View Full Version : The origins of the US surveillance state... Ron Paul Institute

04-08-2018, 03:40 PM
The origins of the US surveillance state...

In the US, Military Interventions Abroad Have Undermined Freedom at Home

Written by Christopher J. Coyne and Abigail R. Hall

The Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal continues to be front-page news. According to current reports Cambridge Analytica obtained private Facebook data, which it used to send pro-Trump material to targeted Facebook users. These reports have been met with outrage in Washington, D.C. The Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation and U.S. senators have called for Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook CEO, to testify in front of Congress.

Calls by Congress for increased oversight to prevent private companies from surveilling people are extremely ironic given that they themselves recently renewed a section of the 2008 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which allows for the warrantless surveillance of Americans. Issues regarding the appropriate use of government surveillance are also at the center of Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump administration. These headlines provide an excellent opportunity to consider the history of the US government’s surveillance state, which matters for people across the world whose liberties are at stake as government power expands.

The origins of the present-day surveillance state can be traced back to the US government’s military occupation of the Philippines in the late 1890s. Under the leadership of Ralph Van Deman, who would earn the informal honorific of “father of US military intelligence,” the US occupiers established a state-of-the-art surveillance apparatus to squash dissent by those who resisted US efforts. After his time abroad, Van Deman returned home and, drawing upon his experiences abroad, worked tirelessly to establish similar surveillance infrastructure at home. In May 1917, the Military Intelligence Sec*tion (MIS) was formed with Van Deman at the helm.

Over the following decades the US surveillance state continued to expand and reorganize, resulting in the founding of the National Security Agency (NSA) in 1952. The founding of the NSA coincided with an unprecedented expansion in the scope of government surveillance of the daily lives and activities of American persons. The prevalence of unconstrained government surveil*lance is evident in the four main concurrent operations undertaken at that time: Project SHAMROCK and Project MINARET, both operated by the NSA; COINTELPRO, implemented by the Federal Bureau of Investiga*tion; and Operation CHAOS, which fell under the purview of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). These programs monitored all foreign telegraphs passing through the United States and surveilled individuals deemed “subversive” by the FBI, which included civil rights leaders and anti-war protestors, among many others. This included not just indirect monitoring, but also infiltrating private organizations and illegal burglary in the name of protecting against “domestic dissent.”

The success of Van Deman’s vision and influence would emerge in the 1970s, when the scale and scope of the national surveillance state, and the American government’s abuse of the power derived from controlling that machinery, were publicly revealed due to the reporting of Seymour Hersh. The subsequent investigation by the Church Committee revealed the extent of the abuses by US intelligence operations noting that “virtually every element of our society has been subjected to excessive government-ordered intelligence inquiries.” The findings of the committee made clear that the unchecked surveillance apparatus had unleashed an unconstrained leviathan that undermined the liberty of the American people.

In response to the committee’s findings, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978, which was intended to oversee and place judicial constraints on the government’s surveillance activities. The act created the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). However, as the revelations by Edward Snowden in 2013 made clear, these reforms were ineffective with the members of the security state acting with few if any real constraints on their behavior.

It is crucial to understand the origins of the US surveillance state both as an important historical episode, but also because it highlights a broader point: a militaristic foreign policy has real effects on domestic institutions and poses a genuine threat to domestic liberties. Many Americans believe that interventions overseas by the US government protect domestic liberties and promote freedom. In our book, Tyranny Comes Home, we argue that this view is incomplete, if not entirely mistaken. When a society adopts the values of an aggres*sive empire, it runs the risk of adopting imperial characteristics at home.

To explain why, we develop a theory of the “boomerang effect” to un*derstand the process through which intervention abroad increases the scope of government power at home and erodes citizens’ liberties. Preparing for and engaging in foreign intervention provides a test*ing ground for intervening governments to experiment with new forms of social control over distant populations. Under certain conditions, these innovations in social control are then imported back to the intervening country, leading to an expansion in the scope of domestic gov*ernment activities. The result is that the intervening government becomes more effective at controlling not only foreign populations but the domes*tic population as well. Under this scenario, the preparation and execution of foreign intervention changes domestic political institutions and the re*lationship between citizen and government. Domestic freedom from in*terference and coercion by others is eroded or lost altogether as the state gains power over citizens.

The thriving US surveillance state clearly illustrates the logic of the boo*merang effect. The centralized apparatus of social control that the US government first developed in the Philippines in the late nineteenth cen*tury has boomeranged to the United States, where it is flourishing over a century later. As we discuss inTyranny Comes Home, the boomerang effect also offers important insights into other cases, including the militarization of police, the domestic use of drones, and torture in U.S. prisons. Ongoing foreign military interventions with no end in sight will certainly lead to increased government power at home in the future.

