Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Am I one of those Americans the U.S. Government spied upon?

The Pentagon, the NSA, and now, the FBI have all been implicated in the illegal and profoundly un-American campaign to spy upon America's own citizens.

I was not surprised at all by these "revelations." But I was not sure how to write about this turn of events that would capture the chilling alienation this knowledge has created.

I will never know whether I was one of the individuals upon whom my government spied and may be spying. I can speculate though.

I'm a contact for CODEPINK in my area of the state. I've traveled back and forth to DC several times to attend protests and marches. CODEPINK Co-Founder Medea Benjamin has slept on the pull-out sofa in my office. I've sent money to campaigns to raise funds for medical aid for the people of Falluja.

Decades ago an FBI agent showed up at a youth group meeting and was invited into it by the adult coordinator of the meeting. The self-identified agent spent the entire session (approximately an hour) quizzing me about munitions. I was just an Indiana farm girl in high school at the time. I did not get the connection until years later when I found out my college age boyfriend at the time knew someone with a license to buy and sell arms who probably had some connections to the SDS. I had applied to attend a small religious college that was pacifist as a result of theological orientation.

CODEPINK Women for Peace , Gold Star Families for Peace, and the Raging Grannies have been spied upon at the order of California's Governor Schwarzenegger.

The co-founder of my area's CODEPINK group received death threats last year before the election. These calls were traced by the FBI to an outfit in Florida that was being paid by a Republican associated group to make the death and rape threats for $10 a pop.

Sierra Vista protests were among the list of protests made public in an NBC article about extensive military collection of information on American civilians who expressed views different from that of the White House. I knew many of those protesting there at that time.

So I guess I'm not completely off base in wondering if the out of the blue and totally atypical IM I received was from one of these projects attempting to set me up as someone with "international" connections that would warrant communications monitoring.

Last year I quit "IM"ing when I had someone pop in wanting to talk via instant messaging who said he was a Moroccan man living in Libya who just wanted to talk. The person on the other end of the computer connection did not strike me as a typical clothing shop owner from a mid-sized city in N. Africa as he was well versed in American semiotic and linguistic theory. It seemed very suspicious to me, so when the person tried to initiate communication again, I refused the connection. I stopped all instant messaging of anyone at that point.

I've often wondered why I would have been maneuvered for such a conversation but not being a conspiracy theorist or paranoid schizophrenic, I consciously tried to put the incident out of my mind as it was the sort of odd occurrence that was just that -- an odd occurrence that could never have any real facts associated with it -- only speculations. There are other minor hints that my computer connectivity has been tampered with. But I will never know.

What I do know, having headed up a security section of a very important archeological museum, is that most security higher ups take procedure and their responsibilities very seriously and have respect for the limits upon their actions that our government imposes. Take a look at this, if you don't believe me.

But now, with the NSA spying that came to light last week and the program that the NAT covered today, I know I will never be able to trust my government again at any level. I will never know if I was spied upon or not. That is what is so insidious. This type of systemic corruption irreversibly taints a process. Even if I was not one of those who was monitored, I might have been. I will never know. There will always be doubt. This harms the ability of every thinking person to believe in the benevolent nature of his or her government. I can't help but think of Brazil. and Orwellian statements such as, "If you have nothing to hide then you should not worry" that are the mainstay argument of fascist governments and small minded people. The harm has been done.

A republican friend responded to my despondency after the Bush "re-election" by telling me that the level and intensity of my depression was almost laughable, as I was 'acting like this was the end of the world." It was my friend. It was the end of a cherished world in which I had a modicum of trust that can never be regained or reestablished.

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