Spying on U.S Citizens — Uncle Sam turns his multi-billion dollar espionage network on U.S Citizens

Massive spike in domestic spy operations, over 12,000 “special ops” personnel deployed daily, 100s of thousands of secret surveillance requests rubber stamped by crooked judges, secret illegal spy operations conducted in over 75 countries and over $11 billion spent annually to cover it all up. And this is only the tip of the iceberg that the feds were willing to declassify through various Freedom of Information Requests. Much more still remains classified in the interest of National Security.

Alexander Higgins, Contributing Writer
Activist Post

A series of previously classified documents obtained by The Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy reveals that spy operation against U.S citizens here in the homeland have spiked massively over the last year and so has the government’s cost to cover up their plethora of illegal activities.

But first a little background to explain how America has arrived to this point in the first place.

The Executive Branch of the US Government has found a loophole in the legal system that has effectively abolished the Constitution by allowing our entire bill of rights to be suspended at will. This probably best explains it:

Understanding Enemy Combatant Status and the Military Commissions Act, Part I. Enemy Combatant Status: No More Pernicious Doctrine

The Hamdi Decision: A Defeat and Deadly Precedent

The 2004 Supreme Court decision in the case of Yasir Hamdi has been touted by many, including the ACLU, human rights organizations, and the mainstream press, as a victory for civil rights, the Constitution, and the rule of law. It is nothing of the sort. While the Hamdi majority paid lip service to limits on the executive in time of war and to “due process,” it joined Bush as a willing accomplice in his current attempt to murder the Bill of Rights.

Apologists for the Court point out that Bush did not get all that he wanted. That is true. Bush wanted absolute and plenary power to designate anyone, citizen or not, an “enemy combatant” and do as he pleased with them – detaining, interrogating, even torturing and executing them if he saw fit – with no judicial interference at all. Instead, the Court insisted that there be some manner of a deferential administrative hearing before Bush got to do as he wished. That is the only difference of any substance.

Rather than insisting that Hamdi, a U.S. citizen, receive all of the protections of the accused which are his due under the Bill of Rights, the Court breathed new life and legitimacy into this destructive doctrine that had lain around unused and nearly forgotten, like a dusty, but still dangerous “loaded weapon,” since the World War II Ex Parte Quirin decision (1942). The Hamdi Court, citing Quirin, stated unequivocally that “[t]here is no bar to this Nation’s holding one of its own citizens as an enemy combatant.” According to the majority on the Court, the mere labeling of a person as an “enemy combatant” removes the shield of the Bill of Rights and replaces it with a new judge-created system of minimal administrative process to “challenge” that designation.

Under this system, the accused will have none of the procedural protections of our Bill of Rights: No Grand Jury indictment; no trial by jury with its requirement of a unanimous verdict of twelve of one’s peers; no possibility of an unreviewable acquittal and immunity from further prosecution; and no protection against compelled self incrimination. The presumption of innocence is gone, as is the requirement of a showing of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, the government will enjoy a presumption that its allegations are accurate. The accused will have the burden of proving his innocence, but will have no right to compulsory process of witnesses and no right to confront the secret evidence and witnesses against him.

At most, according to the Hamdi majority, “a citizen held in the United States as an enemy combatant [will] be given a meaningful opportunity to contest the factual basis for that detention before a neutral decision maker” and access to counsel to assist (as best they can) in that hearing. The Court made clear that the definition of “a meaningful opportunity” will have to be fleshed out by subsequent courts, and a military tribunal may qualify as a “neutral decision maker” for that minimal, administrative hearing to determine status. And this is touted as a victory.

How did we get here? As war is the greatest engine of tyranny known to man, it should come as no surprise that like many such usurpations before it, this doctrine of absolute power was born in the fires of war.  Source: Dirt Rhodes Scholar

The United States government has effectively undermined the very foundation of our nation’s democratic roots and has destroyed the republic and all that for which it stands. Simply by alleging you are a terrorist, treasonous, or a threat to national security, without any due process of law whatsoever you immediately no longer have any constitutional rights or protections granted thereunder. Effectively our government has become an evil chameleon acting under the facade of a freedom-loving democratic nation and protector of human rights only to shape-shift into a ruthless totalitarian dictatorship at will.

Several articles from the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) Project on Government Secrecy reveal some stunning revelations about how out of control America’s espionage network has become through information learned from a series of documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests.

The information reveals that the US Government has been approved for hundreds of thousands of surveillance requests by categorically labeling hundreds of thousands of US Citizens as suspected “terrorists”, i.e. enemy combatants. As we have seen over the years the Department of Homeland Security is amassing a massive database of all kinds of “threats to National Security” from you local activists protesting against fracking that pollutes drinking water of millions of people to those attending anti-nuclear rallies.

