Birth of the National Security State

Birth of the National Security State
By Philip Giraldi
Published 10/04/10

It is not far fetched to speculate that the United States has, over the past ten years, been sliding into a form of authoritarianism that retains only some aspects of the constitution and a limited rule of law. America’s president can, for example, commit soldiers to combat overseas without a constitutionally mandated declaration of war by congress while it is quite possible to be detained by the authorities and locked up without any prospect of trial or opportunity to defend oneself. The government even believes it can kill American citizens based only on suspicion. I prefer to think of this transformation as the National Security State because it rests on a popular consensus that liberties must be sacrificed in exchange for greater public safety from various threats, international terrorism being the most prominent. It might just as well be called the National Warfare State as it also requires constant conflict to justify its existence.

Three elements are necessary for the creation of a National Security State. First, there must be a narrative that can be sold to the public justifying the transformation. Second, a system of laws and regulations must be created that enable the state to act with impunity and also to protect the government from challenges to its authority. Third, technology must be harnessed to enable the state to surreptitiously monitor and control the activities of its citizens. All of these elements have fallen into place over the past decade.

A recent example of abuse of authority by the government demonstrates how several of the key elements can come together. On September 24th, the Obama Administration declared that it would ask a federal court to block a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in opposition to the government’s contention that it has the authority to assassinate American citizens overseas if they are suspected of involvement with a terrorist group. The White House has invoked the state secrets privilege, contending that vital national interests would be betrayed if the case were to proceed and further that the president has the authority to target anyone for death in time of war. The state secrets privilege is the ultimate weapon to avoid exposure of government wrongdoing. It has been used frequently by the Obama administration in spite of Obama-the-candidate’s pledge that he would run an open and accountable government.

The ACLU case focused on the one US citizen known to be on the administration’s assassination list, Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. Now, by all accounts al-Awlaki is an unsavory character, involved with at least one extremist group in Yemen, but the evidence that he is an actual terrorist or that he has been closely involved with plotting terrorist attacks has not been made public. At this point, he appears to have been condemned to death without any due process and without any opportunity to defend himself. The Obama Administration abuse of the state secrets privilege in this case is little more than justifying the practice of extrajudicial murder at the whim of a government bureaucrat. It also assumes that the whole world is a battlefield without any declaration of war by congress. If all of that is so, al-Awlaki can be killed and so can any other American for any reason or no reason.

State secrets is only one weapon in the arsenal employed by the government to create a framework of regulation that permits the government to act with impunity. The Military Commission Act, which candidate Obama vowed to let expire, was renewed in 2009 with virtually no changes. Under the MCA, someone can be imprisoned indefinitely on suspicion that he or she has provided material support to terrorism. Material support is not defined and can be interpreted to mean nearly anything. If accused, right to a trial by peers does not apply as the detainee is subject to a military tribunal and habeas corpus is null and void. And how does the government determine if someone is a “terrorism supporter?” Through evidence derived from Patriot Act authorized National Security Letters, which the FBI can obtain without any judicial process whatsoever to look into the private lives of each and every citizen. Nearly 25,000 National Security Letters were issued in 2008 alone. When someone receives a letter demanding that information be provided to the authorities it is a felony to reveal to the subject of the investigation that he or she is being looked at.

The second key element in the National Security State is the media depiction of a threat that makes the public fearful and willing to sacrifice rights in exchange for security. This effort is aided and abetted by the government, which is the principal cheerleader for the fear mongering. In the al-Awlaki case the media obediently depicts the man as a terrorist, never challenging the established narrative so it makes it easier for the public to accept that he should be killed for reasons of public safety. Another recent initiative of the same sort is the narrative that there are numerous American Muslims who have been radicalized and might carry out terrorist acts. One might reasonably note that as there are possibly ten million Muslims in the US if that were true there would be hundreds of incidents occurring annually, possibly one or two a day. Where are they? Yet the government suggests that there is an “emerging” threat and the media buys into it hook line and sinker. The public is again scared into supporting the National Security State.

Finally, there is the technical ability to look into the private lives of each and every citizen, which is increasing exponentially as the technology is refined. The federal government is currently seeking legislation to enable it to monitor internet, blackberries, and social networking sites. The centers of most American citizens are criss-crossed by surveillance cameras, while “traffic control” cameras record automobile information, and cell phone and internet providers maintain complete records on calls and emails for up to a year. These are records that the government can access through the National Security Letters, without any judicial review. Cell phone system monitors are able to locate anyone with a phone turned on within a distance of three feet and whenever a call is made the location is recorded. This means if you attend an anti-war rally your participation might wind up in a security file. Much of this and other information is collected into data bases, together with public record material like driving license information, credit reports, and details of criminal and civil litigation. How much of the information is actually retained is anyone’s guess, but it is safe to assume that it is all kept for some time and that government computers can retrieve it at will.

