“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, March 17, 2018

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”

The Deeper Meaning of Mass Spying in America

 06.14.2013 ::  United States

Introduction: The exposure of the Obama regime’s use of the National Security Agency to secretly spy on the communications of hundreds of millions of US and overseas citizens has provoked world-wide denunciations.

In the United States, despite widespread mass media coverage and the opposition of civil liberties organizations, there has not been any mass protest. Congressional leaders from both the Republican and Democratic Parties, as well as top judges, approved of the unprecedented domestic spy program.. Even worse, when the pervasive spy operations were revealed, top Senate and Congressional leaders repeated their endorsement of each and every intrusion into all electronic and written communication involving American citizens.

President Obama and his Attorney General Holder openly and forcefully defended the NSA’s the universal spy operations.

The issues raised by this vast secret police apparatus and its penetration into and control over civil society, infringing on the citizens freedom of expression, go far beyond mere ‘violations of privacy’, as raised by many legal experts.

Most civil libertarians focus on the violations of individual rights, constitutional guarantees and the citizen’s privacy rights. These are important legal issues and the critics are right in raising them. However, these constitutional–legal critiques do not go far enough; they fail to raise even more fundamental issues; they avoid basic political questions.

Why has such a massive police-state apparatus and universal spying become so central to the ruling regime? Why has the entire executive, legislative and judicial leadership come out in public for such a blatant repudiation of all constitutional guarantees? Why do elected leaders defend universal political espionage against the citizenry? What kind of politics requires a police state? What kind of long-term, large scale domestic and foreign policies are illegal and unconstitutional as to require the building of a vast network of domestic spies and a hundred billion dollar corporate-state techno-espionage infrastructure in a time of budget ‘austerity’ with the slashing of social programs?

The second set of questions arises from the use of the espionage data. So far most critics have questioned the existence of massive state espionage but have avoided the vital issue of what measures are takenby the spymasters once they target individuals, groups, movements? The essential question is: What reprisals and sanctions follow from the ‘information’ that is collected, classified and made operational by these massive domestic spy networks? Now that the ‘secret’ of all-encompassing, state political spying has entered public discussion, the next step should be to reveal the secret operations that follow against those targeted by the spymasters as a ‘risk to national security’.

The Politics behind the Police State
The fundamental reason for the conversion of the state into a gigantic spy apparatus is the nature of deeply destructive domestic and foreign policies which the government has so forcefully pursued. The vast expansion of the police state apparatus is not a response to the terror attack of 9/11. The geometrical growth of spies, secret police budgets, and the vast intrusion into all citizen communications coincides with the wars across the globe. The decisions to militarize US global policy requires vast budgetary re-allocation , slashing social spending to fund empire-building; shredding public health and social security to bailout Wall Street. These are policies which greatly enhance profits for bankers and corporations while imposing regressive taxes on wage and salaried workers.

Prolonged and extended wars abroad have been funded at the expense of citizens’ welfare at home. This policy had led to declining living standards for many tens of millions of citizens and rising dissatisfaction. The potential of social resistance as evidenced by the brief “Occupy Wall Street” movement which was endorsed by over 80% of the population, .The positive response alarmed the state and led to an escalation of police state measures. Mass spying is designed to identify the citizens who oppose both imperial wars and the destruction of domestic welfare; labeling them as ‘security threats’ is a means of controlling them through the use of arbitrary police powers. The expansion of the President’s war powers has been accompanied by the growth and scope of the state spy apparatus: the more the President orders overseas drone attacks, the greater the number of his military interventions, the greater the need for the political elite surrounding the President to increase its policing of citizens in anticipation of a popular backlash. In this context, the policy of mass spying is taken as ‘pre-emptive action’. The greater the police state operations, the greater the fear and insecurity among dissident citizens and activists.

The assault on the living standards of working and middle class Americans in order to fund the endless series of wars, and not the so-called ‘war on terror’, is the reason the state has developed massive cyber warfare against the US citizenry. The issue is not only a question of a violation of individual privacy: it is fundamentally an issue of state infringement of the collective rights of organized citizens to freely engage in public opposition to regressive socio-economic policies and question the empire. The proliferation of permanent bureaucratic institutions, with over a million security ‘data collectors’, is accompanied by tens of thousands of ‘field operators’, analysts and inquisitors acting arbitrarily to designate dissident citizens as ‘security risks’ and imposing reprisalsaccording to the political needs of their ruling political bosses. The police state apparatus has its own rules of self-protection and self-perpetuation; it has its own linkages and may occasionally compete with the Pentagon. The police state links up with and protects the masters of Wall Street and the propagandists of the mass media – even as it (must) spy on them!

The police state is an instrument of the Executive Branch acting as a vehicle for its arbitrary prerogative powers. However on administrative matters, it possesses a degree of ‘autonomy’ to target dissident behavior. What is clear is the high degree of cohesion, vertical discipline and mutual defense, up and down the hierarchy.

The fact that one whistle-blower, Edward Snowden, emerged from the hundreds of thousands of citizen spies is the exception, the lone whistle blower, which proves the rule: There are fewer defectors to be found among the million-member US spy network than in all the Mafia families in Europe and North America.

The domestic spy apparatus operates with impunity because of its network of powerful domestic and overseas allies. The entire bi-partisan Congressional leadership is privy to and complicit with its operations. Related branches of government, like the Internal Revenue Service, cooperate in providing information and pursuing targeted political groups and individuals. Israel is a key overseas ally of the National Security Agency, as has been documented in the Israeli press (Haaretz, June 8, 2013). Two Israeli high tech firms (Verint and Narus) with ties to the Israeli secret police (MOSSAD), have provided the spy software for the NSA and this, of course, has opened a window for Israeli spying in the US against Americans opposed to the Zionist state. The writer and critic, Steve Lendman points out that Israeli spymasters via their software “front companies” have long had the ability to ‘steal proprietary commercial and industrial data” with impunity . And because of the power and influence of the Presidents of the 52 Major American Jewish organizations, Justice Department officials have ordered dozens of Israeli espionage cases to be dropped. The tight Israeli ties to the US spy apparatus serves to prevent deeper scrutiny into its operation and political goals - at a very high price in terms of the security of US citizens. In recent years two incidents stand out: Israeli security ‘experts’ were contracted to advise the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security in their investigation and ‘Stasi-like’ repression of government critics and environmental activists (compared to ‘al Queda terrorists’ by the Israelis) – the discovery of which forced the resignation of OHS Director James Powers in 2010. In 2003, New Jersey governor, Jim McGreevy appointed his lover, an Israeli government operative and former IDF officer, to head that state’s ‘Homeland Security Department and later resigned, denouncing the Israeli, Golan Cipel, for blackmail in late 2004. These examples are a small sample illustrating the depth and scope of Israeli police state tactics intersecting in US domestic repression.

The Political and Economic Consequences of the Spy State
The denunciations of the mass spy operations are a positive step, as far as they go. But equally important is the question of what follows from the act of spying? We now know that hundreds of millions of Americans are being spied on by the state. We know that mass spying is official policy of the Executive and is approved by Congressional leaders. But we have only fragmented information on the repressive measures resulting from the investigations of “suspect individuals”. We can assume that there is a division of labor among data collectors, data analysts and field operatives following up “risky individuals and groups”, based on the internal criteria known only to the secret police. The key spy operatives are those who devise and apply the criteria for designating someone as a “security risk”. Individuals and groups who express critical views of domestic and foreign policy are “a risk”; those who act to protest are a “higher risk”; those who travel to conflict regions are presumed to be in the “highest risk” category, even if they have violated no law. The question of the lawfulness of a citizen’s views and actions does not enter into the spymasters’ equation; nor do any questions regarding the lawfulness of the acts committed by the spies against citizens. The criteria defining a security risk supersede any constitutional considerations and safeguards.

We know from a large number of published cases that lawful critics, illegally spied upon , have subsequently been arrested, tried and jailed – their lives and those of their friends and family members shattered. We know that hundreds of homes, workplaces and offices of suspects have been raided in ‘fishing expeditions’. We know that family members, associates, neighbors, clients, and employers of “suspects” have been interrogated, pressured and intimidated. Above all, we know that tens of millions of law abiding citizens, critical of domestic economic and overseas war policies, have been censored by the very real fear of the massive operations carried out by the police state. In this atmosphere of intimidation, any critical conversation or word spoken in any context or relayed via the media can be interpreted by nameless, faceless spies as a “security threat” – and one’s name can enter into the ever growing secret lists of “potential terrorists”. The very presence and dimensions of the police state is intimidating. While there are citizens who would claim that the police state is necessary to protect them from terrorists – But how many others feel compelled to embrace their state terrorists just to fend off any suspicion, hoping to stay off the growing lists? How many critical-minded Americans now fear the state and will never voice in public what they whisper at home?

The bigger the secret police, the greater its operations. The more regressive domestic economic policy, the greater the fear and loathing of the political elite.
Even as President Obama and his Democratic and Republican partners boast and bluster about their police state and its effective “security function”, the vast majority of Americans are becoming aware that fear instilled at home serves the interest of waging imperial wars abroad; that cowardice in the face of police state threats only encourages further cuts in their living standards. When will they learn that exposing spying is only the beginning of a solution? When will they recognize that ending the police state is essential to dismantling the costly empire and creating a safe, secure and prosperous America?

About James Petras

James Petras is a Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York.


  1. Yet Clare's sharp questions must I shun
    Must separate Constance from the nun
    Oh! what a tangled web we weave
    When first we practise to deceive!
    A Palmer too! No wonder why
    I felt rebuked beneath his eye

    by Sir Walter Scott

  2. 2013

    "America Today: A Health Issue" posted on FB under - Steve Richards.

    Don't expect much when you confront Mr. Obama. What you see is a dead (not lame) duck, presidential impersonator; An imposter representing a nation of faux democracy and phantom freedoms. "What we (in America) are caught up in is merely the decay of a rotting, once magnificent, Nation; a body, DOA at the scene of the accident, that we are hysterically dragging in an ambulance of false hope to a “hospital” named “St. Morgue of the Belated”. Expect Lies and deception... because that's all that is left for Obama to present...his legacy for the past, hopefully forgotten in the future. The NSA is one of many last ditch efforts of a dragon which has devoured it's own tail to survive. And the dragon is enormous; its death throes are being felt in the trembling of many countries and markets. Just watch, laugh, and step out into the world and remember... We are the people. "We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us!"

  3. All the roads of lies and deceptions lead to Kenyatta, the presidential impersonator.

  4. (from the post)...The bigger the secret police, the greater its operations. The more regressive domestic economic policy, the greater the fear and loathing of the political elite.

    Even as President Obama and his Democratic and Republican partners boast and bluster about their police state and its effective “security function”, the vast majority of Americans are becoming aware that fear instilled at home serves the interest of waging imperial wars abroad; that cowardice in the face of police state threats only encourages further cuts in their living standards. When will they learn that exposing spying is only the beginning of a solution? When will they recognize that ending the police state is essential to dismantling the costly empire and creating a safe, secure and prosperous America?

  5. Sara A. Carter

    Taking Back The Story

    Up to the minute info on all these issues.

  6. We are NOT an Empire.

    It is ridiculous to say so.

    If we were the Japs and the Krauts would be working for us.

    In Lexington, Kentucky at the Toyota plant which we toured we are working for the Japs.

    Some Empire.

  7. The Soviet Union was an Empire.

    When it fell all those Eastern European countries rushed as fast as their legs could carry them into the EU, and NATO.

  8. The left, Democrats and media (all the same thing actually) are foolishly stepping up to go to war for a dirty cop. There are more, many more corrupt government employees that need to be weeded out by their roots. It is justice, a concept lost on the situational ethicists.

  9. By Monday morning, the left conga line will have McCabe rebranded as Paul Revere.

  10. All of us are against this 'surveillance state' non sense.

    That's one thing we can all agree on.

    Our homes are our castles, and our cell phones and computers too, and the law and our behaviors of government ought to reflect that.

    It amazes me how all these e-mails keep getting made public.

    When a FISA court grants 99% of all the requests something is badly wrong.

    If The Hag had been elected much of this would not have made the light of day.

    I hope she falls and breaks her nose, at least. Let her nose be bent very badly to the left. ho ho

  11. Judge Rudolph (Rudy) Contreras, an Obama appointee, FISA judge appointed by activist Chief Justice John Roberts, is probably on his second bottle of Tums this morning.

  12. Andrew McCabe Has Died So That Jeff Sessions May Live
    Posted at 4:00 am on March 17, 2018 by Joe Cunningham

    Jeff Sessions after being welcomed back into the fold. For the moment.

    I would not want to be Jeff Sessions.

    The embattled Attorney General had a difficult choice. There has been months and months of talk from the media and from the President himself about getting rid of Sessions because he won’t do Trump’s bidding and fire certain people. One of those people is Robert Mueller, the other is Andrew McCabe.

    McCabe, as of last night, was fired two days before he could retire with a full pension. His crime? Well, we don’t quite know. What we do know is that McCabe’s behavior surrounding recent investigations is, at best, suspect. We also know that he has spent a lifetime in public service. There is a lot of good to McCabe’s name, but the bad in this case does stick out.

    Sessions had to make a choice. Trump’s increasingly erratic behavior when it came to firing people this week had to set Sessions on edge. Does Sessions want to keep his job? Of course he does. He busted his ass to get there. So, he did what he thought he could get away with in order to keep it: He sacrificed McCabe to the Altar of Trump.

    McCabe died so that Sessions could live.

    As of this writing, I imagine we’re no more than 24-48 hours away from a Maggie Haberman or Axios scoop that Trump presented Sessions with the ultimatum: “McCabe’s job, or yours.”

    There would, indeed, be one hell of a disclosure if this went to court. What would discovery look like here? Part of me thinks it might not be as good for McCabe as he’d like to think.

    Ryan J. Reilly

    Replying to @ryanjreilly
    More to come …

    Ryan J. Reilly

    McCabe: “Here is the reality: I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey.”

    You see, he is kinda whitewashing over his flaws here. He was a serial leaker of information to the public. He then lied about leaking. To the FBI. That’s kind of a big deal. I think discovery in court might not look that great for Trump OR McCabe at this point.

