Home / Culture and Society / Government Gone Too Far: PRISM, Internet Privacy, and Erosion of States’ Rights

Government Gone Too Far: PRISM, Internet Privacy, and Erosion of States’ Rights

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Privacy policies are a lot like parachutes. They’re useless until you need them, and then, if they don’t work, you’re out of luck. Welcome to the new Amerika, and a snapshot of the greatest crime in modern history.

PRISM and the Great Lie

PRISM completely disregards the United States Constitution.

If calling PRISM the greatest crime in modern history seems sensationalist, pause for a minute and consider U.S. reactions to China, Iran, or Russia violating the rights and freedoms of their own citizens within their own borders. American cries of communism, dictatorship, and human rights violations are shouted from the rooftops of Capitol Hill. The media goes into a feeding frenzy, and oppressed bloggers are regularly granted asylum. In the most extreme cases, sanctions are even imposed on entire nations. This is because Americans know freedom better than anyone else. We understand that those sorts of rights violations only happen in the worst countries, where their citizens are not afforded the protection of a document like the U.S. Constitution. That leaves them unable to defend themselves, and subject to the whims of corrupt and morally bankrupt governments.

Of course, if you’ve been keeping up with the news, that is exactly what PRISM has done to the American people. However, unlike communist nations and dictators, who typically reserve violations of basic rights for their own citizens, the U.S. Government took it a step further. It violated the rights of the entire world.

What is surprising is that after years of legislation and legal action around the world concerning anti-trust and privacy, everyone is largely ignoring the fact that the companies aiding the U.S. Government with PRISM knowingly acted criminally in violating privacy policies. Put another way, a group of companies that includes the largest and most trusted Internet, mobile, software, and web search facilitators in the world all knowingly broke the law.

For the sake of perspective, when in an earlier case Google violated the terms of a privacy policy in the U.S. the FTC fined the company more than $22 million. This was for a relatively minor infraction involving less than 10% of domestic internet users, but it set a clear precedent compelling the FTC to penalize not just Google, but also every one of the involved companies that violated privacy policies.

Amerika - The USSA

When did we trade away America and become Amerika, the USSA?

Unfortunately, in the case of PRISM, the U.S. Government compelled these companies to break the law, and therefore it technically has no grounds to penalize them for their crimes. That doesn’t change the fact that they knowingly violated federal, state and international law, as privacy policies are legally binding. However, what it does do is lay the groundwork for an unprecedented change in the very fabric of America. That change comes in the form of further erosion of states’ rights. Legally, PRISM violated the rights of every state and citizen therein. Despite this, not one state has taken or even discussed taking direct legal action against the Federal Government or these companies, with much of the mainstream media completely sidestepping the issue.

To better understand why this is such a problem, one needs to examine the basic arguments on which the United States was founded. Put simply, it was to be a more perfect union of states. Each state would be free to govern itself within the confines of a set of rules established by a majority-elected and controlled government. That meant that each state would be more or less responsible for itself, with the federal government granted powers meant only to maintain the union that kept them together. PRISM is the single most egregious breach of that trust to have occurred in the history of the United States. No state has been unaffected by it, yet they have all elected to remain largely silent on the issue.

Sadly this continues a pattern of apathy on part of the states that began with the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments. These Amendments marked a turning point in U.S. history, when individual rights as recognized by the Declaration of Independence were traded by the states for the sake of convenience.

Much like feeding sheep to a hungry wolf, these rights were quickly consumed by the federal government. Concerned with their own management, states largely abandoned their constitutionally mandated responsibility to manage and limit the appetite of the federal government, allowing it to grow unchecked for nearly 100 years. Fattened on the rights of individuals and states, and hungry for more, that wolf has now become a monster. It shows complete disregard for the America intended by the Constitution, and worse, citizens and states alike are afraid to confront it for fear of being eaten.

American Rights

When did America change sides in the fight for democracy?

