Liberty

Some Words on Liberty

Your freedom is under attack. Even your freedom to read these words may soon be denied – all in the name of fighting terrorism, or crime, or drugs, or pollution of the environment. The greatest tragedy of our modern age is the decline of freedom throughout the world leading to the establishment of a modern, high-tech feudalism. Totalitarianism is in your future; and, to an alarming degree, it is already in your present.

Free men are allowing this to happen because, presently, they are powerless to stop it. Even in nations where leaders are elected, the financial and political forces that supply them with money and media support receive more loyalty than those who merely cast their votes. While most people are content to fill their lives with work and play, there are those who have much larger designs. They think of themselves as natural leaders who have a solemn responsibility to rule. They speak about democratic values and human rights, but they do not trust the common man with self-government. They have perfected the illusion that voters determine their own political destiny, but they also have created mechanisms for altering that destiny to fit their own agendas.

Collectivists advocate controlled elections, controlled media, controlled education, the elimination of free speech, disarmament of the population, fiat money, a cartelized health-care system, military imperialism, and global government.

Liberty  advocates is individualism, the opposite of collectivism at every point. Individualists advocate honest elections, a competitive media, an educational system responsive to parents, encouragement of free speech, a well-armed citizenry, sound money, freedom-of-choice in health care, a non-interventionist foreign policy, and national sovereignty.

– Excerpt from Freedom Force International, adapted slightly to fit context

There is nothing more common in history than for oppressed people to rise up against their masters and, at great cost in treasure and blood, throw off the old regime, only to discover that they have replaced it with one that is just as bad or worse. That is because it is easy to know what we dislike about a political system but not so easy to agree on what would be better. For most of history, it has been the habit of men to focus on personalities rather than principles. They have thought that the problem was with the man who rules, not with the system that sustains him. So, they merely replace one despot for another, thinking that, somehow, the new one will be more wise and benevolent. Even if the new ruler has good intentions, he may be corrupted by the temptations of power; and, in those rare cases where he is not, he eventually is replaced by another who is not as self-restrained. As long as the system allows it, it is just a matter of time before a new despot will rise to power. To prevent that from happening, it is necessary to focus on the system itself, not on personalities. To do that, it is just as important to know what we are foras it is to know what we are against.

Even today, with so much talk about fighting to defend freedom, who can stand up and define what that means? For some, freedom means merely not being in jail. Who can define the essence of personal liberty? Who can look you in the eye and say: “This I believe, and I believe it for this reason and this reason and this reason also.” The world is dying for something to believe in, a statement of principles that leaves no room for misunderstanding; a creed that everyone of good faith toward their fellow human beings can accept with clarity of mind and strength of resolve. There is an old saying that if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.

– G. Edward Griffin, an introduction to the Creed of Freedom

Why Liberty Matters

Liberty is a powerful concept. It affects every part of your life from daily occurrences to every choice you have the ability to make. It affects how you raise your children, where you live, the daily freedoms you do or do not have, and your ability to pursue happiness and seek your purpose. Liberty affects everything and everyone. Every decision you make and action you take will either lead you toward greater liberty or towards increased enslavement.

But enslavement to what? It is easy to throw around big ideas about freedom and liberty and fighting the oppressive chains of servitude. So to what or whom do we become enslaved?

Liberty entails responsibility. You cannot be dependent on someone else and free at the same time. Some believe that the civil government owes them. They want the handouts without any strings attached, yet all government money (regardless of what form the handout or help takes, it originates from money) comes with strings attached. This entitlement mentality takes away a person’s freedom to determine their own destiny. When help and handouts are given irresponsibly, in a manner that creates dependents, we find ourselves with a growing group of individuals who take and take with out giving back. They grow to rely on someone else for their own survival and very existence. For those that choose not to work, they have no other option to take what they need and want from where they can find it. For those that do work and earn enough to support themselves and their families but still have that entitled, “I’m owed this” mentality, we see that instead of using government assistance or tax returns or their own wages responsibly, they seek pleasure in the form of “stuff”.  Don’t get me wrong. I have “stuff” too. I have a big TV, I enjoy living in a nice home, and other gadgets and toys. That isn’t the issue. The issue is the short-term instant gratification and consumerism that we have  all grown so fond of, regardless of income or means. Instead of ensuring our own ability to provide for ourselves and family over the long term first, putting our gratification second, we find the opposite. And when we realize that we don’t have enough to get by, we are forced to rely on someone else. But hey, they owe it to us anyway. They have more and should share. It isn’t fair. Right?

