Seeing the Round Corners

January 28, 2019

First, some opening remarks and then a column from this writer’s archives – “Our Invisible Government,” – which appeared in August of 2007. This week’s column is a “lead-in” to next week’s column on the political war in Washington which in effect, resulted in the longest ever shutdown of the government.

Take careful note of the actions by the Federal Bureau of Investigation described in the column that follows. The FBI and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (which established the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court) are front and center in the political war described in next week’s column.

Invisible, as in out of view of the public, but most assuredly, our invisible government is one that operates without “the consent of the governed” as the Declaration of Independence provides. The reason for the Declaration of Independence was clearly set forth in the body of the document, but since it has been a long time for most ordinary citizens, a little refresher might be in order.

“In Congress, July 4, 1776, The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen Colonies of America,” which became known as the “Declaration of Independence,” the document we know today. The opening paragraph:  “When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the power of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

And next, the portion most familiar to Americans:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident – that all men are created equal; that they are endowed with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them, shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

Admittedly, the writers could not have imagined the world today – September 11, terrorists, the Patriot Act, abuses by the United States Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and lest we forget, the President of these United States.

The Declaration of Independence continues: “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over those states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.”

The abuses of our invisible government have escalated in recent years, maybe not to the level described by the writers of the Declaration of Independence in the 26 facts that followed the above paragraph. The 26 facts listed after the above paragraph described the “repeated injuries and usurpations” attributed by the colonists to the King of Great Britain.

The horrors of September 11th, that it could happen, and where the system broke down, brought to the attention of the American people just how “dysfunctional” the intelligence community had gotten, and how each agency blamed the other for not sharing information.

What we Americans, we ordinary citizens, should begin to raise warning flags about, just as the writers of the Declaration of Independence did back in 1776, are the violations by our government of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, using as an excuse the pursuit of the Patriot Act.

The Fourth Amendment says: “Searches and seizures regulated. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated; and no warrant shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The intelligence community seems to be clueless as to who the terrorists are – probably 99% are foreigners legally in this country, not us ordinary American citizens. But yet, pursuit of the Patriot Act affords the FBI the opportunity to violate the civil liberties of Americans in a blatant manner.

An audit released in March of this year by the Justice Department Inspector General, Glenn A. Fine, detailed abuses by the FBI in using national security letters which are administrative subpoenas that do not require the signature of a judge, to obtain customer data from businesses.

Under the premise of pursuing counter terrorism cases, the national security letters allowed the FBI to demand records of customers or subscribers from telephone companies, banks, credit bureaus and other businesses. Even scarier is that once the FBI has your records, there’s no requirement to destroy the material even when there is no further use for them.

Ever hear of a secret national security court – the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court? Not many people have, and for sure, it is not listed in your local telephone directory. It is another member of the invisible government, and there is not a whole lot of information available about it as you might imagine.

The other thought-to-be agencies making up our invisible government? By 1964, the list included the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Council, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, Army Intelligence, Navy Intelligence, Air Force Intelligence, the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and the Atomic Energy Commission (now known as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission), and that’s just some of them. The purpose back then was to combat the power of Soviet Communism and the Cold War.

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