When considering these facts, it is important to note the use of the word “recognized” in conjunction with a reference to individual rights. America was founded on the principle that certain rights were inalienable, and therefore beyond the power of any government or earthly body to grant. Instead, a government could only recognize those particular rights. Further, the establishment of a government by individuals was primarily for the purpose of protecting those rights. Therefore, even without a U.S. Constitution or an America, the rights of an individual remain unchanged. The fact that Americans continue to sacrifice their lives in foreign lands to protect and defend the rights of others against tyranny is proof that this idea still exists, yet it is in direct opposition to everything PRISM represents.

Now the American people and the leaders they have elected to protect these rights have chosen to remain in their homes and do nothing. There are minor and relatively frivolous lawsuits in the neighborhood of $20 billion being discussed, which almost any of the named companies could shrug off with on-hand cash reserves. The entire federal government is a body created by the states, and therefore accountable to the states and citizens therein, and it is the states that should be leading this charge, not the ACLU.

This apathy is what has enabled the federal government to become the very thing the United States was established in protest of. The citizens and leaders of America should be up in arms over this, as it is on par with the tyranny of England that sparked the American Revolution. The collective apathy of the average American on these matters borders on criminal. Should the states elect to do nothing and remain silent, it will quite possibly be the beginning of the end of the United States as intended by the founding fathers.

If that happens, it will be recorded by history as the point when America ceased to exist and became the United Socialist States of America.

Image Credits: Feature Image: ‘Flag Retirement Ceremony‘ Article Image: ‘PRISM‘ Article Image: ‘Cuffs‘ Article Image: ‘Julian Assange Wikileaks named Man of the Year by Le Monde Found On: flickrcc.net, and Wikimedia Commons

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About Henry Buell

A world traveled analyst, Henry has lived through political upheaval, revolutions, and war. He writes from a different perspective, with a passion for life, tempered by experience. More information can be found on Henry Buell's website.
  • bliffle

    It seems to me that our oppression is a bipartisan political effort. Denigrating only one side assures that you will lose half your audience. All political leaders are paranoid and seek ever greater degrees of control over the citizens, not just “the current administration”.

    • “It seems to me that our oppression is a bipartisan political effort… All political leaders are paranoid and seek ever greater degrees of control over the citizens…”

      Very well written, and I completely agree with you. Hopefully I did not go overboard in my denigration of the current administration. The issues are very much more with the Fed than any political party.

      In fact, it is the limitation of presidential terms and political grandstanding that prevents so many people from seeing the larger issue. The fed just gets more and more powerful, and people blame president after president.

      Although, if we contrast PRISM and Watergate, the latter is a fart in a windstorm by comparison.

      Thanks for the comment Bliffle, and please keep this sort of stuff coming. Things like this are sometimes the catalyst to future articles and debate topics. Also feel free to visit my web site and send me an email. I’m not the ogre (or twit) I might appear to be. I often find my best friends in life have been those whom I either argued with or simply didn’t like at the outset. There is a contact form at the bottom of the page (and other disparaging articles about the current administration).

      Funny thing is that, being outside the US so often, I remember everyone hated George Bush (people have even spit on me over George Bush), and then they loved Obama (there is even a restaurant called the Obama Cafe in one of the former Soviet Republics – https://www.facebook.com/ObamaKG). Now it is back to George Bush, and when I am outside the US people stop me and tell me how much they hate Obama, and then get angry when I ask them what they thought of him two years ago.

      Please keep the good comments coming. I’ve got another couple articles in the works, I’ve just been too busy to finish them.

  • Pam

    I agree that rights are falling off of the American tree like dead leaves in the fall, but we have sat back and allowed it….

    • Thanks for the comment Pam. I agree that we have allowed it to happen, but it is not entirely out of apathy (at least not for everyone).

      Much like an abused spouse we have accepted things that weren’t always fair from someone we loved, hoping that they would change. Unfortunately the spouse in question appears to have become a raging alcoholic, and we’re all taking the beating for it.