So we find ourselves in a country where a sizable percentage of our population (23% as of 2011 report) depend on some form of government handout. How free do you think that 23% is? Can they go do what they want, when they want? No. They must shape their lives around the will of the hand that feeds them. But the same thing can be said for those that are financially responsible and independent. Most Americans would tell you they are still free. And even though we still have more freedom than most countries of the world, we have exchanged many of our Constitutionally-guaranteed Liberties for the illusion of safety and protection. What do I mean by that? You say that you are a hard working, well earning, contributing member of society. Ok that is great. But that is just the starting point. We are so focused on our success and prosperity, that we will agree to all kinds of situations, programs, intrusions in to our own privacy and lives. Lets look at a few of those and see why we agreed to them (or how they were justified) and why its bad.

Examples of Diminished Liberty

  • PRISM Program
    • Background
      • The Prism program collects stored Internet communications based on demands made to Internet companies such as Google, Facebook, and Apple under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 to turn over any data that match court-approved search terms.
      • Its existence was leaked six years later by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who warned that the extent of mass data collection was far greater than the public knew and included what he characterized as “dangerous” and “criminal” activities.
      • The leaked information came to light one day after the revelation that the FISA Court had been ordering a subsidiary of telecommunications company Verizon Communications to turn over to the NSA logs trackingall of its customers’ telephone calls.
    • Justification
      • Originally designed to monitor and gather intelligence on foreign threats that were utilizing telephones and digital forms of communication or organize and carry out terrorism.
    • Ramifications
      • The program has widened its scope to gather information on everyone. It was determined that everyone and anyone could be a terrorist (foreign or home-grown) and should therefore be subject to scrutiny.
      • If you are a law abiding citizen, there should be no cause or justification for gathering your private conversations and personal information such as reading habits, internet browsing history, preferences, location history (as in where you go on a day to day basis, where you like to eat, where you go for work, what stores you shop at, etc).
      • Many will claim that they have nothing to hide or that they are ok with the intrusion because they are innocent. The situation changes when it is decided that YOU are now suspected of being a “terrorist” or it is believed that you are prone to “terrorist” views. Now, what that looks like will depend on the situation and those in power. But the implications of the program are that you are in a database along with all of your habits, ideas, likes, dislikes, etc. What happens when those in power decide that what you, your family, and/or your community believe is dangerous?
  • License plate tracking program
    • Background
      • Also known as Automatic License Plate Recognition.
      • Uses computer software to read licenses plate numbers from images and video.
      • Can be used on live closed circuit camera systems, still images, traffic enforcement cameras, toll booth cameras, etc.
      • To quote from the Wall Street Journal,  “a database to track in real time the movement of vehicles around the U.S., a secret domestic intelligence-gathering program that scans and stores hundreds of millions of records.”
    • Justification
      • Helpful in AMBER Alerts and location of stolen vehicles or known criminals.
      • Helps fight drug problem in the US by allowing DEA to track, in real time and historically, movements of known cartel drug ring members.
    • Ramifications
      • I have known about this program for a while but it seems to be growing.
      • What they have done is laid the infrastructure and ground work for a system that will allow them to, at will, locate and track a vehicle based on the license plate.
      • Combined with PRISM and the use of Stingray equipment, anyone can be tracked wherever they go.
      • The War on Drugs will never end. This program barely has any benefit on that front, especially when weighed against the invasion of privacy.
  • Cell Phone Monitoring\Stingray
    • Background
      • There are devices known as Stingrays, also known as cell site simulators or IMSI catchers.
      • They mimic cell phone towers and send out signals to trick cell phones in the area into transmitting their locations and identifying information.
      • When used to track a suspect’s cell phone, they also gather information about the phones of countless bystanders who happen to be nearby.
