By Bill Hoffmann and John Bachman
July 24, 2013
The U.S. government's growing surveillance of Americans has transformed the nation into an "electronic concentration camp," top civil-liberties attorney John W. Whitehead says.
"It's moving so rapidly you have to feel creepy because you're being watched. Everybody has a file if you do anything electronically," Whitehead, author the new book "A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State," told Newsmax TV.
"We're moving into an electronic concentration camp . . . We live in a police state, essentially, one where they're watching us and the information can and is being used against certain people."
Whitehead — who founded the Rutherford Institute in Virginia, which helps promote civil liberties and human rights — has been researching the growth of the National Security Agency since the 1980s.
The agency has been under fire for its collection of phone and email records — secret programs that were leaked to the press by one of its former contractors, Edward Snowden.
In the 1980s, "they were already doing internal spying on American citizens, recording phone calls, doing wire taps, which again they're supposed to be conducting foreign intelligence, not internal," Whitehead said.
"The agency's grown rapidly, especially since 9/11 and more rapidly under President [Barack] Obama," Whitehead said.
Just how rapidly is astonishing, according to Whitehead.
"It now has a Utah facility that has a computer, as I'm told by NSA personnel … that downloads 1 trillion bits of information from the Internet every month and probably more," he said. "That's your banking records, anything you do digital – electronic banking, text messages, Facebook, any of that stuff is parsed by the computer and given to the agents."
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are involved in the same type of surveillance, he said.
The recent revelations are an egregious violation of the Bill of Rights, particularly the Fourth Amendment, according to the author.
"The Fourth Amendment requires probable cause before surveillance can be conducted on American citizens, which means you have to have evidence if you're a government agent … that you're going to commit a crime," Whitehead said. "None of that's available and they're just swooping in our nests looking at bank records and things like that."
Just as alarming to Whitehead is the fact that communications giants like Verizon, Microsoft, and AT&T, which store the data, hand it over to the government.
"You can call it a corporate spying center and that's exactly what it is — millions upon millions of bits of data collected on average American citizens," he said.
Whitehead said the idea of unwarranted surveillance is nothing new and that America's Founding Fathers came up with protections after being persecuted by the British.
The British "went into homes, they spied on people, and they did illegal searches and seizures," he said.
His book details how many of the people being spied on are simply people exercising their free speech rights.
"Martin Luther King is a good example. The FBI in the '60s collected 17,000 pages of information, wiretapping, following … King to try to discredit him," Whitehead said.
"Today before peace marches … the FBI is swooping into apartments, rummaging through materials, trying to find things that they can use against these so-called anti-war activists and how they know about that is through the electronic snooping."
In the immigration reform bill now being debated in Congress, one idea is to fly drones — now used to kill terrorists oversees — to monitor the U.S.-Mexico border for illegal crossers.
It's an alarming prospect that Whitehead said Americans must get used to.
"There's not going to be any drone-free zones in America. You can be against them but you might as well get used to them," he said.
"They're going to be equipped with lasers, Tasers, sound cannons, rubber bullets and those kind of things. I fear free speech protests are going to be put down very, very easily," he said, adding that tactic may roundly discourage protesters from exercising their rights of free speech.
The other alarming trend with drones is how small and precise they are becoming, according to Whitehead.
"There's a mosquito drone that can actually land on you. It's a prototype, and inject you with something," he said.
"There's the switchblade drone that flies through the air, stops at your head, and explodes. Those things will not be used beneficially in my opinion," he said.
For example, Whitehead said, a person at home cleaning their legitimately-owned shotgun can be targeted by a drone with a super-sensitive scanning device.
"It can actually see through the walls of your home … just like the TSA scanners [at airports]. It records an image and shoots it to the police," he said.
"If your records are not well kept in the sense that you've proven that you legally own that gun, you're going to get a raid at your home. So those kinds of things are in the future," he warned.
Despite the chilling and bleak scenarios Whitehead's book portrays, it says that there may be some light at the end of the tunnel.
"The most promising movement I'm seeing is a lot of young people today, 20s, early 30s, even young NSA employees and people working in the Secret Service," Whitehead said.
"I had an NSA employee tell me not too long ago … 'Your generation really screwed things up; we're going to try to make it right.'
"He calls himself a Constitutionalist. He doesn't like what the NSA is doing. He wants to fix it from the inside. That's a good way to do it," the author said.
Whitehead also urged Americans to study their rights under the Bill of Rights and make sure their children are informed.
"Most Americans … don't know what's in the Fourth Amendment, the First Amendment," he said.
"Our schools don't do a good job of teaching civil liberties anymore, or even civics. Education precedes action," he said.
Whitehead’s book "A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State," is published by Select Books.