“The fact that government is secretly tracking my life and sharing that information with private corporations in a completely unaccountable way shows me that America has crossed over into a fascist twilight of sorts.”

« Here’s » something interesting that needs to be more widely read than it will be:

‘The FBI now issues more than 30,000 national security letters a year, according to government sources, a hundredfold increase over historic norms. The letters — one of which can be used to sweep up the records of many people — are extending the bureau’s reach as never before into the telephone calls, correspondence and financial lives of ordinary Americans. Issued by FBI field supervisors, national security letters do not need the imprimatur of a prosecutor, grand jury or judge. They receive no review after the fact by the Justice Department or Congress. The executive branch maintains only statistics, which are incomplete and confined to classified reports. The Bush administration defeated legislation and a lawsuit to require a public accounting, and has offered no example in which the use of a national security letter helped disrupt a terrorist plot. The burgeoning use of national security letters coincides with an unannounced decision to deposit all the information they yield into government data banks — and to share those private records widely, in the federal government and beyond. In late 2003, the Bush administration reversed a long-standing policy requiring agents to destroy their files on innocent American citizens, companies and residents when investigations closed. Late last month, [the Emperor] signed Executive Order 13388, expanding access to those files for “state, local and tribal” governments and for “appropriate private sector entities,” which are not defined.’
Washington Post

More than 30,000 top secret NSLs with no oversight of any kind. And perhaps even more egregious: Sharing of all this data with ‘appropriate private sector entities.’

Which would be … who? Your employer? Wal-Mart? Experian? Blackwater? Undoubtedly. The fact that government is secretly tracking my life and sharing that information with private corporations in a completely unaccountable way shows me that America has crossed over into a fascist twilight of sorts. It certainly is not the nation that I grew up believing I lived in or of which I was a comfortable citizen. Simply put, this is an imperial tyranny.

Another feature of this article is how the people who create monstrosities like this look back and are amazed that what they created has been turned into something else entirely:

‘In Room 7975 of the J. Edgar Hoover Building, around two corners from the director’s suite, the chief of the FBI’s national security law unit sat down at his keyboard about a month after the Patriot Act became law. Michael J. Woods had helped devise the FBI wish list for surveillance powers. Now he offered a caution. “NSLs are powerful investigative tools, in that they can compel the production of substantial amounts of relevant information,” he wrote in a Nov. 28, 2001, “electronic communication” to the FBI’s 56 field offices. “However, they must be used judiciously.” Standing guidelines, he wrote, “require that the FBI accomplish its investigations through the ‘least intrusive’ means. . . . The greater availability of NSLs does not mean that they should be used in every case.” Woods, who left government service in 2002, added a practical consideration. Legislators granted the new authority and could as easily take it back. When making that decision, he wrote, “Congress certainly will examine the manner in which the FBI exercised it.”
‘Looking back last month, Woods was struck by how starkly he misjudged the climate. The FBI disregarded his warning, and no one noticed. “This is not something that should be automatically done because it’s easy,” he said. “We need to be sure . . . we don’t go overboard.” One thing Woods did not anticipate was then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft’s revision of Justice Department guidelines. On May 30, 2002, and Oct. 31, 2003, Ashcroft rewrote the playbooks for investigations of terrorist crimes and national security threats. He gave overriding priority to preventing attacks by any means available.’

Well, duh. Let’s see. You made it possible for the FBI to do this, but told them not to use it very much. And now … 30,000 NSLs a year. Who knew?

‘To Jeffrey Breinholt, deputy chief of the Justice Department’s counterterrorism section, the civil liberties objections “are eccentric.” Data collection on the innocent, he said, does no harm unless “someone [decides] to act on the information, put you on a no-fly list or something.” Only a serious error, he said, could lead the government, based on nothing more than someone’s bank or phone records, “to freeze your assets or go after you criminally and you suffer consequences that are irreparable.” He added: “It’s a pretty small chance.” “I don’t necessarily want somebody knowing what videos I rent or the fact that I like cartoons,” said Mason, the Washington field office chief. But if those records “are never used against a person, if they’re never used to put him in jail, or deprive him of a vote, et cetera, then what is the argument?” Barr, the former congressman, said that “the abuse is in the power itself.” “As a conservative,” he said, “I really resent an administration that calls itself conservative taking the position that the burden is on the citizen to show the government has abused power, and otherwise shut up and comply.” At the ACLU, staff attorney Jameel Jaffer spoke of “the profound chilling effect” of this kind of surveillance: “If the government monitors the Web sites that people visit and the books that they read, people will stop visiting disfavored Web sites and stop reading disfavored books. The FBI should not have unchecked authority to keep track of who visits [al-Jazeera’s Web site] or who visits the Web site of the Federalist Society.”’

‘Civil liberties objections are eccentric.’

I repeat:

An Imperial official says, ‘Civil liberties objections are eccentric.’

Gosh.

I never thought I’d ever agree with Bob Barr on anything, but hell, I’d shake the bastard’s hand over this one. The abuse is in the power itself, exactly.

‘In the executive branch, no FBI or Justice Department official audits the use of national security letters to assess whether they are appropriately targeted, lawfully applied or contribute important facts to an investigation. Justice Department officials noted frequently this year that Inspector General Glenn A. Fine reports twice a year on abuses of the Patriot Act and has yet to substantiate any complaint. (One investigation is pending.) Fine advertises his role, but there is a puzzle built into the mandate. Under what scenario could a person protest a search of his personal records if he is never notified?’

Well, that’s obviously the point. A completely secret government operation doing things that no one ever finds out about. Such as konzentrationslagers in eastern Europe.

What a country.