Just in time for Christmas, the Deep State wants to give America the gift that keeps on giving: never-ending mass surveillance.
I'm not referring to the kind of surveillance carried out by that all-knowing and all-seeing Jolly Old St. Nick and his informant the Elf on the Shelf (although, to be fair, they have helped to acclimate us to a world in which we're always being watched and judged by higher authorities).
No, this particular bit of Yuletide gift-giving comes courtesy of the Deep State (a.k.a. the Surveillance State, Police State, Shadow Government and black-ops spy agencies).
If this power-hungry cabal gets its way, the government's power to spy on its citizens will soon be all-encompassing and permanent.
As it now stands, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act—the legal basis for two of the National Security Agency's largest mass surveillance programs, "PRISM" and "Upstream"—is set to expire at the end of 2017.
"PRISM" lets the NSA access emails, video chats, instant messages, and other content sent via Facebook, Google, Apple and others. "Upstream" lets the NSA worm its way into the internet backbone—the cables and switches owned by private corporations like AT&T that make the internet into a global network—and scan traffic for the communications of tens of thousands of individuals labeled "targets."
Just as the USA Patriot Act was perverted from its original intent to fight terrorism abroad and was used instead to covertly crack down on the American people (allowing government agencies to secretly track Americans' financial activities, monitor their communications, and carry out wide-ranging surveillance on them), Section 702 has been used as an end-run around the Constitution to allow the government to collect the actual content of Americans' emails, phone calls, text messages and other electronic communication without a warrant.
Under Section 702, the government collects and analyzes over 250 million internet communications every year. There are estimates that at least half of these contain information about U.S. residents, many of whom have done nothing wrong. This information is then shared with law enforcement and "routinely used for purposes unrelated to national security."
Mind you, this is about far more than the metadata collection that Edward Snowden warned us about, which was bad enough. Section 702 gives the government access to the very content of your conversations (phone calls, text messages, video chats), your photographs, your emails. As Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., warned, "This is not just who you send it to, but what's in it."
Unfortunately, Big Brother doesn't relinquish power easily.
The Police State doesn't like restrictions.
And the Surveillance State certainly doesn't look favorably on anything that might weaken its control. Even after Congress limited the NSA's ability to collect bulk phone records, the agency continued to do so, vacuuming up more than 151 million records of Americans' phone calls last year alone.
A government that doesn't heed its constituents, doesn't abide by the law, and kowtows to its police and military forces? That's a dictatorship anywhere else.
Here in America, you can call it "technotyranny," a term coined by investigative journalist James Bamford to refer to an age of technological tyranny made possible by government secrets, government lies, government spies and their corporate ties.