Who is Watching the Watchers?

There needs to be a national conversation about an emerging police state, and who is watching the watchers. We either do not understand what is happening or refuse to acknowledge it.

A police state is more insidious than ubiquitous surveillance and jackbooted thugs pushing people around. It is a state where people not only have to watch what they say but have no legal recourse or redress when those in authority violate and publicly flaunt the rule of law and willfully abuse their oaths of office. It is when the institutions of state power, and its monopoly on the use of armed force, are used to control and suppress the populace. It is a state that is at war with its people.

When the Directors of National Intelligence and the National Security Agency lie about spying on the American people – and on their overseers on the Senate Intelligence Committee – one has to ask who is in charge and why this is allowed to continue? The NSA is collecting all electronic communications on hundreds of millions of Americans and storing billions of phone calls, emails, web searchers, video chats, etc. All without warrants, legal justification or public debate. What is it but tyranny when people are denied the most basic right “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects”?

When will our elected officials speak out publicly and enforce the Bill of Rights and the rule of law?

The US has repatriated its foreign wars, weapons and tactics. They have militarized our borders, airports, cities and the police. Even the sleepiest towns have advanced weaponry and SWAT teams and are being trained and equipped to act as a military force. A month ago, a 93-year-old woman was shot dead in Texas after a 911 call from her nephew. A few weeks ago, a SWAT team in Georgia threw a flash bang grenade into a toddler’s crib while executing a no-knock search warrant, at 3 a.m., for a $50 methamphetamine sale to an informer. No drugs were found and the child is fighting for his life.

It is no longer an anomaly for the police to act as if they are in a war zone and we are the enemy. High-tech surveillance and illicit tactics are being used to criminalize black life in the inner-cities of America. There is a little-known and even less understood war on poor and marginalized communities of color. These areas have become an incubator and testing ground for encircling and suppressing restive youth who have no jobs or future.

To those who say law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear: tell that to the 4.5 million people who were stopped and frisked in New York City, and the Muslim students and mosques who were spied on in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut by the NYPD – who found nothing. And this is what we know of. Tell it to the 93-year-old women and the 2-year-old toddler who committed no crime.

The surveillance state will surreptitiously and incrementally put everyone’s DNA into a national database, and facial recognition technology will scan and store all photos on drivers’ licenses. National and local authorities will continue their warrantless eavesdropping and surveillance by remotely turning on internal microphones and cameras in targeted cell phones, and open back doors on computers. They will track our movements in real time with “Amberjack” and “Triggerfish,” or set up phantom cell towers and monitor buildings and blocks with “Stingrays” and “Hailstorms,” to listen to our conversations and follow our tweets. They will retrace where you were, who you called and what you said months ago. They will retrieve everything about you, stored in their illicit databases, from your phone number, email and IP address.

If you think this is to protect us you do not understand them; this reality is being put into place by those who fear us. Files will be opened and individuals scrutinized for taking a public stand, challenging the status quo or the existing orthodoxy. This minority, with whom all change begins, will become the enemies of the state.