Having lived in Europe, I know that most of these intrusive technologies first appeared on that continent, where people accept a high level of state control, only to be picked up subsequently in the US. The British government is currently introducing legislation proposing that all wage and salary earners have their paychecks sent directly to the tax agencies for processing. The government’s stated intention is to make sure that taxes are being collected, but Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs service computers would also be alert to possible money laundering and terrorist connections, raising the fear level to justify the action. After processing, the British government would then pass whatever money remains on to the person who actually earned it. Scary, but it is perhaps something that will also be proposed in the US by a Joe Lieberman, John McCain or Lindsey Graham, all of whom have used fear of terrorism to justify curtailment of civil liberties and intrusion into areas once regarded as private. Or even by Barack Obama, who appears to believe that a benign big government provides a solution to whatever ails you and is already moving towards monitoring all financial transactions.

The only answer to the National Security State a demand on the part of US citizens to return to constitutionalism and a rule of law. The government should not be empowered to kill citizens extrajudicially, start wars of choice, detain suspects indefinitely and without charges, use state secrets claims to avoid scrutiny, and obtain private information without a warrant. It is difficult to imagine a return to normalcy under the best of circumstances, but congress is complicit in the process and will do nothing. Genuine change will only come about when we the people insist on it.
Copyright © 2010 Campaign for Liberty
Also by Philip Giraldi:
Obama’s War on the Internet   07/19/10
A Tea Party to Nowhere   06/03/10
Droning On   05/11/10
Change at CIA?   04/22/10
No Special Relationships   04/02/10
View all 26 articles by Philip Giraldi

12 Responses to “Birth of the National Security State”

  • Patriot says:

    The Terrorism Fraud (by Philip Giraldi)

    Why Civil Liberties Matter – An Open Letter To The Obama Administration

    Must listen to interview with Gerald Celente about coming depression and world war

  • WillieG51 says:

    Lieberman, McCain, and Graham, all names synonymous with treason. These three have done more to destroy our nation than the rest of Congress put together. Although there are others Chuck Schumer comes to mind. . I am amazed at all the issues Arizona has, they would re-elect John McCain over and over again. It’s beyond belief, but here in Ohio, they seem to elect the same group of people over and over. . Sad but true, we need term limits, and a better quality candidates! If only!

  • Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich says:

    The likes of Philip Giraldi are this country’s only hope. I thank them for their patriotism and for their dedication to peace and humanity.

  • Mihail says:

    The American Hebrew September 10, 1920:

    “The Bolshevist revolution in Russia was the work of Jewish brains, of Jewish dissatisfaction, of Jewish planning, whose goal is to create a new order in the world. What was performed in so excellent a way in Russia, thanks to Jewish brains, and because of Jewish dissatisfaction, and by Jewish planning, shall also, through the same Jewish mental and physical forces, become a reality all over the world.

    We have exterminated the property owners in Russia. We are going to do the same thing in Europe and America.”

    (The Jew, December 1925, Zinobit)

  • All of these elements have fallen into place over the past decade.”

    I would say that all of these elements have been REVEALED in the past decade, but have been part of the National Security State from the time it was established in 1947–\\][//

  • GreenClover says:

    “…sliding into a form of authoritarianism…” has not been over the last decade, but decade-s. Slow to start, at a low fever level it’s now open and shamless in what they are doing in America right now.

  • usurykills says:

    All governments are manipulated by the money power of international bankers.

    Did anyone else notice that when the banks went bankrupt, the bankers didn’t?

    Banks have usurped the right of the people themselves to control their own money. Money should be created interest-free and loaned on good credit against adequate collateral. Loans should be repaid over the working life of the collateral, with installment payments destroyed (not pocketed.)

    Who would make such loans? The people, of course — that’s what the power to create money is really all about. If a loan can be repaid, it should be lent.

    Create money against collateral (backing) and destroy money as collateral deteriorates. Do this without interest (or other cheating/usury) and inflation is mathematically impossible. Google Mathematically Perfected Economy.

    I recommend everyone ask any candidate for public office where they stand on the usurpation of money by central bankers. In the US, you should remind any candidate for your state legislature that they have the power to request a Constitutional Convention under Article 5 of the Constitution:

    “The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.”

    Only the Congressional method has ever been used. Note that not only can states call for a convention, they can ratify in separate conventions. Unfortunately, the power to actually CALL a Constitutional Convention was given to Congress — and they have never done so despite valid requests and wording that says they SHALL.

  • Jim Barlucci says:

    I’m glad Giraldi is tackling these issues. Ultimately, resistance may be required if the government continues to pursue the path of lawlessness and injustice in the name of increased security. Increased security from what? I, for one, don’t want to live in its world of ever increasing surveillance and the denial of constitutional rights. There’s a lot worse coming, however. We have Beanie Lieberman and John McCain’s preventative detention bill now in committee awaiting further action. If S. 3081 passes, we will have officially inaugurated the Fourth Reich, with all bets off regarding anything approximating due process. I wonder how the government will explain all the disappearances. The Argentinians had a word for them. Maybe we can use that word as well.

  • Kamal Hassan says:

    It is only fair, if Israel requires a loyalty vote in Israel, we should have loyalty vote here. As you all know, most of our so called elected officials are more loyal to Israel than their own country US. All those congressmen/congresswomen must therefore give up their US citizenship and move to Israel, and should take AIPAC with them also….

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