The Dog Wore Black

Police State or Paranoia? The Answer’s Looking Ominous.

Thursday, June 20, 2013
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WHAT, ME, WORRY? If you’re not wetting your pants, you’re not paying attention. According to recent polls, many of us are too quick to minimize revelations that federal spy agencies have been strip-mining the phone records and email accounts of millions of Americans citizens for years now. I, too, would prefer not be bothered right now, but unfortunately, the usual rationalizations are no longer yielding the psychic numbness needed. And it’s not like we’re still on the first step of the proverbial slippery slope. It’s more like we’re careening down the mountain at a high rate of acceleration. The technical infrastructure of an authoritarian state has long existed. But the War on Terror declared with such strategic imprecision by George W. Bush in the aftermath of 9/11 has created psychological and legal infrastructure, as well. These have evolved to the point where a majority of us have become willing accomplices in the wholesale violation of our own constitutional rights. Neat trick.

Angry Poodle

Let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane. Dick Flacks, former left-wing UCSB sociology professor and one of Santa Barbara’s all-time über-activists, first came under FBI surveillance at age 10. That’s when his parents ​— ​both pinko school teachers in New York City who got fired during the Red Scare of the late 1940s ​— ​sent him off to a Red Diaper Commie Kinder-Kamp. Flacks, a major player with the antiwar group Students for a Democratic Society during the 1960s, discovered this after he went to court to get access to his FBI files some years later. During the height of the antiwar movement, Flacks would discover, he was so politically radioactive that the FBI placed him on the “Internal Security Index.” Should a “national emergency” be declared, that meant he could be detained and incarcerated even if no charges existed. FBI agents would show up from time to time, Flacks said, to interview his neighbors and landlords, more an act of intrusion and intimidation than information gathering. In 1968 ​— ​when Flacks was a professor at the University of Chicago ​— ​FBI director J. Edgar Hoover personally authorized an anonymous letter-writing campaign to university officials in hopes of getting Flacks fired. Flacks found only one such letter in his files, signed by “Concerned alumus.” That the letter failed in its mission might stem from the fact that the alleged alums misspelled “alumnus.” One week later, Flacks would be savagely beaten in his own office by a man posing as a newspaper reporter. Flacks, it should be stated, has no evidence linking his assailant to the FBI. To date, Flacks has been arrested only once in his life, during a sit-in. And during the Vietnam War, yes, he did advocate resistance to the draft. The point isn’t to make Flacks out to be the second coming of Mother Teresa; the point is that all the activities Flacks engaged in to warrant this extensive surveillance and sabotage campaign by the FBI were perfectly legal and constitutionally protected. And in the years since, Flacks ​— ​no matter what you think of his political inclinations ​— ​has been nothing less than a model citizen.

The moral of the story is not that all government surveillance programs are inherently stupid, incompetent, unconstitutional, and politically abusive. But without meaningful oversight and accountability, it’s all but inevitable they will quickly become so. We have been allegedly reassured that warrants were obtained before any of the phone-record searches of U.S. citizens ever were executed. It’s worth noting that of the 1,800 warrant applications, not one was rejected, and only 40 were in some way modified. The judges that rule on such warrants operate behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy. As has been reported, this court has refused to disclose its own legal analysis of the federal laws that guide its conduct. This court, according to the New York Times, has broadened its interpretation of the Patriot Act even beyond what many of the act’s most ardent supporters ever envisioned. But on what basis remains a mystery. To date, the secret court and the Obama Administration have vigorously resisted all legal actions undertaken to pry out this info. To dismiss these so-called tribunals as “kangaroo” courts would defame only kangaroos.

In March, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper appeared before a Senate panel and was asked point-blank whether the U.S. was collecting data on large numbers of its own citizens. Clapper famously responded, “Not wittingly.” When later called upon to explain so blatant a lie, he even more famously answered that he sought to respond in the “least untruthful manner.” He is, of course, a trained professional, which means he gets to say, I suppose, whatever he wants. And all this spying, naturally, goes well beyond private citizens. In recent months, it’s come out the feds subpoenaed the phone records of the AP news agency and has also threatened a FOX News reporter with criminal sanctions for being in possession of leaked secret documents. Say what you want about such leaks ​— ​or the psychological motivations of leakers like Edward Snowden ​— ​they remain the best and only way any light has been shed about the government’s spying on its own people.

While we’re working hard not worrying about things, perhaps we should not worry that Congress just rejected ​— ​by a vote of 200-to-226 ​— ​an amendment that would have prohibited the federal government from indefinitely detaining American citizens on its own soil and holding them captive without charges. This truly exceptional authority was inserted into the National Defense Authorization Act several years ago, and civil libertarians have been trying without success to pry it out since. We have President Obama’s sincerest assurances that he would never abuse the provisions of this measure, designed as they all are to combat terrorism, but where such fundamental protections are concerned, I put my faith in the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the man.

