Electronic Surveillance: America’s Secret Domestic Spying Apparatus
by Tom Burghardt
May 9, 2011
Despite last week’s “termination” of America’s bête noire, Osama bin Laden, the reputed “emir” and old “new Hitler” of the Afghan-Arab database of disposable Western intelligence assets known as al-Qaeda, Secrecy News reports an uptick in domestic spying.
Never mind that the administration is engaged in an unprecedented war on whistleblowers, or is systematically targeting antiwar and solidarity activists with trumped-up charges connected to the “material support of terrorism,” as last Fall’s multi-state raids on anarchists and socialists in Chicago and Minneapolis attest.
In order to do their best to “keep us safe,” Team Obama is busily building upon the criminal legacy bequeathed to the administration by the Bush regime and even asserts the right to assassinate American citizens “without a whiff of due process,” as Salon’s Glenn Greenwald points out.
According to a new Justice Department report submitted to Congress we learn that “during calendar year 2010, the Government made 1,579 applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (hereinafter ‘FISC’) for authority to conduct electronic surveillance and/or physical searches” on what U.S. security agencies allege are “for foreign intelligence purposes.”
The April 29 missive, released under the Freedom of Information Act, documents the persistence of our internal security apparat’s targeting of domestic political opponents, under color of rooting out “terrorists.”
Secrecy News analyst Steven Aftergood comments that “this compares to a reported 1,376 applications in 2009. (In 2008, however, the reported figure–2,082–was quite a bit higher.)”
“In 2010,” Aftergood writes, “the government made 96 applications for access to business records (and ‘tangible things’) for foreign intelligence purposes, up from 21 applications in 2009.”
Also last year, America’s premier domestic intelligence agency, the FBI, “made 24,287 ‘national security letter’ requests for information pertaining to 14,212 different U.S. persons, a substantial increase from the 2009 level of 14,788 NSL requests concerning 6,114 U.S. persons. (In 2008, the number of NSL requests was 24,744, pertaining to 7,225 persons.)”
As I have pointed out many times, national security letters are onerous lettres de cachet, secretive administrative subpoenas with built-in gag orders used by the Bureau to seize records from third-parties such as banks, libraries and telecommunications providers without any judicial process whatsoever, not to mention the expenditure of scarce tax dollars to spy on the American people.
“Money for Nothing…”