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Surveillance State Operates Behind Veil of Ignorance

Man watching an employee work via a closed-circuit video monitor

The federal government spies on you.

A lot.

And it operates behind a veil of ignorance.

Despite revelations by Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers, many Americans still apparently believe warrantless surveillance only happens to “bad guys,” and they have nothing to worry about because of the “I have nothing to hide” myth.

Americans simply don’t understand the size, scope and invasiveness of the federal surveillance state. That allows the spies to operate unhindered safe behind the pervasive veil of ignorance.

A court filing by the FBI made public earlier this week lifts the curtain and gives us a glimpse into just one corner of the surveillance state – the murky world of national security letters (NSLs). The FBI was compelled to release the documents in an ongoing case involving Nicholas Merrill, founder of Calyx Internet Access. The 11-year-old case stems from Merrill’s refusal to comply with an NSL back in 2004.

According to Reuters, the documents reveal the FBI used NSLs to compel Internet service providers to reveal a wide range of data, including complete browsing histories and records of all online purchases. This all happens without a warrant. In fact, the entire process happens with zero judicial oversight.

Stop.

Think about that a moment.

Your entire web browsing history.

Do you want somebody – anybody – combing through that information?

National security letters basically function just like warrants, compelling the recipient to reveal specified information. But the FBI issues NSLs itself. Instead of going to a judge and getting a search warrant – as prescribed by the Fourth Amendment – the FBI simply writes its own. No judicial oversight exists. A “higher-up” in the agency serves that function. In other words, a fox writes a letter granting entrance into the hen house, and a higher-ranking fox approves it.

Oh, and it all happens in secret. The FBI can even include a gag order prohibiting the recipient of an NSL from talking about it.

According to the Reuters report, the FBI issues thousands of NSLs every year. The FBI claims it doesn’t know the precise number. But Reuters asserts, “At one point, that number eclipsed 50,000 letters annually.”

Simply put, the FBI access all kinds of personal information with zero accountability every day.

“Merrill’s challenge also disclosed that the FBI may use NSLs to gain IP addresses on everyone a suspect has corresponded with and cell-site location information. The FBI said in the court filings it no longer used NSLs for location information.”

That means the FBI not only collects information on “suspects” without a warrant, it also collects information on every person that individual comes into electronic contact with. That could easily be you. Perhaps that makes you suspect. Then the FBI can spy on your friends and acquaintances.

Now, the FBI claims it no longer uses NSLs for location tracking. If that statement has any relationship with the truth, it’s only because the FBI chose for some reason to change its policy – probably because it possess more efficient ways to track your location, such as direct access to your cell phone via stingray device. This statement doesn’t in any way mean that the feds no longer track locations. In fact, it provides tacit confirmation that they do.

It won’t stop.

As long as you let them, the feds will track your location. They will peer into your web browsing history. They will listen to your phone calls. They will read your emails.

Because they can.

We have the power to hinder spying by ending state cooperation with the federal surveillance state. Your local cops serve as troopers in the federal government’s war on your privacy. By denying this assistance, limiting the information your local police agencies can collect, prohibiting data sharing and forcing the police use of surveillance technology into the open, we can place limits on federal surveillance. The feds depend on state assistance to fill its databases and operate its equipment.

Click HERE to find out how to stop it.

But first we need to tear down the veil of ignorance.