In the meantime, I’ll be carrying around my own personalized rubber blanket. Adult diapers, I find, make my butt look big.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

The article is absolutely right, government surveillance programs ARE stupid - and you need look no further than the SBSO to see that stupidity personified by its PIO.

Instead of giving the public information of interest, like where all the tens of millions of dollars in the Sheriff's annual budget is actually spent, the Sheriff's Public Information Officer apparently feels her real job is to stalk people like me on internet forums and attempt to discredit us with snide remarks and innuendo.

I suggest that she find something a little more constructive to do with her time than insult people who are NOT public figures. (Of course, I can't ORDER anyone to do anything, but I can sure complain loud and long and eventually others WILL notice.)

spiritwalker (anonymous profile)
June 20, 2013 at 4:39 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Excellent article. An "A+" in content and form.
My worry has turned to disgust for the fact that over 90% of Americans continue to support the politicians who have made the Patriot Act and the NDAA possible.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
June 20, 2013 at 5:14 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Wait a minute. I thought people were complaining because the government wasn't listening to them. Now that the government is listening, people are now complaining about that also?

discoboy (anonymous profile)
June 20, 2013 at 9:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Yep, big gov at its worst. So if its all Bush's fault, how come Obama, rather than fixing things, is defending them. Answer: obama is a big gov guy.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
June 20, 2013 at 9:35 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It really began with the old ghoul Reagan, who Obama says he "admires" which is stomach churning in itself. And we still have old porcine Mikey Reagan making sure the legacy of crime continues.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 20, 2013 at 11:46 a.m. (Suggest removal)

And Clinton didn't fix it either. C'mon, Ken, this isn't partisan; it's about big gov or not big gov. IMO, big=bad, whether gov, labor, business, whatever.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
June 20, 2013 at 3:30 p.m. (Suggest removal)

What I'm trying to illustrate the philosophical line from Reagn to Bush to Clinton to Bush to Obama.

This is the only Big Business I love:

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 20, 2013 at 3:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

This has been going on for a very long time. It started in this Country back in the 1920s when the combination of fighting organized crime and fear of growing communist movements inspired the U.S. government to spy on its citizens. It has ramped up in every decade since. During the 40s it was the war, during the 50s is was the Cold War, during the 60s it was the anti-war protestors, during the 70s it was the oil embargo, and so on a so forth with all the excuses. The current excuse is terrorism. In another ten years there will be another excuse. I used to worry about such things, but about 40 years ago, while reading a whimsical novel I came across, "Amanda's Universal Advice for Paranoics," which states, "About those men who are following you around and watching your house at nights: don't be alarmed. Try to think of them as talent scouts from Hollywood."

Eckermann (anonymous profile)
June 20, 2013 at 4:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I get KV's point but I too am tired of hearing the name of any President brought up in the same paragraph as Mr. Hope and Change when we are discussing the subversion of the 4th Amendment, running an insidiously non transparent government, and doubling down on a failed foreign policy.
Gawd I long for the days when the great protector of women's rights Bill Clinton was merely oppressing interns for sex but running the country in an otherwise sane manner.
Seriously, the government in Italy is looking pretty good compared to what we have here. At least in Italy nobody is foolish enough to argue that "their guy" is honest and virtuous, just that he is "their guy". We still have 30% of our populace that think Obama is doing a good job.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
June 21, 2013 at 6:39 a.m. (Suggest removal)

What's REALLY scary is the extent that progressives like Bill Moyers, Noam Chomsky, Alexander Cockburn, Chris Hayes, etc, etc, have mislead the public regarding the official version of 9/11. Their ignorance of and bias against science and technology, the basis of their attacks on the 9/11 Truth movement, have obstructed public acceptance of 9/11 as an internal coup. Read David Ray Griffin's books, including 9/11 Ten Years Later. Read statements by senior military intelligence, law enforcement, and government officials at and statements by airline pilots at We're not the USA we were prior to 9/11, and over the past 12 years, the journalists known for attacking government disinformation have been instrumental in supporting disinformation regarding the intent of 9/11 and the passage of the Patriot Act that was enabled by the 9/11 attacks.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
June 21, 2013 at 10:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Geez 14noscams, I'm fed up enough with our President/Dictator to not have enough brains left to consume your massive AND diffuse conspiracy...

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
June 21, 2013 at 5:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Regardless of what happened in the past, how are we going to change the future? Are Moyers, Chomsky, or "The Very Independent" (his own words) Michael Reagan going to vote for someone who respects basic human rights?

It isn't just the 4th Amendment that is being chipped away at, it's the 6th Amendement as well which if you think about it, is the gateway Amendment to all others.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
June 21, 2013 at 6:29 p.m. (Suggest removal)

italiansurg: I don't have any conspiracy, so massive and diffuse don't apply to anything in my comment. The people mentioned in my comment support the 9/11 Commission's explanations published in Popular Mechanics that are inconsistent with physical evidence, basic laws of physics, aircraft performance specs, FAA procedures, NYFD audiotapes, aircraft passenger manifests, cell phone call locations, identity of alleged hijackers (undamaged red headband found with undamaged passports at Twin Towers, etc., Shi'a wear red headbands, Al Queda is Sunni, etc). All I know is that many experts in many fields, still increasing in numbers, totally discredit the US government's story re 9/11, and that the Patriot Act is supposedly a RESPONSE to 9/11. The facts demonstrate that 9/11 wasn't a terrorist attack, but it is used as an EXCUSE for the Patriot Act, a chicken v egg discrepancy palatable to sheep but not scientists, engineers and pilots (me included) among others.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
June 21, 2013 at 7:39 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I've seen a bumper sticker that says "just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they aren't coming after me".

billclausen (anonymous profile)
June 22, 2013 at 4:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Actually, it's essential to our national defense to spend billions intercepting phone and email data from millions of American citizens because we're unable to detect panga boats before they're beached on Vandenburg Air Force Base, a facility used to launch highly classified spy satellites. We've been very lucky, I guess, that no panga boats so far have carried dirty bombs or sarin. We have very competent military, intelligence, law enforcement and other government personnel as watchdogs to ensure our safety, including some of the 221 senior members listed on, who have referred to the official 9/11 story as “Terribly Flawed,” “Laced with Contradictions,”
“a Joke,” “a Cover-up”. We're also fortunate that we no longer have to worry about the risk of illegal Mexican immigrants growing cannabis in the hills to supply marijuana dispensaries, and their use of campfires that could accidentally burn up Santa Barbara during our current drought.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
June 22, 2013 at 5:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

14noscams, the NSA is too busy on FaceBook playing Farmville.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
June 22, 2013 at 6:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

bc-It's more than just the 4th and 6th, but the beauty of the 4th is that the language is EXPLICIT:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized".
Even Obama is smart enough to know he is intentionally violating probable cause and our right to a specific Oath or affirmation before searching our records.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
June 23, 2013 at 6:09 a.m. (Suggest removal)

bc: Isn't it "just because I'm not paranoid doesn't mean they aren't coming after me"

14noscams (anonymous profile)
June 23, 2013 at 3:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I can't say for sure.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
June 23, 2013 at 3:54 p.m. (Suggest removal)

@Italian and his urges: Don't forget, the President says at his inauguration “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

What a great job he and so many in Congress and the Senate are doing to uphold the constitution.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
June 23, 2013 at 3:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Nick - Go for the diapers. As a bike rider, the bigger the butt the more visible the biker.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
June 23, 2013 at 5:40 p.m. (Suggest removal)


...The facts demonstrate that 9/11 wasn't a terrorist attack...

Whoever carried it out it was a terrorist attack.

whitecrow (anonymous profile)
June 24, 2013 at 2:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Lois Capps is characteristicly silent of course.

Does she even know what the 4rth Amendment says?

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

The NSA and their government supporters are certainly violating the 4rth Amendment. If this was the 1970's, Obama would be impeached or forced to resign.

Georgy (anonymous profile)
June 24, 2013 at 5:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Lois Capps voted for the Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
June 24, 2013 at 9:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The vast majority of the House voted for the Patriot Act 357-66. At least Capps voted nay on all the Patriot Act reauthorizations that have come up in the past 12 years (the sunsets were the idea of Dick Armey).

And in the Senate, the vote was 98-1. Let this be a tribute to Russ Feingold, the only senator who voted nay.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
June 25, 2013 at 10:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

OK, so THEY promise they're only going to eat 2 or 3 cheese ruffles out of the bag, alone in that windowless room with a portrait of Reichsmarschall Goering on the wall. Oops, I peed.

Adonis_Tate (anonymous profile)
June 25, 2013 at 11:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)

At least Capps voted nay on all the Patriot Act reauthorizations that have come up in the past 12 years

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
June 25, 2013 at 10:44 a.m

But she voted for the NDAA, which is even worse.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 1:17 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Georgy: In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers.
In 2006, Daniel Ellsberg predicted that the " Bush Regime Will Institute a Police State, With Mass Detentions, Following Another 9/11", has insisted on a new investigation of 9/11, and stated that the government has ordered the media not to cover 9/11.This was seven years ago.
On June 16, 2013, Ellsberg stated "George W. Bush himself, but particularly the people that he appointed, chose to be with him, like Richard Cheney, David Addington, who was Richard Cheney's legal advisor, and then under him John Yoo, a number of others, I think are fairly described as domestic enemies of the United States Constitution. " (the Guardian).
Should we have called him a whack job in 1971 and ignored him? Have his predictions seemed accurate over the last seven years? The New York Times began publishing the Pentagon Papers, describing the US government's acts in misleading the public about the Vietnam War, 42 years after Ellsberg released them, on June 16, 2013. | July 19, 2006

14noscams (anonymous profile)
June 26, 2013 at 7:28 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Dear Lois Capps,

What are you going to do to stop the NSA from recording every email and phone call that is made from your district?

Georgy (anonymous profile)
July 9, 2013 at 8:23 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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