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Is Big Brother Obama Having His Way with Us?

June 19, 2013 in Economics

By Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

Recently, this urgent headline from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the leading organization defending our rights — specifically in the digital world — caught my attention: “In Response to the NSA, We Need a New Church Committee and We Need it Now” (Cindy Cohn and Trevor Timm, June 7).

During the 1970s, like many Americans, I was shocked and alarmed to learn that the National Security Agency even existed. Exposing it and the FBI’s shredding of our Bill of Rights was Democratic Sen. Frank Church of Idaho, chairman of the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities, known as the Church Committee. The committee released reports on its investigations of American intelligence in 1975 and 1976.

A courageous constitutionalist, Church probed the FBI and the CIA for secretly digging into our lives; he especially focused on the NSA. The Cato Institute’s Vice President Gene Healy reports on one example of the Church Committee’s findings:

“Under ‘Project Minaret,’ from the early 1960s until 1973, the NSA compiled watch lists of potentially subversive Americans, monitored their overseas calls and telegrams, sharing the results with other federal agencies” (“ ‘It can’t happen here’ just did,” Healy, Washington Examiner, June 10).

Citing the Church Committee’s findings, Healy writes that “ordinary citizens involved in protests” were among those being monitored.

And in a direct warning to We The People, Healy quotes Church, who in 1976 told us “such is the (NSA’s) capability to monitor everything — telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.”

And, as I wrote in my book, The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance (Seven Stories Press, 2003), Church pledged: “The American people need to be assured that never again will an agency of the government be permitted to conduct a secret war against those citizens it considers threats to the established order.”

Church, among other civil libertarians at the time, worked hard to ensure that pledge. So what happened?

To begin, few Americans — including school kids — probably know Frank Church’s name today. And though the senator was the first to expose the NSA in its bastion of Orwellian secrecy, we know his dire warnings of its continually expansive scope were ignored.

As Glenn Greenwald reported a few weeks ago in the U.K.’s Guardian: “The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of U.S. customers of Verizon … under a top …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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