    However, it all comes down to Jeff Sessions. He got the recommendation from the Office of Professional Integrity, and he pulled the trigger. Less than 48 hours away from retirement, and he fired McCabe. That looks very, very petty.

    At least Sessions gets to keep his job for another three months.

  13. NOTE on St Patrick's Day:

    I recently had my DNA analyzed and to my surprise I shockingly have way more Viking, Celtic and Irish blood than I was expecting.

    Éirinn go Brách

    1. Viking !

      Bless you !

      The Vikings founded Dublin, as I recall.

    2. There is archaeological debate regarding precisely where Dublin was established by Celtic-speaking people in the 7th century.[16] Later expanded as a Viking settlement, the Kingdom of Dublin became Ireland's principal city following the Norman invasion.[16] The city expanded rapidly from the 17th century and was briefly the second largest city in the British Empire before the Acts of Union in 1800.

      It was an unlocated backwater until the Vikings moved south from the cold.

    3. There were Vikings in Poland too, but not so much, alas.

  14. Here's a good article - the fireworks have just started -

    March 17, 2018
    AG Sessions fires former FBI Deputy Director McCabe and McCabe fires back
    By Howard J. Warner

  15. Andrew McCabe Fired! Great Day For Democracy!

    Donald Trump

    Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!


  16. .

    The Deeper Meaning of Mass Spying in America

    Absolutely excellent article by James Petras. The best I've seen at laying out the various ramifications of the domestic spying program here in the US and its connection to similar programs around the world.

    It's emphasis on Obama's role in the program is understandable since he wrote the article in 2013 shortly after the Snowden revelations.

    The article is worth saving and revisiting from time to time. I made a copy of it.


    1. .

      Editorial Comment

      As noted, the lead article on this stream is excellent, well at least, it is excellent as far as it goes.

      The emphasis on the sins of Obama is understandable given when it was written, in 2013 shortly after the Snowden releases; however, it doesn't really touch on what went before and obviously couldn't touch on what continues under Trump.

      I suspect the only reason we have been privileged to see this document today are sentences like these...

      President Obama and his Attorney General Holder openly and forcefully defended the NSA’s the universal spy operations.

      It fits with the Boss' meme...

      All the roads of lies and deceptions lead to Kenyatta, the presidential impersonator.

      With regard to the spy programs, this is obviously a political statement not backed up by facts. People here have been decrying these programs since Bush's first term. Likewise, we see that nothing has changed under Trump. Those who think Trump will willingly change it are nutz. We just saw that extended and expanded Section 702 authority was recently passed into law.

      You boys just don't get it, 'They are all Dicks'.

      NSA was pushing for these programs before 9/11. 9/11 was simply the excuse they used to sell this bullshit to the American people. The intrusion through various administrations is a continuum, each new one build on those of the past. It's the nature of bureaucracies and the programs they foster to grow. It is the nature of those in power to seek more power.



    2. .

      Timeline of NSA Spying

      For those who are actually interested in the NSA spying program for anything more than attacking Obama...

      NSA Domestic Spying Timeline (2000 - 2015)

      From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

      Electronic Frontier Foundation

      July 6, 1990; 27 years ago
      Mitch Kapor, John Perry Barlow, John Gilmore[1]
      501(c)(3) nonprofit organization
      Tax ID no.
      Digital rights, Internet activism, lobbying, and litigation
      815 Eddy Street, San Francisco, California, United States
      37°46′57″N 122°25′18″W
      Coordinates: 37°46′57″N 122°25′18″W
      Area served
      Brian Behlendorf[2]
      Executive director
      Cindy Cohn[3]
      $11.8 million (2016)[4]

      The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is an international non-profit digital rights group based in San Francisco, California. The foundation was formed in July, 1990 by John Gilmore, John Perry Barlow and Mitch Kapor to promote Internet civil liberties.

      EFF provides funds for legal defense in court, presents amicus curiae briefs, defends individuals and new technologies from what it considers abusive legal threats, works to expose government malfeasance, provides guidance to the government and courts, organizes political action and mass mailings, supports some new technologies which it believes preserve personal freedoms and online civil liberties, maintains a database and web sites of related news and information, monitors and challenges potential legislation that it believes would infringe on personal liberties and fair use, and solicits a list of what it considers abusive patents with intentions to defeat those that it considers without merit...


    3. Nope, there isn't any rhyme or reason to this damned 2 dot 3 dot stuff.

      Latest example is 2-3-2.

      I've seen all the combinations.

      No reason or rhyme to it.

    4. .

      Not without the decoder ring, old timer, not without the decoder ring.


    5. .

      A secondary benefit, the pleasure I take in watching you boys chasing it around like a cat chasing a pen light.