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  Wednesday January 28th, 2015    

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Spy on you (06/19/2013)
By Frances Edstrom

Spy on you

How do the power-hungry of the world gain control over others? How do tyrants maintain control? By knowing as much as they can about those they wish to repress.

When Hitler came to power, for instance, certain groups of people were targeted for persecution: Jews, homosexuals, biblical scholars, immigrants - Slavs, Poles, gypsies - and the handicapped, among others. How did the government know that a person fell into one of these categories? Some people, of course, could be easily identified because they self-identified by belonging to religious, social, and political groups.

However, the Gestapo, Germany’s secret police, began gathering information in the 1930s from various sources in order to ferret out these “offenders.” The local police were told to make lists of the targeted people and send them to a central Gestapo headquarters in Berlin. The rest is history.

China’s Chairman Mao killed, persecuted, or marginalized anyone who had not fought with his takeover of the government. He deprived all of the people of not only education and religious freedom, but basic personal rights. Farmers were not able to farm their own land. City folks were shipped out to farms to learn to be “peasants.” Families were assigned living quarters according to the parents’ position in the Communist party, and were denied such things as cooking meals in their own homes. Dining by all was in communal kitchens. Party members were encouraged to spy on each other and report even simple statements or actions that were considered anti-Party to authorities. In return, they were granted more privileges, and those they ratted out were often sent to “re-education” camps.

The Nazis and Chairman Mao are examples of tyranny on a large scale, but tyranny exists on a smaller scale as well. Crime bosses like mobster Whitey Bulger, now on trial in Boston, operate in a smaller theater of operations, but use the same tactics, rewarding those who deliver information on others.

How can we see what has happened historically and not be concerned at what is happening in our own government? A Pew Research poll found that a majority of Americans are not worried at all about being spied on.

These days, however, we don’t need to use jackbooted thugs with guns to gain control of a populace. We have the Internet and cell phones to spy on citizens, gather information about them and control them.

We have discovered that the U.S. National Security Agency, the FBI, and the IRS have all been secretly gathering information about not only those suspected of having ties to illegal activity, but all of us. This should not be allowed to go on unmonitored.

You may think that the current federal administration would not use this secretly gathered information in order to establish an oppressive power over us. Or you might. That’s not the immediate danger we should be wary of.

When an unelected government organization - NSA, FBI, IRS - is allowed to secretly gather identifying information about the citizens, it is not much different from the Gestapo, Mao’s Red Army or the USSR’S KGB. The information may not currently be being used to control the public, but the foundation for a tyrannical government to step in is there.

These unelected federal bureaucracies say they are not listening to our phone calls, or reading our Facebook pages and texts, but the apparatus is in place to do so. Democracy is protected by our ability to elect our government. When unelected agencies are allowed absolute unfettered freedom to spy on citizens, abetted by the executive and judicial branches, democracy is in danger.

There is a delicate balance between national security and the absence of personal freedom. Those who would choose national security over what they perceive to be innocuous spying that is meant to only capture the bad guys, are flirting with danger. If such widespread spying on the citizenry has been done for a long period of time here without coming into the public notice, one wonders what other secret activity is going on in these agencies, or is being planned to gather information about me, and you. And how it could be used against us. 


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