The method really is ingenious. In essence the United States has declared war against its very own citizens and all civil and constitutional rights are immediately abolished.

The reports reveal the massive spike in domestic spying of alleged “suspected terrorists” has increased massively under the Obama administration and comes along with a bill of over $11 billion dollars to cover up their illegal activities, I mean classify them.

The massive increase in secrecy spending is also coupled with new that over 12,000 “special ops” are deployed in various covert operations on a daily basis to over 75 countries around the world.


  • Courts rubber stamped 1,579 applications for foreign intelligence purposes, along with 96 applications for access to business records and a whopping 24,287 “national security letter” requests to spy on 14,212 different U.S. persons.
  • While Obama has stumped on the campaign trail with repeated promises of “transparency” a sharp rise in national security secrecy under his watch was matched by a sharp increase in the financial costs of the classification system, causing classification-related costs to a whopping $11.42 which was a new record high.
  • The US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has grown steadily by 3 to 5% every year since 9/11 bring the total number of special forces personal to over 60,000 with a total annual cost of $9.8 billion for 2011 and a requested budget of $10.5 billion for 2012.
  • It was reported that on any given day last year in excess of 12,000 Special Operations Forces are deployed in action in more than 75 countries across the globe.

Domestic Intelligence Surveillance Grew in 2010

FAS reports that the Feds have increased domestic spy operations in every available arena that they were required to report on. It should be noted that these figures do not include numbers for the various methods of spying on US citizens the Government implements for which they need not receive permission, such as warrantless wiretapping, GPS tracking and, of course, the various CIA and NSA spy operations which are considered “a matter of national security.”

FAS first reports on applications granted through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

“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 for foreign intelligence purposes,” according to the new report (pdf).  This compares to a reported 1,376 applications in 2009.  (In 2008, however, the reported figure — 2,082 — was quite a bit higher.)

They then also highlight espionage applications which granted access to spy on business records.

In 2010, the government made 96 applications for access to business records (and “tangible things”) for foreign intelligence purposes, up from 21 applications in 2009.

And finally touch on the astounding level of “national security level” requests granted to the FBI.

In 2010, 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.)

Finally, they note that there is no indication that the Federal Government’s spying on U.S citizens has grown by the amount of spying that is actually being done.

A copy of the latest report to Congress, dated April 29, was released under the Freedom of Information Act.

A recent report from the Congressional Research Service addressed “Amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Set to Expire May 27, 2011″ (pdf). FISA Amendments in the USA Patriot Act were discussed at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on “Reauthorization of the Patriot Act” (pdf) on March 9, 2011, the record of which has just been published. Related issues were discussed in another House Judiciary Committee hearing on “Permanent Provisions of the Patriot Act” (pdf) on March 30, 2011.

Annual Secrecy Costs Now Exceed $10 Billion

Next, the FAS newsletter reveals the Federal government’s tab to censor and cover up all of their illegal activities to maintain “national security” has grown over 15% since last year, reaching a staggering $11.42 billion for all “classification-related” expenses. They also reveal that over classification is one of the many contributing factors to the staggering increase in cost.

Ironically the costs for “classification related expenses” did not disclose security cost estimates for the large intelligence agencies — the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office — because those costs are considered classified.

When pressed on why the costs of classification for the other agencies could be revealed, the government responded because that is classified information. However, as FAS revealed, the information is classified because somebody said it’s classified, not because it could demonstrably or even plausibly damage national security.

The rise in national security secrecy in the first year of the Obama Administration was matched by a sharp increase in the financial costs of the classification system, according to a new report to the President (pdf).

The estimated costs of the national security classification system grew by 15% last year to reach $10.17 billion, according to the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO).  It was the first time that annual secrecy costs in government were reported to exceed $10 billion.

An additional $1.25 billion was incurred within industry to protect classified information, for a grand total of $11.42 in classification-related costs, also a new record high.
Many factors contribute to the rise in secrecy costs, but one of them is widespread overclassification.  Ironically, the new ISOO report provides a vivid illustration of the overclassification problem.
Secrecy News asked two security officials to articulate the damage to national security that could result from release of the security cost estimates for the intelligence agencies, but they were unable to do so.  They said only that the classification of this information was consistent with intelligence community guidance.  But this is a circular claim, not an explanation.

Special Operations Forces on the Rise

Finally, the FAS newsletter touches base on the sharp increase in US special forces operations; but nothing about special forces and the CIA working hand in hand on the reported assassination of Osama bin Laden.

