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.
Great job, nobledreamer: thanks very much for posting and for adding your extensive thoughts/reactions.
In case people could not find the link to the article, it’s here:
I just wrote to Jack Carney, the author of the article to thank him. I also tried to briefly (and poorly) explain our situation and suggested he might like to look into it and write another article describing the crazed witch-hunt the “Great Democracy” is pursuing. Since the mainstream media is completely missing the boat, maybe if someone who can write well is able to grasp and express at least some of the issues, and tie it to the mental health implications and enormous suffering of innocent, law-abiding people, it will raise awareness of the issue and eventually, I would hope, some brave journalist in the mainstream might pick it up. Probably not going to happen, but one can always hope.
Just watched a fantastic documentary on called “Chasing Madoff.” The extent of the cover-ups the SEC was involved with for at least 10 years, is mind-boggling. Amazing how corrupt the U.S. has become and how there seems to be no way to — and no interest in — trying to stop and reverse the trend.
The film doesn’t get a great rating on IMDB, but it is an eye-opening, jaw-dropping documentary, nonetheless. Extremely well done and riveting.
There’s a note at the end of Chasing Madoff: “Over 300 firms have been identified for aiding and abetting Madoff. Less than a dozen arrests have been made.”
Yet another example of how people in power are allowed to get away with all sorts of outrageous criminal behaviour, while people just trying to get by are brutalized and exploited. Perhaps we’re witnessing the contemporary version of the fall of the Roman Empire.
Actually the spying ( and manipulating of news agencies) began with Lincoln’s Sec. Of War. During the Civil War he asked for, and was granted, the rerouting of all telegraph lines through his office. He monitored all communication and the press this way. Surveillance has occurred on and off ever since with the last decade ramping up considerably thanks to tech advances.
Have a look at the Economist Artice about secret government and the comments.
@Bob, in my view, the demorepublican dictatorship is leading America towards eventual self-destruction and it doesn’t seem as if most Americans are willing or able to prevent such.
What a great quotation from Debs.
@Swisspinoy I just finished reading William Pfaff’s book, The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America’s foreign policy. Really good read. He writes
“My argument from the beginning of this essay has been that the United States is reenacting in war and politics a classic progression in humanity’s collective as well as individual destiny in which the successive stages have consisted in the acquisition of great power – the increasing abuses of power that characterized the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and the eight years of the Bush administration, and thus far of its aftermath, with a subordination of ethical values to the ideology of national triumphalism.”
How does it end? He sees three possibilities for the future: a “soft’ landing with the US quietly retreating, a “hard’ ending with public failure of one or more of its policies, or a catastrophic ending, “in which a maddened American elite would show an ungrateful world why all those nuclear weapons had been saved.”
Please note that he does not consider other more “successful” possibilities to be realistic.
Wow, thanks, qm!
Here’s the link to the Economist article:
That is one excellent article (Economist)! Very scary, but how can you dispute it?
Jack Carney wrote back to me. I think he might be interested. At least, he seems to want to learn more about the situation.
Can anyone suggest a good summary of the situation? Any time I start talking about it, there are so many threads/aspects to the insanity that it just seems impossible to quickly get someone up to speed. But we need to be able to do this. It’s not reasonable to expect someone who’s not directly affected to spend months scouring thousands of articles just to try to get a basic sense of what’s involved and whether they might be interested in learning more and tackling the beast in some form.
We can use all the help we can get trying to publicize our plight and combat the mainstream media indifference, so I would really appreciate some concise suggestions, here. And time is of the essence, I think.
@Bob, in your summary to Jack Carney, please don’t forget to mention immigrants to America as well.
Their situation is similar to Americans Abroad from a compliance prospective – at least similar to Americans living abroad who don’t want to renounce.
– they can’t vote
– they want to become compliant without risking bankrupcy
– Americans don’t necessary like immigrants, especially with the bill being proposed granting path to citizenship to undocumented ones.
– they’re caught in the same foreign account mess
– they’re black mailed into OVDI, some lawyers threatening deportation threats if they don’t do it and are caught.
This article By Amy Feldman summarizes the experience of one of them:
The perils of overseas tax disclosure: An immigrant’s story
And as she concludes:
“Yet with some 39 million immigrants in the United States, compared with 5 million to 6 million Americans living abroad, Winfield’s story may signal a bigger problem at home.”
And there’s a number of pleas from them in the Open Forum Comments to Congress and IRS created by Jack Townsend:
Well, no one had any suggestions for a nice concise list of articles that would give someone an easy entry into the subject, so this is what I came up with on short notice. If anyone thinks of a better (shorter) collection please let me know.
Not sure why no one else seems to think this is a good idea (trying to find some non-traditional journalists who might be interested in getting the issues out to more people, and highlighting the unfairness and harm). Oh well, I tried.
For a very brief video overview of US vs. rest of world tax systems, you could watch this (it’s less than 3 minutes):
Here are some articles, blog posts and sites that might be used as a bit of an introduction to the topic:
FATCA Forum Videos
Especially worth watching are these:
Summary video (edited excerpts): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHtV4xRywf4
Professor Allison Christians: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R__KgHq0vRE
CCLA’s Abby Deshman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ij2I9dHWuUE
James Jatras: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehOrZSPS-14
Peter Dunn: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a04byPzXOA0
Sorry not to have responded but have not been able to get to the computer at all today (actually, yesterday). I would find it very difficult to decide what to suggest to someone completely new to the subject (and I would expect many other Brockers would as well). I don’t think it’s a matter of anyone thinking it’s not a good idea to respond to Jack Carney. If you have already sent him the list above, he probably has more than enough to become acquainted with our situation.
No need to apologize, nobledreamer. As you say, maybe what I sent is good enough. I just wish there was a more compact/efficient way to “initiate” someone.
In another email, I also suggested these two pieces:
Abby Deshman on October 10 “Democracy Now”, expresses her concern for the increase in governmental suppression of peaceful political dissent worldwide. At around 26:00: