NSA, FBI, IRS and the 4th Amendment: Why freedom matters…

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I remember once when I was in college I took a trip home to the DC metro area with my girlfriend. She and I went to the movies not far from where my mother lived in a rather rough part of town called Capitol Heights, MD. I have no idea what we saw. I do however remember that we had a terrible time, and it had nothing to do with what was on the screen and everything to do with what was going on in the theater.

Not long before this at a different theater a few miles away in Oxen Hills, MD. I was standing in line with a friend and I saw two teenage girls fighting not 10 feet away. I grabbed one of the girls and someone else grabbed the other. That’s when I noticed that the other girl was bleeding profusely and the girl I grabbed had a 12 inch steak knife in her hand. It was something about a baby’s daddy is all I knew. Needless to say we didn’t see a movie that night.

So at this different theater we were hoping for better results. As soon as we sat down I wasn’t so sure. People were talking to the screen, smoking in the seats and being rather raucous. My girlfriend mentioned the smoking and I said that if that was the only problem we encountered that night we would count ourselves lucky.

I mention all of this because when you think your life may be in jeopardy, it’s hard to enjoy entertainment… and that’s the whole point of movies. Movies require your buy in for success. They require you to turn off reality. They require you to become connected with the characters. They require the suspension of disbelief and much more if you are to get everything out of the movie and enjoy two hours of entertainment.

If you can’t do any of those things you can’t become engaged in the movie. If you’re worried that someone’s going to pull a knife, a gun or set the place on fire, you’re going to be busy looking around to scan the theater, listening for commotion or trouble and generally paying attention to everything but what’s on the screen. As a result you’d probably miss much of the storyline and likely would end up doing little more than wasting your time and money.

Just as movies require your buy in for success, so too does life. And that’s the problem with all of this seemingly ubiquitous government surveillance. The danger is not so much that Big Brother is watching and trying to control our every move. They don’t have to. Our knowing they could be is enough. Somewhat like the Observer Effect in physics, the observing itself impacts the people being observed.

Think about it this way, if you think it’s tough to enjoy a movie when you’re worried about what’s going on in the theater… imagine how difficult it would be to write a compelling, engaging movie while the whole time a government agent is standing over your shoulder. Whether you realize it or not, you’re writing that movie… it’s your life story.

How much different would your story be if you knew your every word and action might end up as part of some government dossier on you? How much could you embrace freedom and focus on having fun, sowing your wild oats, finding your passion, or risking failure to pursue some crazy dream if you were constantly wondering what some government bureaucrat with the power to throw you in prison or take your kids away might think of it?

And that’s the problem. Knowing our government is actively looking at emails, phone calls (or “just” meta data in some cases) as well as our online surfing and purchasing habits sends a chill down your back. With 315 million people in the country they’re probably not looking at you… but they might be. Imagine you’re a journalist pursuing a story on the undue influence a company or union is having on a piece of legislation. How hard are you going to dig knowing officials could be watching? Or maybe you’re staying in a loveless marriage for the sake of your children but you have a mistress who makes you happy. Maybe you’re visiting a website of a fringe candidate who has some ideas you agree with but others you don’t. Maybe you’re unhappy with your job and are spending a lot of time on Monster.com.  Maybe you’re researching erectile dysfunction.  Or perhaps you’re inventing a technology that will put a big government contractor out of business. How many of these things or others would you think twice about doing because you’d be worried about government snoops twisting your motives into some sham case or sharing your info with your family or neighbors or employer or anyone else?

We already know that government regulations touch virtually every aspect of our lives, but most of us apparently believed the fiction that we had a 4th Amendment right against unlawful searches and could therefore mitigate our exposure to government control. As the IRS scandal showed, there are instances where we have no choice but to interact with government, and the more they know about you the more force they can bring to bear on that engagement. The combination of a heavily regulated society and an all knowing government make for an oppressive mix.

Living a successful life and finding happiness are difficult enough in the best of times, when we spend our days trying to focus on making the best decisions for ourselves and for our families. How much less successful will we be if we now have to worry about what some faceless government officials think about our activities and what the consequences of their opinions will be? Is that really a recipe for a successful and fulfilling life?

Maybe your name will never land on the desk of some partisan or self-serving rouge government official’s desk. But that’s not the point. When the fear that it might is enough to cause citizens to change their behavior, the damage is already done. It’s difficult to imagine a more effective way to throttle back the freedom and creativity that made the United States the most successful and prosperous nation in the history of the world. All of this is particularly troubling today as technology is changing the world at an unprecedented rate, and it’s only getting faster. If the United States seeks to maintain its primary position in the world, it will require its citizens to be as focused on creativity and success as they can. It’s hard for them to do that as they’re nervously worrying about Big Brother lurking around every computer monitor, phone line and street corner…

The product of a military family, growing up in Naples, Italy and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and being stationed in Germany for two years while in the Army, Vince spent half of his first quarter century seeing the US from outside of its own borders. That perspective, along with a French wife and two decades as a struggling entrepreneur have only fueled an appreciation for freedom and the fundamental greatness of the gifts our forefathers left us.

19 Responses to “NSA, FBI, IRS and the 4th Amendment: Why freedom matters…”

  1. 1


    So how is that Patriot Act workin out for ya? This is like preemptive war, we gotta strike first. We have to know about everything in order to stop something. TYRANNY !

  2. 2

    Nan G

    Con. Adam Schriff (D-Hollywood, CA) just asked a great question during these NSA data collection hearings.
    Only 300 phone numbers have been relevant over all the years since 9-11 til now, leading to every case where data had to be looked further into.
    Yet the NSA collects everyone’s phone metadata.
    Why not just leave it to the various phone companies to do what they do?
    IF one of those 300 numbers flashes up, have the phone company call NSA and send over whatever NSA wants.
    Gee, but then what to do with the huge data storage centers in Austin, TX and Utah?
    Still a great question.
    It stumped the entire panel.

  3. 3


    Nan G
    it came to my mind that the 300 hits saved where not enough for all the time they spent
    and all the horrendous cost on thousands of employees and they don’t come cheap,
    like one mentioned 200,000$ for one of thousands employees,,and expanses extra, and benefits.
    beside does that replace what search with real people was before?
    is it a NSA TO REPLACE HUMAN , it don’t seem to save money because they seem to need more human
    to do the search, but they are all sitting on their but instead .
    I think they could reduce the COST by having THE PEOPLE PARTICIPATION advocate it to the PUBLIC ,
    as a patriotic way to do. and it’s free. to tell of suspicious things is okay. if it’s told to a secret NSA,
    THE AMERICANS have been targeted since those MUSLIM cross the OCEAN to get in ,
    so THE PEOPLE CAN SMELL THEM FASTER than a research center with thousands of employees,
    and if they know and told to memorize the phone number like a 911, they will tell and of course there is
    some to discard , but they can spot faster and more precise a coup befor or in progress.
    THE NSA can pair with the public, it would strengthen the cause of security, it does already happen but it could be mandatory as an eye for the researchers if it’s done secretly.
    without implication. and only on terrorist doubts

  4. 4

    Marla Hughes

    The NSA I’m not worried about as it’s forbidden by law from targeting US citizens here or abroad. If it does, then we have the courts to counter it. In spite of Obama we still have checks and balances.
    The FBI, with Holder in charge…….. yeah, that concerns me, but not about the metadata, either.
    Now, the IRS and it’s legions of liberally minded employees all working collectively and w/o needing orders from on high to target my ideology? That’s worrisome. I stand with Cruz. Eliminate it.

  5. 5


    Marla Hughes,
    I saw CRUZ on FOX he will take signatures to eliminate the IRS.
    yes I like him too, and RAND PAUL and it look like RICK PERRY will try the next election,
    he feel better now, he had a BACK operation when he was a CANDIDATE and with the pain and pain killer
    he had a memory gap and they all attacked him like the bully they are on the MEDIAS,

  6. 6

    Marla Hughes


    Yet the NSA collects everyone’s phone metadata.

    The sworn testimony yesterday was a direct and unequivacal refutation of that. I think it was Alexander who said those are local and state. I know that the Fusion Centers, which collect metadata locally and statewide are connected to the federal government through DHS. However, there are also reports that the local and state FCs are collecting and passing along unusable and even illegal data. DHS, the FBI and NSA can cooperate, but have to have a ‘chain of evidence’ type record of those transfers back and forth between domestic and foreign investigations. So… Fusion Centers would have several degrees of separation from NSA and a paper trail.
    I think that’s where people are getting messed up. NSA is forbidden by law to target US citizens, either here or even in foreign countries. If they encounter an issue with one during an investigation of foreign nationals, they have to turn any part of the investigation involving the US citizen over to the FBI. I’m not sure, but I think they can get a waiver on that from FISA under limited circumstances.
    Back to Fusion Centers.
    I’m not sure how the power structure is set up with the FCs. I need to do more research on them.


    I saw CRUZ on FOX he will take signatures to eliminate the IRS……… it look like RICK PERRY will try the next election

    I’m hoping for a Perry rewrite. He would be top of my ticket at this point. Cruz needs more ‘seasoning’ before I would consider him for President or VP because I usually insist on executive experience before I’ll even vote for a Presidential candidate. The Romney/Ryan combo, considering both of their personalities (Ryan being willing to be taught by Romney on executive matters) reassured me enough to support them unconditionally.
    Perry/Cruz just wouldn’t work that way, IMO. Cruz isn’t flexible enough to learn from a more experienced politician. I could be wrong. But Cruz is on my short list of those to ‘watch and wait for’.
    In addition, I think we make a HUGE mistake by pushing strong, honest and talented people into either higher office or office at all. Example: I saw Michelle Bachman phrase questions to the intel heads that almost had to be answered directly, succiently and inequivocally. I’ve seen her do it before and IMO it’s her strongest asset. I’d love to see her as Attorney General or any Cabinet level post for that matter. She’s qualified for everything from SoS to Treasury from what I remember about her history.

  7. 8

    Rob in Katy

    The IRS I’m not worried about as it’s forbidden by law from targeting US citizens or political groups….
    The DOJ I’m not worried about as it’s forbidden by law from targeting US citizens or political groups….
    The EPA I’m not worried about as it’s forbidden by law from targeting US citizens or political groups….
    Oh My, I feel much better now…

  8. 10

    Nan G

    Cast your memory back.
    Former CIA director David H. Petraeus was critical of the Obama Administration’s actions after Benghazi, Sept 11th 2012.
    Next thing we know former CIA director David H. Petraeus had RESIGNED over the exposure of his extramarital affair.
    HOW did the media connect dots between Florida socialite Jill Kelley, Paula Broadwell, and David H. Petraeus?
    Michael Hastings was researching a story about this very thing.

    Jill Kelley had already filed a lawsuit against the Department of Defense and the FBI for LEAKING emails between the three people to the media.
    Michael Hastings is now dead.
    And, conspiracy theories are asking auto accident experts to comment on how the engine block of the brand new car ended up 1/2 a football field away from the fiery car body.
    Earwitnesses thought a BOMB went off.
    His body was burned beyond recognition.

    Not only can the NSA pull up (maybe not by the turning of a switch) the words of an email.
    And, for POLITICAL PURPOSES they already have.

  9. 11


    Nan G
    that’s interesting and troubling, we can expect any thing to happen to save their skin.
    they know he know some shit from the upper stair step.
    and I’m inclined to think he was threaten and reveal his affair
    before they do.
    he might be call to testify on that shit. to be one step ahead,

  10. 12

    Marla Hughes

    Rob in Katy: The reason we know about the abuses by the above groups is because checks and balances is working. Not as fast as we’d like because the American electorate has been asleep to a large degree. However, there are tireless organizations and individuals who have not been. While it may not be covered well in the MSNews, cases are proceeding forward.

    In addition, IMO we’re talking about bureaucrats/employees with completely different political ideologies. IRS and EPA employees, especially those who remain in the agencies to attain leadership positions, tend to be extremely liberal and will naturally attribute conservative organizations/individuals with opinions and actions that they most likely do not ascribe to or perform. (We do the same thing vice versa). This tendency is called confirmation bias, in which a normal human tends to see/hear what they expect to, commonly overlooking what is unexpected. So, to a liberal IRS agent, for example, it would seem perfectly normal to ascribe altruistic and innocent motives to a liberal non-profit’s ‘accidental’ incursions into political speech/action even if they aren’t supposed to legally. However, the same actions by a conservative group/individual would be highly suspicious and warranting further investigations or even charges. That tendency holds true across the human spectrum. This does not excuse deliberate law breaking, but hopefully brings us closer to understanding why it happens, apparently w/o thought on some level(s) and why it’s even more important to limit those agencies in how they control our lives every way we can.

    Unlike the IRS and EPA, the NSA would be more likely be populated with more conservative, law abiding types, just like local police departments. Liberals usually eschew and even oppose law enforcement (from local LEOs to the CIA, FBI and NSA).

    Side note: IMO that is why we are seeing such a build up in the IRS, EPA, et al of trained, armed agents instead of depending upon local, state and federal LEO for support as in the past. More liberals in the acronym bureaucratic agencies, especially in leadership, means less trust in what we think of as ‘law enforcement’ by those agencies, not just as opinions, but as policy.

    Second side note: IMO what we really have to worry about with the NSA/CIA/FBI is that there seems to be little to no understanding in their leadership of the trend toward anarchist political ideology in young (and even older) tech professionals. From my conversations with them, these techies THINK they understand our founding principles but don’t have the bedrock education that was mandatory in past generations and reject it when it is presented to them.

  11. 13

    Marla Hughes

    Nan G:
    There is some controversy concerning Hastings’ car accident, however I have been reading some of the comments from locals who say that the road he was on is not well maintained, even to having a major dip right before where he crashed, is two lane as well as being known as an area where people with fast cars drive fast. Apparently his Mercedes was a recent purchase and a traffic camera caught him speeding through an intersection (I don’t know if it was running the red light or just speeding.) There was a car full of teens who had a very similar crash on that road recently as well. Except their car was split in half.

    In addition, recently Bill Clinton publicly revealed that Petreaus and Hillary were working on a plan to arm the Syrians right before Petreaus’s affair became public and Hillary had her ‘accident’. Clinton characterized it in terms where he compared H and P’s plan to Reagan and Afghanistan. I have to note that we armed the wrong faction in that war, as we are in Syria. Our mistake in Afghanistan was allowing Pakistan to determine which clan to arm instead of arming Massoud, a well known (to Afghans), Westernized native who continued to fight for his nation’s freedom until 9/10/01, when Al Qaeda assassinated him out of the fear he had learned of the 9/11 plot and would warn the US in advance.

    IMO this revelation sheds some light on the events in Benghazi, who was most likely in charge of the happenings over there (before, during and after the attacks) as well as the ongoing internal infighting between the Obama and Hillary factions w/in our government. Of note: John Brenner, who replaced Petreaus as Director of the CIA, was and is admittedly Obama’s man. Calling him his ‘soul mate’, Brenner answered only to Obama, side stepping his titular superior, Petreaus until replacing him.

    I feel like we’re in the Vichy Court sometimes.

  12. 14


    WHAT is it with those nominated only because they gave their total loyalty to the one.
    without questioning his corrupt roots, where black magic is one main belief along with those herbs
    they like to chew on but are affecting their brain processing decisions which are negatives and destructive for this AMERICA and for the CITIZENS, all of them, biggest to the smallest.

  13. 15


    And, that’s why half the world is lining up to aid and abet Snowden’s escape…just so they can elaborately thumb their noses at us. They know that their own public figures are as much at risk of having dossiers of damaging information compiled on them for blackmail purposes as we are. Physical location means nothing. Glenn Greenwald’s Guardian articles make it clear on closer examination of the relevant rules that they are riddled with loopholes

    There won’t be a single politician, judge, businessman or journalist on the entire planet whom this out-of-control agency cannot privately target and bend to it’s will.

    Obama and his gang are nuts if he thinks this beast will serve him rather than itself. He’s probably being served with his own personal dossier any minute now.

    Furthermore, it seems state and local agencies are putting together their own PRISMS. They don’t even have the flawed safeguards of the feds. This way your local county commissioner, board member, children’s school official or zoning regulator or sheriff can find enough on you with a few keystrokes to serve you up with a raft of code violations and such if you cross them.

  14. 16


    Obama is fooling himself if he thinks appointing loyalists to these positions guarantees they will continue to serve him and his in perpetuity. This sort of power cannot be controlled for long. It’ll eat him too.

  15. 17


    I see him sliding down the cliff, the same one he showed the GRAND MOTHER IN A WHEELCHAIR
    push down by a REPUBLICAN, during the election,
    this time it’s him sitting on a green carpet.

  16. 18

    Marla Hughes

    And, that’s why half the world is lining up to aid and abet Snowden’s escape…just so they can elaborately thumb their noses at us.

    Those same nations have always thumbed their noses at us unless and until they need our help to get out of the messes they create for themselves.

    They know that their own public figures are as much at risk of having dossiers of damaging information compiled on them for blackmail purposes as we are.

    You DO know those types of dossiers didn’t begin with internet access, right? They’re also useful to honest leaders who are trying to garner agreement on good governance from corrupt ones. Dossiers are tools that have always been in play and like any other tools, can be used for evil or good.

    Glenn Greenwald’s Guardian articles make it clear on closer examination of the relevant rules that they are riddled with loopholes

    Glenn Greenwald is not the friend of the United States, it’s citizens and especially not limited government conservatives. His Snowden stories have already proven to have important inaccuracies and false claims.

    There won’t be a single politician, judge, businessman or journalist on the entire planet whom this out-of-control agency cannot privately target and bend to it’s will.

    Apparently not since the true nature of these programs have been in the public sphere and discourse for a decade. When abuses are found, such as in the Bush Administration’s overreach, legislation is passed. Next step IMO is more oversight and sunlight to a limited degree in order to preserve the protective qualities of our intelligence agencies.

    Furthermore, it seems state and local agencies are putting together their own PRISMS.

    Those are called Fusion Centers and, while they are connected to DHS, are run/managed locally and statewide. That means you have more control over who is in charge of them and the information collected in them.

    They don’t even have the flawed safeguards of the feds. This way your local county commissioner, board member, children’s school official or zoning regulator or sheriff can find enough on you with a few keystrokes to serve you up with a raft of code violations and such if you cross them.

    Except there are safeguards. Make sure your local and state laws are up to date and prevent corrupt politicians from gaining office. It means citizen participation, which we’ve seen far too little of in recent years. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater is not the solution IMO.

  17. 19


    Marla Hughes
    you would think they have a dossier on OBAMA,
    and could give us the answers he never gave when he was running for the PRESIDENCY,
    that would give a close door to those questions still not answered,
    we only know his GRANDMOTHER use to take him to those BLACK MAGIC SESSIONS,
    she was some kind of an adherent to this kind of religion.
    but we don’t know his real birth certificate,
    we don’t know why he went to PAKISTAN which was ban by AMERICA, we don’t know where all his spent money went
    since he is PRESIDENT, that is multiple trillions of dollar,
    we suspect only on his MUSLIM LOGO
    and adherence to the religion, because he send them a lot of money, while AMERICANS struggle on making their budget. and are not finding jobs anymore.
    and he want to give them illegals from 150 countries
    some found criminal, amnesty for all.
    this is already a threat to the good law abiding born in AMERICA with deep roots on the ground,
    there is not enough work for them, so why allow those which is no more !! millions but the last count
    is close to 20 millions.
    there will be conflict on lands and jobs and so much more.
    yes they have quite a dossier on OBAMA

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