The Power of Independent Thinking

Stay Connected
Get the latest updates straight to your inbox.


Homeland Security: Every Single Day, Every Word You Say, I’ll Be Watching You—OpEd

The Department of Homeland Security has declared its intention to gather personal data on journalists or others who might use “traditional and/or social media in real time to keep their audience situationally aware and informed.” I suppose that would include those of us at the Independent Institute who blog, tweet, and update Facebook.

New guidelines allow for a broader reach in collecting such personal information than before. Any reporter or broadcaster, from a Fox News anchor to a lowly little blogger angry at the government, could find himself ensnared by DHS’s newest arm of the surveillance state.

Almost seven years ago, it became known that the FBI was monitoring the ACLU and antiwar groups. The institutional paranoia extended to the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security, who even made sure to spy on those dangerous terrorists known as Quakers.

With Obama in charge we see the full power of the bipartisan surveillance state—an apparatus that sees any thorn in the side of the regime as a potential threat to national security. The DHS, in particular, has targeted both “rightwing extremists” and peace activists. And of course, everyday Americans are caught up in the dragnet of the NSA’s wiretapping program, itself a huge presidential power grab even compared to the very lax standards that existed under FISA and the Patriot Act.

On occasion, the feds’ surveillance activities have seemingly thwarted a nefarious plot—but much more often than not, these plots turn out to be contrived by the very infiltrators said to be shielding the public from harm. The FBI has an especially illustrious record in this regard. But DHS, a cabinet-level bureau that turned ten years old only months ago, will have plenty of opportunities to prove itself just as capable of “intelligence” gathering—if that’s how we wish to describe a department whose officials can’t even tell the difference between an African-American from Texas who can’t speak Spanish and an illegal immigrant from Colombia.

With the Fourth Amendment practically gone, perhaps we can finally declare the war on terror over? After all, if the terrorists hated us for our freedom, they must not hate us so much anymore.

Anthony Gregory is a former Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and the author of American Surveillance: Intelligence, Privacy, and the Fourth Amendment (University of Wisconsin Press for the Independent Institute). His previous book, The Power of Habeas Corpus in America: From the King's Prerogative to the War on Terror, won the 2013 PROSE Award for Best Book in Law and Legal Studies.

New from Anthony Gregory!
AMERICAN SURVEILLANCE: Intelligence, Privacy, and the Fourth Amendment
Is Big Brother taking over America? The NSA’s warrantless domestic surveillance programs are just one sign that Orwell’s nightmare is becoming America’s reality. Legal scholar Anthony Gregory explains why the “land of the free” may soon be the “home of the fearful.”