      • In active mode, the StingRay is capable of performing multiple operations upon a cellular device: (1) extracting stored data such as International Mobile Subscriber Identity (“IMSI”) numbers and Electronic Serial Number (“ESN”), (2) writing cellular protocol metadata to internal storage [of the phone or tablet], (3) forcing an increase in signal transmission power, (4) forcing an abundance of radio signals to be transmitted, (5) tracking and locating the cellular device user, (6) conducting a denial of service attack, and (7) encryption key extraction and interception of communications content. The StingRay’s passive mode operations include (1) conducting base station surveys, which is the process of using over-the-air signals to identify legitimate cell sites and precisely map their coverage areas, and (2) radio jamming for either general denial of service purposes or to aid in active mode protocol rollback attacks. The StingRay family of devices can be mounted in vehicles, on airplanes, helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as carried by hand.
    • Justification
      • To locate and track criminals or “persons of interest”
    • Ramifications
      • Operators can identify who is using what device (combine that with data from PRISM and the plate tracking program…yikes!), extract and plant information on the device internal storage, locate your exact position and track your movements, disable your service (ability to place or receive calls and texts as well as access cellular data networks) by jamming the device or causing too much interference, and intercept your communications like phone calls and text messages.
      • Due to their mobile nature, they can be installed anywhere from fixed locations to mobile units like SUVs and helicopters.
      • For anyone who was watching during the Eric Garner protests in Chicago, we saw this suspicious vehicle following the protesters. There were complaints about lost cell service and devices heating up when the vehicle was nearby. Additionaly, there was a 2 minute audio clip, allegedly from the Chicago PD’s dispatch, in which an officer can be heard saying that a protest organizer is using her cellphone and asking if the dispatch has “picked up any information on where they’re going”.
      • If you don’t see the problem here, I’m not sure what else to tell you.
  • 1033 Program
    • Background
      • The 1033 Program was created by the National Defense Authorization Act as part of the US Government’s Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services to transfer excess military equipment to law enforcement agencies. As of 2014, 8,000 local law enforcement agencies participated in the re-utilization program that has transferred $5.1 billion in military hardware from the Department of Defense to local American law enforcement agencies since 1997.
      • Most common items requested are ammunition, cold weather gear, sand bags, medical supplies, sleeping bags, flashlights, electrical wiring equipment and supplies.
      • Other common items include vehicles like aircraft, watercraft, and armored vehicles.
    • Justification
      • Program originally specified equipment  “for use in counter-drug activities”.
      • Help state and local agencies have adequate equipment to provide adequate response times and strengths
    • Ramifications
      • Some parts of this program are fine. For instance, flashlights, cold weather gear, footwear, generators, etc. Those seem like legitimate needs of any police department. So this is one good consequence of the program.
      • Problems arise when we see state and local law enforcement with vehicles like this, this, this, this, and this.
      • My local town has one. We are tiny. Not much SWAT activity or land mines here.
      • The need for such vehicles is almost non-existent. I would think that there might be a slight need in some dangerous parts of some select cities.
      • Take a look at Ferguson in 2014. These things showed up. If anyone thought that those protests would be civil and orderly, please have your head examined, but the argument remains that we should be allowed to protest with out intimidation. What happens when you find yourself on the other side of the argument with  your state or local agency and they bring military vehicles and weaponry to the table. What are  you going to do or say in response? What can you do against that? How can we be free to defend ourselves, our privacy, our freedom when faced with this?

So that was long and tedious but I’m really glad you stuck with it. Those are just a handful of recent intrusions in to our own freedoms and privacy that leave us powerless.  What is your own freedom worth to you?  What would  you to do ensure its survival? If you are interested in learning more about what you can do, stick around. There is more to come.

“Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”

– Benjamin Franklin

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