It's High Time We Abolished the Department of Homeland Security
By Thom Hartmann / alternet.org

The surveillance state is even bigger, and scarier, than we thought.

And, as a result, it's time that we broke up the failed national security experiment known as the Department of Homeland Security. Returning to dozens of independent agencies will return internal checks-and-balances to within the Executive branch, and actually make us both safer and less likely to be the victims of government snooping overreach.

Last Wednesday, the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald revealed that the National Security Agency is secretly collecting the phone records of millions of Verizon users. The agency received authorization to track phone "metadata" over a 3 month period from a special court order issued in April.

We now also know that what the Guardian uncovered is just the tip of the iceberg of an ongoing phone and internet records collection program that likely includes almost all major U.S. telecommunications companies.

President Obama - who promised the "most transparent administration ever" - now finds himself and his DHS at the center of yet another civil liberties controversy. That controversy has deepened in the wake of two reports published last night in both the Washington Post and the Guardian that outlined a different NSA snooping program – a data mining initiative code-named "PRISM."

PRISM – which was created in 2007 during the Bush Administration – is almost certainly the most far-reaching surveillance program ever created. By reaching into the servers of 9 different major U.S. internet companies - including Facebook, Google and Apple - the NSA has access to millions of users' personal data, including emails, chats and videos.

Although PRISM is supposed to only be used to gain information about "foreign individuals" suspected of terrorism – the very methods used to access such information inevitably suck up the private data of American citizens

As the Washington Post pointed out:

"Even when the system works just as advertised, with no American singled out for targeting, the NSA routinely collects a great deal of American content. That is described as "incidental," and it is inherent in contact chaining, one of the basic tools of the trade. To collect on a suspected spy or foreign terrorist means, at minimum, that everyone in the suspect's inbox or outbox is swept in."

These startling revelations about American intelligence agencies raise a number of questions, the first being, of course, who's the Guardian's source?

We don't know for sure just yet, but I'd bet on WikiLeaks. The Guardian has always been the go-to paper for the group – and exposing the NSA could be its payback for the trial of Bradley Manning, which started this week at Fort Meade in Maryland. Or, it could be somebody in the DHS who sees what a monster Bush created when he borrowed the word "Homeland" from the last generation's Germans and used it to create a huge national security agency.

Ultimately, however, the biggest question here is, "What have we become as a nation?"

Because here's the scariest thing of all: PRISM, just like the NSA's phone records collection program, is perfectly legal. Arguably unconstitutional and totalitarian, yes, but, at the moment, legal. PRISM is authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the NSA's metadata sweeps are allowed under the broad guidelines of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act – both acts of Congress.

The frightened little men of the Bush Administration took us into some dark places after 9/11 – but Congress and President Obama have tragically continued these exact same policies. Just this past December, Congress reauthorized an amended version of the FISA act and the President signed it without complaint.

We're supposed to have "checks and balances." But the very branches of government who are supposed to keep the intelligence agencies in check have rubber-stamped their abuses. Caught up in the hysterical spirit of the times, our elected representatives have signed away our most precious Constitutional liberties in the name of "national security." This is an institutional failure of the highest level.

Our nation now finds itself at a crossroads when it comes to Constitutional rights and civil liberties. Even Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, one of the primary authors of the 2001 Patriot Act, is now backing away from a law he helped write and pass, and calling for new restrictions on its use in intelligence gathering.

But we need to go even further.

We need to repeal the Patriot Act altogether and end our obsession with "Homeland Security."

Concentration of responsibility becomes concentration of power – and because most of our intelligence and police power has been concentrated in one agency – the DHS - that agency has become way too powerful, with no checks and balances. In effect, it's created an entire surveillance industry around itself, and it's time to shut it down.

How did this happen? In a way, it was predictable, a replay of Eisenhower's warning.

As Deep Throat famously told Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein – "Follow the money."

Who benefits from our nation's addiction to out-of-control "security"? The military-industrial-security complex. Providing support and equipment and consultants to DHS has now become a trillion-dollar for-profit industry.

This is not good for the United States.

When the worst abuses of the old East German STASI become the standard policies of what Thomas Jefferson once called "the world's last best hope" – it is time for a change.

Because as Jefferson's fellow founder, Benjamin Franklin said, "those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither."

Repeal the PATRIOT Act, dissolve the DHS, and let's return to sanity.

Thom Hartmann is an author and nationally syndicated daily talk show host. His newest book is The Thom Hartmann Reader.

 

3.5 ·
1
What's Next
Trending Today
6 Toxic Relationship Habits Most People Think Are Normal
Mark Manson · 10,551 views today · There’s no class in high school on how to not be a shitty boyfriend or girlfriend. Sure, they teach us the biology of sex, the legality of marriage, and maybe read a few...
This Polish Ad Will Give You The Feels, For Reals
3 min · 8,112 views today · This is an ad for Allegro, a Polish company similar to eBay, and it's heartwarmingly lovely.
Time-Lapse Satellite Images Give a Startling Snapshot of Past 30 Years on Earth
2 min · 7,025 views today · Working with satellite images from NASA and the US Geological Survey, Google has created a searchable snapshot of the past 3 decades on Earth, creating startling time-lapses of...
Dr. Maya Angelou: Love Liberates
5 min · 4,814 views today · Words to live by from Dr. Maya Angelou. Love each other.
Ten Ways We Misunderstand Children
Jan Hunt · 2,590 views today · 1. We expect children to be able to do things before they are ready. We ask an infant to keep quiet. We ask a 2-year-old to sit still. We ask a 3-year-old to clean his room...
The Myth of Positivity: Why Your Pain Holds a Mighty Purpose
umair haque · 1,931 views today · Of all the great myths of contemporary life, one of the most toxic is positivity. It says: there are negative and positive emotions, and only the positive ones are worth...
15 Easy Things You Can Do to Help When You Feel Like Shit
Maritsa Patrinos · 1,120 views today · You don’t have to tackle it all at once.
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 1,073 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,023 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
The Problem with Hating Our Enemies
Charles Eisenstein · 906 views today · He who fights too long against dragons becomes a dragon himself; and if thou gaze too long into the abyss, the abyss will gaze into thee. —Nietzsche
Have You Heard of The Great Forgetting? It Happened 10,000 Years Ago & Completely Affects Your Life
Daniel Quinn · 734 views today · (Excerpted from the book, The Story of B) With every audience and every individual, I have to begin by making them see that the cultural self-awareness we inherit from our...
The Lid Is off, The Truth Is Coming Out
Charles Eisenstein · 605 views today · It is getting harder to keep a secret these days. The collective shadow of our society, once safely relegated to the dark basement of the unmentionable, is now exposed to...
Sleaford Mods on Brexit Britain
4 min · 558 views today · In early 2014 the Guardian hailed duo Sleaford Mods as ‘the most uncompromising British protest music made in years’. Here, we go backstage at a Sleaford Mods gig in their...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 468 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 420 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 360 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 355 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
Defiance in the Face of Oppression - Iranian Artist Atena Farghadani Defends the Right to Draw
Gavin Aung Than · 303 views today · Atena Farghadani is a 28-year-old Iranian artist. She was recently sentenced to 12 years and 9 months in prison for drawing a cartoon.  
Standing Rock Wisdom: How Sacred, Nonviolent Activism Has the Power to Succeed
Charles Eisenstein · 268 views today · I am told by Native American friends active at Standing Rock that the elders are counseling the Water Protectors to undertake each action prayerfully and to stay off the...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 258 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
It's High Time We Abolished the Department of Homeland Security