Yes, “reported” is their words as well as mine. FAS reports the number of special operations personal has steadily risen 3-5% over the last several years. Over 12,000 Special Ops personnel are deployed to various missions on a daily basis with a budget that has increased from $2.1 billion in 2001 to $9.8 billion for the 2011 fiscal year and a request for $10.5 billion for the 2012 fiscal year.

U.S. Special Operations Forces continue to experience rapid post-9/11 growth, with swelling ranks, rising budgets and a new set of missions.  Special operations forces were reportedly involved along with CIA personnel in the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on May 1.

“Special operations” are defined (pdf) as military operations that are “conducted in hostile, denied, or politically sensitive environments to achieve military, diplomatic, informational, and/or economic objectives employing military capabilities for which there is no broad conventional force requirement. These operations often require covert, clandestine, or low visibility capabilities…. Special operations differ from conventional operations in degree of physical and political risk, operational techniques, mode of employment, independence from friendly support, and dependence on detailed operational intelligence and indigenous assets.”
New doctrine (pdf) published last month for Special Operations lists 11 “core activities” versus 9 in the previous edition (2003), reflecting the addition of “security force assistance” — aiding the development of foreign security forces — and counterinsurgency.  See “Special Operations,” Joint Publication 3-05, April 18, 2011.In addition to its core tasks, US SOCOM is also assigned by law (10 USC 167j) to perform “such other activities as may be specified by the President or the Secretary of Defense.”  This is an open-ended category that is analogous to the statutory language used to authorize CIA covert actions, and it can be used to underwrite an almost unlimited variety of clandestine missions.  But while there is a well-defined mechanism for congressional oversight of covert action, no similar process for congressional notification and review appears to exist for clandestine SOF missions.

A U.S. SOCOM Factbook, dated November 2010, is available here (pdf).
Traditionally all male, Special Operations Forces are recognizing new roles for women, Adm. Olson said.  “Our attached female Cultural Support Teams (CSTs) allow us to reach key elements of the population in some environments which was not previously possible. This concept of attaching females to SOF units is effective and long overdue; we are urging the Services to recognize the capabilities of CSTs as essential military skills.”

Curiously, Adm. Olson cited the Office of Strategic Services, the CIA precursor organization, as an exemplar of innovation for SOCOM to follow, suggesting that more contemporary models were hard to find. “Our efforts to become more innovative include studying the best practices of other organizations. For example, we are inspired by the ability of the World War II’s Office of Strategic Services to rapidly recruit specialized talent, develop and acquire new technologies and conduct effective global operations within the period of its relatively brief existence.”

Other referenced documents in the Special Ops report which were in text clipped from the excerpt

Why Does Any Of This Matter To Me?

So you just mind your own business, do the daily rat race, come home sit on the couch and watch the tube. Rinse, later and repeat. You have nothing to worry about right?

Wrong! Let us not forget history, lest we be bound to repeat the same mistakes.

Nazi Germany:

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

And they will come for you. In fact they already are.

Silence is the Death of Liberty

Posted by George Washington – September 14, 2010 at 8:50 pm – Permalink Source via Washington’s Blog
First they tortured a U.S. citizen and gang member …
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a criminal
Then they tortured a U.S. citizen, whistleblower and navy veteran …
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a whistleblower
Then they locked up an attorney for representing accused criminals …
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a defense attorney
Then they arrested a young father walking with his son simply because he told Dick Cheney that he disagreed with his policies …
I remained silent;
I’ve never talked to an important politician
Then they said an entertainer should be killed because she questioned 9/11 …
I remained silent;
I wasn’t an entertainer
Then they arrested people for demanding that Congress hold the President to the Constitution …
I did not speak out;
I’ve never protested in Washington
Then they arrested a man for holding a sign …
I did not speak out;
I’ve never held that kind of sign
Then they broke a minister’s leg because he wanted to speak at a public event …
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a religious leader
Then they shot a student with a taser gun and arrested him for asking a question of a politician at a public event …
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a student
They they decided that they could assassinate U.S. citizens without trial
I said nothing;
I assumed I wasn’t on any hit list
When they came for me,
Everyone was silent;
there was no one left to speak out.

Inspired by the poem First They Came by Martin Niemöller, which was written about the Nazis.

I originally wrote this poem in 2007. I have updated it with the additional verse about assassinations.

Alexander Higgins is a Senior NJ ASP.Net Developer.  If you want the latest buzz, analysis, and news without the snooze, visit his comprehensive work at Alexander Higgins Blog

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