Members of the U.S. government often use the rhetoric of freedom and virtue to legitimize intervention. This supposed commitment to higher ide*als is indicated by the names assigned to the government’s actions, such as “Operation Just Cause,” “Operation Enduring Freedom,” “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” “Operation Valiant Guardian,” and “Operation Falcon Freedom.” Despite this lofty rhetoric, the pernicious boomerang effect continues to operate: preparing for and carrying out intervention abroad undermines freedom at home. It is crucial for Americans to realize this unseen and overlooked cost of a militarist foreign policy before it is too late and their liberties are forever lost.

Christopher J. Coyne is Associate Professor of Economics at George Mason University and Associate Director of the F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center. He is the author of multiple books, including Doing Bad by Doing Good and After War, and co-author of Tyranny Comes Home: The Domestic Fate of U.S. Militarism.

Abigail R. Hall is Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Tampa and co-author ofTyranny Comes Home: The Domestic Fate of U.S. Militarism.

Reprinted with author's permission from the Stanford University Press Blog.

Without Privacy, ANY thing you do or do not do, or even think or do not think, can be used to define you as an "Enemy of the State" by an aggressive abusive unaccountable authoritarian empire. Organizing meaningful change will be impossible. Bettering your own life will be impossible. Freedom will be impossible. The only choices you will be left with are the opportunities to make mistakes that hang yourself to benefit the Empire.

04-08-2018, 06:48 PM
"Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so."

War is the tool through which the remaining Constitutional restraints on government and rights of the people will be destroyed. War will be the gateway through which total statism in any of its forms (fascism, socialism, communism) will be imposed upon the United States. They will rally the people’s patriotism, and give the laws Orwellian sounding names like the “Patriot Acts”, and “Freedom Laws” and cries of “America First,” but these acts will be anti-patriotic, anti-freedom, and anti-American. At the core of all these activities will be one purpose – to impose ever increasing control over the citizens, marching toward total statism. They will suspend due process and Constitutional restrictions proclaiming “extraordinary times” require extraordinary measures. At first they will only be used against a few select atrocious and most heinous individuals with unfamiliar appearance, customs and beliefs. Initially, it will simply be a matter of degree, but the precedent is now set. Extraordinary measures solely for extraordinary individuals, but slowly and then more rapidly the extraordinary will become the ordinary until such measures apply to anyone. They will deride anyone who opposes these Orwellian acts as dangerously naïve, as pacifists, as isolationists, as unpatriotic, as sympathizing with “the enemy” whoever “the enemy” may be at the time, and as un-American. They will make war with vague, ever changing goals and objectives. They will make war on elusive, obscure enemies by proclaiming wars against “subversives” or “guerillas” or “militias” or “revolutionaries” or “aggressors” or “terrorists” or whatever ambiguous name they can imagine so that the “enemies” will always be elusive, never eliminated or fully defeated. There will always be more “enemies.” War will be perpetual, lasting years or even decades. War will be the final mechanism that destroys America from within; and the people will proudly cheer and defend and support the dismantling of their rights and destruction of their Constitutional Republic, all out of supposed “necessity” to support “the war.”

04-08-2018, 06:49 PM
War serves many purposes. It distracts from the malfeasance of the political classes as it busies giddy minds with foreign quarrels. It creates a symbiosis in which the media serves the state in its relentless grab for bigger budgets and greater police powers; while the state feeds the media’s need for high drama and the narcotic of fear. It provides for the deification of the state, which is then entitled to command all resources — human and material — without challenge or objection. If the state is divine, enemies and dissenters alike must be evil and dealt with accordingly. - Charles Goyette, Money and Markets, July 31, 2014

War against an external foe is a most excellent means of distracting the population from grievances at home. General Douglas MacArthur

Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare. - James Madison, Political Observations,The Most Dreaded Enemy of Liberty, April 20, 1795

Every war in American history has been the occasion for a great leap forward in the power of the State to interfere in and regulate every aspect of our lives. - Justin Raimondo

It is in War that the state really comes into its own: swelling in power, in number, in pride, in absolute dominion over the economy and the society. Society becomes a herd, seeking to kill its alleged enemies, rooting out and suppressing all dissent from the official war effort, happily betraying truth for the supposed public interest. - Murray Rothbard, War, Peace, and the State.

A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny. - Alexander Solzhenitsyn

All those who seek to destroy the liberties of a democratic nation ought to know that war is the surest and shortest means to accomplish it. - Alexis de Tocqueville