      I put an opinion piece on my site that you might like. It is safe for work, I just thought it was too ‘opinion / blog’ style to be posted here, so I put it on my site. After all, I’d hate for NSA to find all the eggs in one basked. 😀


  • iball

    ‘the beginning of the end of of the United States as intended by the founding fathers.’
    If what has gone before this was intended, the founding fathers were out of their minds.

    • Things didn’t really go sideways in America until the 16th and 17th Amendments. That was a big turning point in history for us.

      • troll

        …didn’t “go sideways” for whom? 19th century US history is a bloody mess.

        • Yes, it is certainly quite a mess, and researching much of it is an enlightening but awful task. I believe that period is what really seeded the ‘corporate’ America we have today, so sideways would be in terms of the American people.

          Before that period there weren’t really as many atrocities and outright violations of citizen and states’ rights as there were following that time. I could pick at least a dozen reasons why, but they all lead off into another discussion.

          Some of that I hope to write about in the near future, including some less known things going on that are far worse than PRISM. The big problem with PRISM is just how cavalier everyone in the administration is about it, and how regularly they just sidestep more than 200 years of precedent.

          Perhaps the current administration believes it is like certain banks and companies, and ‘too big to fail’ – which is rubbish, but then that is what they feed us these days.

  • troll

    …define “up in arms”

    • Well, I’m from Virginia, and we’re historically known for not accepting tyranny, not letting people walk on us, and generally fighting oppressors, whether through arms or politics. That said, the term carries numerous meanings, some with bark, and others with bite.

      I’ll make another post on that issue one day, but a quick look at the sheer number of armed ‘agents’ of the government operating independently within state borders is telling of the Fed’s position on the matter. In every case these agents are performing duties the National Guard of that particular state should be handling – but the states feeding our rights to the Fed is pretty pedestrian these days.

      Anyone else remember G Gordon Liddy? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G._Gordon_Liddy

      Have a look at that. Note that he was sentenced to 20 years in prison – for following orders, while Nixon walked with a pardon.

      ‘Whitehouse Plumbers’ will also give you some interesting reading materials.

      • troll

        I look forward to reading your take on this central issue.

        • Thank you Troll, the interest is genuinely appreciated.

        • Not to self promote, but if I don’t do it, no one else will. This is another issue I want to highlight the hypocrisy of the current administration on, based on an article I sent to CNN yesterday: http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1032364

  • bliffle

    I have to laugh at your naivete when you say ” United Socialist States of America” to describe our oppressors, when most internal spying is done on behalf of corporate America.

    • Corporate spying is a horse of a different color, and not the topic of this article, but I very much agree with you that corporations have been a catalyst for much of what is wrong. The problem with that approach is that it is like blaming the fox for eating the chickens when the farmer is the one who didn’t close the coop.

      If you’d like me to provide a more detailed explanation than the one below, after reading my response, please expand on where you think this article approaches the issue of states abandoning their Constitutionally appointed duty to keep the Fed in check for the sake of convenience as a point of naivete. As I wrote at the intro to this post, if the farmer leaves the coop open and the chickens get eaten by a corporate fox, the fault lies not with the fox, but with the farmer.

      States abandoning their duty is what allowed the corporate fox in the hen house and gave it the ability to exert the level of influence over the Fed today that they have. A classic example of that would be the DuPont campaign against Marijuana, which, as the quote you reference above indicates, is a clear example of the Fed applying a ‘this is best for you’ policy on the states.

      Whether that policy was pushed by corporations or initiated from within the Fed is not the issue. The issue is that the states collectively ignored their duty to protect our rights, allowing the Fed to increasingly apply socialist standards to us – whether that is being fueled by corporate agendas or not isn’t the issue, because our government was founded to prevent those very things from happening.

      I won’t even get started on the corporations needing to be punished, or the fact that companies earning billions of dollars a year in profits can just laugh off small fines and legal action. Anyway, thanks for the comment. I’ll check back periodically for any responses.

      • bliffle

        You base your argument on a poorly chosen metaphor, namely, “…it is like blaming the fox for eating the chickens when the farmer is the one who didn’t close the coop.”. It’s the fox that we shoot, not the farmer.

        You repeat that several times so it must be central to your argument. Thus, your argument is undermined.

        • States’ rights are a complex matter that only a fraction of Americans are even aware of, and I should have linked them in my article. You have my apologies, and a link so that you can properly debate:

        • Until you understand the issue of States’s rights (central to this topic), you will continue to quote out of context and apply circular reasoning to arguments that
          you have no supporting commentary or dialogue:

          That said, I do appreciate the comments and arguments of readers. I respect the time that goes into reading an article, and more so the time it takes to comment (thus my efforts to respond to all comments, whether I agree or disagree with them).

          Thank you for your comments, and once you’ve had a look at the links I’ve provided, hopefully we can continue this debate from similar frames of reference, if opposing perspectives.

          • bliffle

            Don’t patronize me. I understand the issues of States Rights, perhaps even better than you since I’ve been studying them for at least 60 years. From both sides. I have no need to go read a wiki article. Grow up and address the real issues. Stop being a twit.

          • The intent, Bliffle, was never to patronize. Initially I extended you the utmost respect, penning a rather long response to your short and rather boorish initial comment, and your follow up comments.

            To date you’ve essentially called me a naive and patronizing twit with no understanding of the issues at hand, who needs to grow up. What disturbs me about these statements, and your other arguments, is that essentially all you do is say you disagree with me. Not once have you demonstrated any understanding of States’ rights, and worse, each time you respond your arguments drop further into the abyss of debate, supporting more untenable positions each time.

            If you read nothing else I write, I beg of you, educate me in your belief as to why I am wrong. Don’t just give me opinions and call me names. I get that every day from ignorant, uneducated, and occasionally stupid people. Please, rise above that and either state the point and intent of your arguments with some supporting evidence or, courteous as I’ve been, I fear I’ll need to write your arguments off to one of the above categories and move on to more productive debate.

            For my part, I considered your responses at length, the context of my arguments, and the precedents they are founded on. It occurred to me that I had not linked supporting information concerning States’ rights, so I linked them. For all I know you are an educated person from India who speaks English as a first language. Perhaps you are from Australia, England, Japan, or any of the African or Island countries where I would expect someone to be fluent in the English language.

            I linked the reference to help – not just you, but also anyone else who was reading your arguments and considering giving merit to them. For my part, I completely disagree with your arguments, and believe they are not only wrong, but very much display a lack of knowledge concerning the larger issues surrounding States’ rights.

            Then you state your age as a supporting point of your argument, implying that 60 years of experiences gives you an understanding of the issues at hand, which it absolutely does not.

            My grandma was around 80 when she died. She had been cooking her whole life, and she made the worst pancakes on the planet (to which everyone agreed). She would happily argue that she was 80 years old and knew how to make pancakes – except she didn’t, and her age had nothing to do with it – my sister has been making great pancakes since she was about 10.

            If that frame of reference is unacceptable to you, then consider the nurse who has been studying medicine for 60 years, but is not a doctor; the store clerk who has been using math for 60 years but is not a mathematician; or the high school physics teacher who has been teaching physics for 60 years but doesn’t understand quantum physics. I can go on endlessly, but in the end age has absolutely nothing to do with expertise in anything other than being old.

            From my perspective, the issues you insist I have ignored have in fact all been addressed. My continued engagement of you after you failed to extend me the basic courtesy of responding to my arguments has mostly to do with concern that other readers who don’t fully understand the issues at hand might give your arguments undue credit. As a secondary concern, I thought that you might truly not understand some of the finer points, but your 60 years of experience ‘from both sides’ (both sides of what, the issue, the two countries I referenced, the legal precedents, the colonies and England?) means you are at least 70 years old (or more) and have a good 30 years on me.

            In other words, when I had no idea what a president was, and was hiding under desks when the air raid drills went off, you were at least 35 years old, and were far more aware of the Soviet Union, and according to you, States’ rights.

            Taking that into consideration, I find it highly improbable that you are not aware of the differences between the capitalist democracy we have in America, and the communist socialism that was the Soviet Union. For anyone who is not aware, here is a link that doesn’t do a great job of describing it, but at least gives some important facts: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_Union

            I mentioned the ‘United Socialist States of Amerca’ as a point of reference directly to two key points of the Soviet Union.

            1) The Soviet Union was a socialist state, with a communist government, hence my reference to the developing United ‘Socialist’ States of America (though ours would have a capitalist government pretending to be a democracy).

            2) There is no better real world example of what can happen to a country when it falls apart. I have been to almost every country of the former Soviet Union, and driven past countless empty factories, broken roads, and an infrastructure devastated by 20 years of neglect.

            I don’t want that to happen to America, but right now it is exactly where the country is headed. Most people I talk to have their heads in the sand, failing to appreciate the larger picture – not because they don’t want to, but because they have never seen it.

            The primary difference between the United States and the Soviet Union was that in America, individuals took responsibility for themselves and ownership of their problems. In the Soviet Union, everything was always someone else’s problem, or the result of an action someone else should have taken.

            When crossing the street in America, ‘I’ must check for oncoming traffic, and ‘I’ must make sure no one runs the light after I start walking. In the Soviet Union, ‘they’ must stop, and ‘they’ must not run the light.

            If you don’t speak Russian, ask anyone who does. If you do speak Russian, listen to native Russians talk about something, and it is almost always centered on the world around them causing things to happen to them. Americans, on the other hand, typically take ownership of their surroundings. It is a fundamental difference in the society capitalism breeds and the one socialism breeds. That personal accountability is central to the US Constitution, and States’ rights. Further, it is directly opposed to the interests of corporations.

            I mentioned the United Socialist States of America (USSA) because we are moving away from individual and state ownership of problems and into an era where the Fed has an increasingly strong grip on our daily lives – something the founding fathers and those who penned the US Constitution were wholly opposed to. Despite this, you call me naive for not blaming someone else (corporations) for a problem that we as Americans created by failing to educate our children about their rights, and failing to hold our elected officials and representatives accountable. Then, you fail to suggest a better course of action, or even meaningfully contribute to the date.

            That is why I say that the proverbial farmer is to blame for the corporate fox getting the hens – because it was the farmer who let the fox in. Everyone who signed the Declaration of Independence knew that one fox or another was always trying to get the hens, and it is clearly explained in that document (much more so than my metaphors). When people allow themselves to be walked on, there will always be a corporation, government, or tyrant ready and wiling to walk on them. It is not the fault of the fox, but rather the fault of the farmer. Have you considered what the fox is going to eat when the hens are all gone?

            At any rate, my explanations to you would already have make another article. Rather than keep at this debate, I will put my energies into new articles. Thank you for reading, and don’t take offense to me or my comments. You may personally disagree with them, but they are not intended to be rude, patronizing, or inconsiderate.

            Being an American, I usually give people three strikes before they’re out. For all I know you completely missed my initial reference to socialism, and you haven’t been to the former USSR to see what a failed nation looks like. Alternatively, maybe you’re someone I gave a computer to a few years ago, but he always called me a twat.

        • States’ rights are a complex matter that only a fraction of Americans are even aware of, and I should have linked them in my article. You have my apologies, and a link so that you can properly debate:


  • For those who might not have immediately caught it, the burning flag is actually an official flag retirement ceremony. I specifically chose that image because it shows respect for what America is and stands for, yet it also has the potential to galvanize readers to the fact that our Constitution is very much being ignored. For the record, I am a born and raised Virginia farm boy, and despite my disagreements with certain administrations and their disregard for US citizens, I am fiercely patriotic.