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Big Brother is Watching

Recently, Wikileaks released 5 million new documents obtained from government files. Contained within those leaks was a five page report issued by the Orwellian named Department of Homeland Security, essentially summing up the history of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement that spread across the country last fall, leading to protests in almost every major city in America. Apparently, the purpose of the report was to asses the movement's impact on critical infrastructure (CI).

The report, entitled "SPECIAL COVERAGE: Occupy Wall Street," dated October of 2011, begins with the declaration that "mass gatherings associated with public protest movements can have disruptive effects on transportation, commercial, and government services, especially when staged in major metropolitan areas." Most of the report contains innocuous observations about the movement, such as the role social media has played in its spread. However, in closing the report ominously alludes to the movement's potential for violence, declaring:

The growing support for the OWS movement has expanded the protests' impact and increased the potential for violence. While the peaceful nature of the protests has served so far to mitigate their impact, larger numbers and support from groups such as Anonymous substantially increase the risk for potential incidents and enhance the potential security risk to critical infrastructure (CI). The continued expansion of these protests also places an increasingly heavy burden on law enforcement and movement organizers to control protesters. As the primary target of the demonstrations, financial services stands the sector most impacted by the OWS protests. Due to the location of the protests in major metropolitan areas, heightened and continuous situational awareness for security personnel across all CI sectors is encouraged.

What is disconcerting is the ominously titled Department of Homeland Security secretly discussing the need to "control protesters" even though, by its own admission, those protests have thus far been peaceful. What's more, it is disturbing that a government agency should be monitoring Americans within US borders, in contravention of established US law prohibiting spying on American citizens.

And the federal government is not the only government entity unleashed upon the citizenry. The Associated Press (AP) has been reporting on the New York Police Department's (NYPD) secret surveillance program targeting Muslims without probable cause to believe any of the Muslims or groups targeted where either committing or about to commit a crime.

Documents obtained by The AP show that the NYPD has been gathering intelligence on where Muslims live, where they buy groceries, what Internet cafes they use and where they watch sports. In addition, the NYPD infiltrated mosques and student groups and have built detailed profiles of local ethnic groups of Middle Eastern or traditionally Muslim descent. What's more, the NYPD surveillance program extended outside New York City to greater New York, New Jersey, and colleges throughout the Northeast.

The AP reported that some of the NYPD's activities could not have been performed by Federal agents under federal rules unless those agents, such as the FBI, believed that those individuals and groups targeted were part of a criminal enterprise. Even then, federal agents would have needed approval from senior FBI and Justice Department officials to do what the NYPD did at will.

These revelations are disturbing, without qualification. The government is secretly engaged in activities that are clearly not permitted by either federal or state law and are without justification. Nothing is more troubling than government officials taking it upon themselves to pass judgment on the criminal proclivities of this group or that organization without those targeted having ever done anything to provoke the government's scrutiny in the first place. Yet that is precisely what the government is doing, and no one seems to be up in arms about it. Benjamin Franklin once said those that would trade liberty for security deserve neither. Enough said.