Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Justice Department would begin an investigation into News Corporation and Rupert Murdoch. The FBI has also decided to investigate Mr. Murdoch and News Corp. Both investigations begin amid allegations that the now defunct News of the World attempted to hack the phones of 9/11 victims.
The illegal monitoring of private citizens’ communications by the media is reprehensible. And yet, the federal government has engaged in this kind of surveillance as well. Over the past decade, the US Government has given itself free reign to spy on the American people. Citing the broad threat of terrorism in the months following September 11, 2001, President Bush issued an executive order that authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to monitor phone calls, text messages, internet history, email, and other forms of communication without search warrants. This unprecedented violation of the fundamental rights of American citizens was soon given statutory authorization through Title II of the Patriot Act of 2001.
The Bush Administration referred to the executive order as the “terrorism surveillance program”, and claimed that the NSA’s mandate was only to monitor “foreign communications”. However, many abuses have come to light that completely disprove these claims. At one point AT&T was made to provide total, unfettered access to its major interconnect locations, phone conversations, email, web browsing, and corporate private network traffic to the NSA. Worse, officials from the NSA have since admitted to spying on millions of private American citizens as part of the warrantless wiretapping program. Former NSA officials admitted that journalists were a prominent target of the nationwide monitoring.
In May 2011, President Barack Obama re-authorized key provisions the Patriot Act, guaranteeing the government’s power to monitor the private communication of its citizens for at least another four years. And so we have to ask ourselves: if the previous administration used these powers to monitor the public and the press, is it fair to assume that this administration has and will continue to do the same? With private information gathered by law enforcement agencies in one hand and the full prosecuting power of the Justice Department in the other, just what can’t this President do to anyone he might think is an enemy? It seems no coincidence that Eric Holder is spearheading an investigation of Mr. Murdoch, who owns media outlets that have been among the most critical of President Obama.
If the government finds monitoring its enemies so easy, is it a distinct probability that the Obama Administration is using surveillance to monitor members of the media, Republican members of Congress, and major republican donors? I would argue it is very likely the Obama Administration will monitor the communications of any person or organization that is perceived to be overly critical of the President.
As a small business advocate, I currently have fifteen open lawsuits against the Obama Administration. Is it unreasonable to think that the Obama Administration might be monitoring our communications? My organization, the American Small Business League (ASBL) is focused on changing another corrupt practice in Washington: the diversion of federal small business contracts to large corporations. This rampant abuse continues to occur with the full knowledge and consent of Attorney General Eric Holder and the Justice Department. In fact the Justice Department is actively opposing our use of the Freedom of Information Act to expose this corrupt practice.
I have had many conversations with journalists and producers in print and television media who cover our issue. It is not unusual for a media appearance to be cancelled suddenly, or for a print story to be given the red light by an editor at the eleventh hour. The same journalists and producers have told me that representatives from the Obama Administration have called them and used whatever spin at their disposal to discredit the ASBL and myself. A former government intelligence officer has also told me that it is standard operating procedure to monitor anyone who is suing the government.
The surveillance of private communication is a prime example of the federal government reaching extraordinary lows to silence and discredit the very citizens it is supposed to work for, in order to keep as much legitimate criticism of its activities off the mainstream radar.
I do not approve of any person or organization hacking into a private citizen’s phone and/or internet connection, whether it’s a media conglomerate or the government. However, we live in a time when the government has been able to use phone hacking and wiretapping to spy on American citizens arbitrarily and with no oversight. This violates the very essence of our republic.
If Eric Holder wants to investigate phone hacking in the United States, I commend him. To start, there should bean investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and a Congressional hearing into the government’s surveillance of private citizens. Let’s look at all instances of phone hacking across the nation. It is illegal, violates our fundamental rights and any person and/or organization (including government agencies) engaging in this corrupt practice should be prosecuted. The American people deserve to know who is doing what with all of the accumulated private information over the last decade. The very best place for Attorney General Holder to begin these investigations is with the NSA.