Governments should not have this capacity. But governments will use whatever technology is available to them to combat their primary enemy – which is their own population.”
Bush, (well really, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the gang), began warrantless interception of Americans’ voice and e-mail transmissions overseas immediately after 9/11. The Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP) referenced Section 215 of the Patriot Act, and was authorized by being signed in into law in October 2001. In contrast to the TSP, PRISM was enabled by the Protect America Act (PAA) of 2007, which placed it under the jurisdiction of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), itself established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978 to prevent a repetition of the warrantless domestic wiretapping conducted by Nixon and his subordinates. When the PAA expired in 2008, Congress rushed to keep PRISM lawful and passed the FISA Amendments ACT in 2008, whose Section 702 authorized warrantless surveillance of domestic voice and internet communications to other countries. I think of TSP vs PRISM as being somewhat like the Bank Secrecy Act/FBAR being under Title 31 and abused by IRS applying aspects of Title 26 penalties and getting away with it.
The practice became even more pervasive with the appearance of PRISM. The irony of this should qualify the US government as having one of the “prohibitors” discussed below; i.e., lacking capacity to manage their own affairs. ( As I am writing this, a commercial for a CNN special on Nixon is airing, “Should the Tapes Have Been Destroyed?” Forty years later, this gross violation of American values is still entrenched in the American psyche). Senator Frank Church chaired committee hearings held prior to the implementation of FISA in 1975-6 after Nixon’s 1974 resignation. According to a recent article in The Guardian by Daniel Ellsberg, Church had this to say about the NSA and similar departments:
“I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency [the NSA] and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.”
This most definitely reminds me of Allison Christians and Abby Deshman (at the Dec 15 FATCA Forum) describing the fact that once personal banking information is reported via FATCA, there is no recourse to having it removed, no way to appeal any mistakes that (almost certainly) will occur. In addition, of course, on the very serious level, the inability to get off the no fly list. The world witnessed the brutal effects that misinformation had on Mehar Arar and the callous disregard the US government displayed toward Canada once the RCMP’s error was exposed.
Ellsberg and the ACLU want Section 215 of the Patriot Act and Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act repealed. Add Senator Rand Paul calling for the repeal of components of FATCA. We all get it. What on earth is lacking in the perception of the majority of the Congress, Treasury, and the IRS?
Guantanamo was opened in 2002 to house suspected terrorists. Guantanamo detainees were “charged with no specific crimes and were denied access to legal counsel.” This effectively put the detainees in no man’s land, without any legal standing. Again, the hypocrisy of this demonstrates clearly the disregard the US government has for the most basic principles it was founded on – fairness and the rule of law. How is it that the government considers itself able to strip a person of all rights, lacking even a legal ability to fight charges? Even more disturbing is the recent response of the government to the huger strikes of many of the inmates – force-feeding. The World Medical Organizations stance is that force-feeding is a form of torture. Doctors treating the inmates there say they are being coerced to violate the Hippocratic Oath; this is completely analogous to the situation of having no choice but to surrender and give consent to one’s banking information to be given to the IRS. These doctors have no choice nor do expats.
President Obama has established a de facto gun control registry through 23 executive orders, which directs States to report more consistently and thoroughly to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). One important objection appeared in HIPAA-protected institutions, which says reporting those who meet NICS criteria for mental health prohibitors would violate the privacy laws protected by HIPAA. These are the “prohibitors:”
• involuntary commitment to a psychiatric hospital
• danger to self or others
• incompetent to stand trial
• not guilty by reason of insanity
• lacking capacity to manage their own affairs
As we all know, the FBI includes expats along with criminals and people with “prohibitors” from obtaining firearms. HIPAA exists in order to keep our personal health information private; closed to others without our expressed and signed consent. It’s other charming aspect is that it also exists as a way to punish those who renounce by being included on the “Name-and-Shame” List. (I will be absoluted delighted to see if my name appears soon, having filed 8854 for 2012). In order to get around this problem, (completely analogous to the farce of IGA’s to get around the privacy laws violated by FATCA) the Privacy Rule would be amended to allow them to report to the NICS database any individual who met one or more of the “prohibitors.” Read: any account with US indicia must be reported. Congress saw no need to change the HIPAA Privacy Rule when it amended the NICS reporting system in 2008. So once again, we have a situation similar to that of Treasury authorizing itself to act in order to tailor the rules in accordance with their own agenda. Never mind that Congress has already spoken. The Bazelon Center for Mental Health cited data in the Federal Register that depicted the great bulk of NICS registry data for all individuals, including that related to the “mental health prohibitors”, as coming from the criminal justice system and the civil courts, which are not HIPAA-covered. Without a doubt, this is an abuse similar to that of expats’ personal financial information being totally exposed via FATCA/IGA.
Another interesting parallel of citizens being slighted by their own government is the refusal of the US to ratify the UN Convention on Rights for Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), even when their objections were included via the Reservations/Understandings/Declarations (RUDs). Should the RUD’s be included,the intention of the Convention to bring US laws into line with the Convention is compromised. One most unfortunate result of this would be the fall of all laws which allow for involuntary hospitalization and of the involuntary administration of psychoactive medications. The refusal to ratify this convention is based on the far right’s fear that any international treaty represents a surrender of sovereignty. Yet they expect nothing less of those they choose to force their laws on. Non-ratification closes the only feasible avenue of hope for disabled persons who cannot renounce their US citizenship, putting them in peril of lifelong slavery to IRS reporting. The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture has declared all involuntary treatment or treatment without informed consent a form of torture.
In last year’s Senate session, despite the RUD’s, the CRPD was defeated and it does not appear on the Committee’s agenda for Congress’s current session. Sound familiar? Congress knows of the unfairness of FATCA/IGA regarding violation of privacy laws (even insisting on the inclusion of non-US spouses’ personal financial information) as well as the obvious 8th amendment violations with the levying of onerous FBAR penalties. They sit there and do absolutely nothing about it. Obvious violations of the Constitution simply don’t move them, doesn’t matter at all. Perhaps the desire of expats to eventually achieve true representation in the Congress would not matter; the fact is, the ideals the country is based upon have disappeared from the horizon and the vast majority of people in the country are absolutely and totally powerless.