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Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Baton Rouge, Louisiana


In the past week, the Washington establishment is in crisis mode over a series of revelations of government intrusions that would seem to go way over the line of what is constitutionally legal.  First, the Internal Revenue Service admitted it had targeted Tea Party groups for priority audits.  Then came another bombshell disclosure. The Justice Department had secretly seized and monitored phone records from the Associated Press, which is a direct threat to a news organization’s constitutional right to gather and report the news.

Is this a new chapter in the country moving toward a “Brave New World?”Â  Hardly.  This type of undermining of one’s constitutional rights has been going on for years.  The press turned its back on gross attacks on our individual freedoms as the Patriot Act “legalized” a litany of personal and private invasions that our constitution was intended to prevent.

The difference is that now, the abuse is hitting close to home.  “The audacity of invading the freedoms of the press and political groups like the Tea Party!” many cry out. But where were the voices of such concern during a whole rash of such individual privacy invasions during the Bush and, now, the Obama Administration?  Both Democrats and Republicans, who now express outrage, stood by and allowed the Patriot Act to sweep individual protections under the rug.

 In an interview with CNN this past week, former FBI counter terrorism agent Tim Clemente said that the FBI could listen to phone conversations between anybody they wanted.  “Welcome to America,” he said. “All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not.”

The Guardian’s columnist Glenn Greenwald took it a step further by concluding that all digital communications are recorded and stored by the government, saying: “This revelation on CNN, that every single telephone call made by and among Americans is recorded and stored is something which most people undoubtedly do not know, even if a small group of people who focus on surveillance issues believe it to be true.”Â  Now I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but this is a damning indictment of Big Brother at its worst, illegally invading the privacy of every American.

But is the daily illegal monitoring of the phone calls made by millions of Americans a startling revelation that has just been revealed?  Members of congress apparently think so as many are calling for special prosecutors to investigate.  But have these same outraged voices been stuck in a cave over the past few years?  In 2010, The Washington Post made the startling revelation that:  “Every day, collection systems of the national security agency intercepts and stores one 1.7 billion emails, phone calls and other types of communications.”

All these unconstitutional invasions of private individuals add up.  Former National Security Agency official William Binney, who resigned in protest recently over the widespread spying by his former agency on the communications of US citizens, said that the federal government “has assembled on the order of 20 trillion transactions about US citizens with other US citizens, and that the data that is being assembled is about everybody. And from that data, then they can target anyone they want.”

Is the Obama Administration’s use of the IRS for political purposes unique?  Hardly. In his book, A Law Unto Itself: the IRS and Abuse of Power, author David Burnham describes how presidents going all the way back to Herbert Hoover have misused the Internal Revenue Service for personal vendettas.  Franklin Roosevelt used the IRS to go after a former Senator in my state, Huey Long.  John Kennedy authorized IRS investigations into the John Birch Society. And who can forget Richard Nixon’s “enemies list?”Â Here’s the bottom line. Political organizations like the Tea Party, and media outlets like the Associated Press, have become outraged as they have become targeted by an out-of-control Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service. But when the average individual receives similar mistreatment, as we have witnessed time and time again over the past 12 years, virtually nothing is said about it. The Patriot Act floated through Congress with only a few protests. Then the abuse began.

So when your congressman or senator starts calling for special prosecutors to investigate the abuses by the Justice Department and the IRS, ask them why they did not stand up in defense of each American citizen and demand protection from invasion of those enumerated individual rights found in the Constitution?  We are all glad these members of congress are jumping to the defense of the Tea Party and the Associated Press. But what about all of us little guys?

For good reason, there are calls of a tyrannical federal government that intimidates its citizens and puts a chill over freedom of speech.  But all this undermining of basic freedoms did not just begin recently.  Unfortunately, it is part of the darker side of American history.  When the Patriot Act was passed into law back in 2001, the intimidation and spying increased ten fold.  And these very members of congress, who are protesting so loudly now, stood by silently and did nothing.

If this Washington crowd wants to see the real threat to American democracy, they should just take a long, hard look into the mirror.  It was Pogo who said it best.  “We have seen the enemy, and the enemy is us.”


 Get up, stand up, Stand up for your rights. Get up, stand up, Don’t give up the fight.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Bob Marley

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownla.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownla.com.

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