Our current political climate is a whirlwind of misery and misfortune at times, leaving many American citizens in a perpetual state of bewilderment. There are too many scandals to keep up with. Too many threads to pull.
And while this may feel like a very ethereal problem, similar to how “stress” can be a symptom and a cause of anything, there are some very real and literal concerns about having our heads turning in a million different political directions at once.
One such effect of this overload is that we sometimes miss the inventive new ways in which the federal government is invading our privacy. Such is the case is Portland, Oregon, where the feds very literally tapped the phones of those who were exercising their First Amendment rights.
Cell phone cloning involves stealing a phone’s unique identifiers and copying them to another device in order to intercept the communications received by the original device. The former intelligence officials described it as part of a “Low Level Voice Intercept” operation, declining to go into further detail—one of them citing the sensitive nature of the surveillance tool and the other an ongoing leak investigation within I&A.
Experts agree that the surveillance would not be conducive to preventing looting or violence, however.
“Signals intelligence collection would not be useful for preventing opportunistic looting or violent confrontations. It presumes the existence of coordinated, purposeful, and unlawful activity that is conducted through electronic means,” said Steven Aftergood, who heads the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy. “The general concern is that DHS treated mass public protests—not just violent individuals—as suspicious and targets of investigation, or worse.”
While it wasn’t clear which individuals had specifically been targeted in Portland, both former intelligence officers agreed that it had violated protocol. “They were abusing people’s rights,” one said.
While it may be difficult to keep our heads on a swivel in perpetuity, we mustn’t allow the government to slither into our personal lives in this way. Vigilance is our duty in a nation whose foundation is that of true freedom.
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