Privacy on Parade

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It looks as if your mouth is agape…close it. Stop holding your breath; relax your dilated pupils, there is no point in going ballistic about the latest government intrusion in our lives.

It is 2013 and you are realizing now that you have given up your privacy? Duh!

Armageddon was yesterday – today we have a serious problem.

Where was your outrage, or the press for that matter, in 2001, when Congress steamrolled over our rights to privacy, and our remaining civil liberties, with the ill-conceived and all-encompassing Patriot Act?  Nowhere. In fact, the public did its part by politely ignoring it.

I was ranting and raving against it at the time; I thought it was an abomination, an irrational hysterical dangerous abuse of power. My Republican friends (the same that are bitching now) called me a “pinko,” or a communist, for questioning Congress and the Bush Administration. Well, the chickens have come home to roost and the passive American people are getting what they deserve, or asked for. The few Cassandras who dared to predict a “new world order” have been proven right.

Let’s take a quick walk down memory lane with some facts on hand:

George W. Bush took both the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and pushed them beyond the boundaries of legality while Congress made those abuses legal.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the public's consent was explicit: Do Whatever It Takes.

All three branches of government were and are involved: Congress, which passed the laws and legalized many of the abuses, the executive, George W. Bush, who used and abused them; the judicial branch that accepts on a regular basis the broadest interpretation of the laws; to the last executive in charge, Barack Obama, who has used the laws aggressively and tried to shroud them in secrecy.

Yes, they are all guilty but you are as guilty as the best of them.

Last week the National Journal released a poll showing that 85 percent of those surveyed believed it was “likely” that their “communications history,  phone calls, e-mails, and Internet use,” was “available for businesses, government, individuals, and other groups to access without prior consent.”

If this is the case why didn’t you stand up and fight for your privacy? You do not have to be Einstein or a digital geek to realize how exposed you are, from cell phones to emails, from GPS to the Sun Pass, credit cards and ATMs, and finally to social networks. Nobody seems to care that cell phones let us be tracked because they’re too awesome when one needs to activate “Grindr” to find local gay, bi and curious guys for dating.  And then of course there is the obligatory Facebook page where you post everything about yourself, true or untrue as the case may be, leaving behind an indelible digital trail, a cornucopia of information for law enforcement agencies, government intrusion, employers and  potential employers, advertisers, profilers, and data crunchers. Everything about you is there, in plain sight or sitting pretty on a cloud, for everyone to see. And then you complain about Verizon giving “your” data to the Government? Were your brains car washed recently? Is this a momentary lapse of reason on the part of the American people? Sorry, but I do not see the problem. For all intents and purposes you have given up your right to privacy the moment you signed up on Facebook or bought the latest Galaxy or iPhone.

The world is suffering from an acute case of Nomophobia, the irrational fear of not having one’s smart phone. The damn thing is inside you, living in your head, never letting you be alone. You are imprisoned by it. And now you are beginning to realize that the very thing you can’t live without, watches you, listens to you, records your every move and betrays you by passing all that info to Big Brother. George Orwell would have a ball if he could see you now.

The interesting thing is that everybody gets instantly up in arms about the Second Amendment (pun intended) but nobody has really cared about the Fourth. The FourthAmendment guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, along with requiring any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause. It was adopted as a response to the abuse of the writ of assistance, which is a type of general search warrant, in the American Revolution. Search and seizure (including arrest) should be limited in scope according to specific information supplied to the issuing court, usually by a law enforcement officer, who has sworn by it. Nobody has been able, or wants, to make the case for the Fourth Amendment, perhaps because there is no Big Business behind it. There is no National Association lobbying Washington in behalf of the Fourth. One of the very few voices of reason is Sen. Bernie Sanders (I – VT) who from the very beginning in 2001 has been repeating the same mantra: The blame for this invasion of our privacy rests with members of congress who continue to vote for the Patriot Act.

Gore Vidal once said: “We’re the most captive nation of slaves that ever came along”

I go with George Clooney when he said: “I’d rather have a rectal examination on live TV by a fellow with cold hands than have a Facebook page.”

In conclusion I can only say: ‘Thank You Mr. Edward Snowden.’ About time, but too little too late. The damage is done.

Final newsflash: Catch a few reruns of Criminal Minds and see how the character Garcia is able, in a few seconds, to provide the FBI with a gold mine of information about anybody. And you thought it was fiction? Pier Angelo


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