Is Congress Declaring War On ISIS… Or On You?

Passage of Senator Mitch McConnell’s authorization for war against ISIS will not only lead to perpetual US wars across the globe, it will also endanger our civil and economic liberties. The measure allows the president to place troops anywhere he determines ISIS is operating. Therefore, it could be used to justify using military force against United States citizens on U.S. territory. It may even be used to justify imposing martial law in America.

The President does not have to deploy the U.S. military to turn America into a militarized police state, however. He can use his unlimited authority to expand programs that turn local police forces into adjuncts of the U.S. military, and send them increasing amounts of military equipment. Using the threat of ISIS to justify increased police militarization will be enthusiastically supported by police unions, local officials, and, of course, politically-powerful defense contractors. The only opposition will come from citizens whose rights have been violated by a militarized police force that views the people as the enemy.

Even though there is no evidence that the government’s mass surveillance programs have prevented even a single terrorist attack, we are still continuously lectured about how we must sacrifice our liberty for security. The cries for the government to take more of our privacy will grow louder as the war party and its allies in the media continue to hype the threat of terrorism. A president armed with the authority to do whatever it takes to stop ISIS will no doubt heed these calls for new restrictions on our privacy.

Following last year’s mass shooting in California, President Obama called for restricting the Second Amendment rights of any American on the “terrorist watch list.” The president also used the attacks to expand the unconstitutional gun background check system via executive action. Can anyone doubt that President Obama — or a future anti-gun president — will use the absolute power to do whatever is necessary to stop terrorism as a justification for imposing new gun control measures? Using the war on ISIS to justify more gun control will be particularly attractive since even many pro-gun politicians will support gun control measures if they are marketed as part of the war on terror.

As the American economy faces continued stagnation, and as challenges to the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency mount, an increasingly authoritarian government will impose new restrictions on our economic activities and new limits on our financial privacy. In particular, our ability to move assets out of the country will be limited, and new reporting and other requirements will limit our ability to use cash without being treated as criminals or terrorists. Those who carry large amounts of cash will find themselves at increased risk of having the cash confiscated by government agents under civil asset forfeiture laws.

If Senator McConnell’s declaration of perpetual war passes, presidents could use the war on ISIS as a justification to impose new restrictions on our use of cash and our financial privacy via executive action. After all, they will say, the government needs to make sure cash is not being used to support ISIS.

The only way to protect both liberty and security is to stop trying to impose our will on other countries by military force. The resentment created by America’s militaristic foreign policy is ISIS’ most effective recruiting tool. Adopting a non-interventionist foreign policy that seeks peace and free trade with all would enable the government to counter legitimate threats to our safety without creating an authoritarian police state.

© Copyright 2016 Ron Paul

The State Of The Nation: A Dictatorship Without Tears

There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution.”—Aldous Huxley

There’s a man who contacts me several times a week to disagree with my assessments of the American police state. According to this self-avowed Pollyanna who is tired of hearing “bad news,” the country is doing just fine; the government’s intentions are honorable’ anyone in authority should be blindly obeyed; those individuals who are being arrested, shot and imprisoned must have done something to deserve such treatment; and if you have nothing to hide, you shouldn’t care whether the government is spying on you.

In other words, this man trusts the government with his life, his loved ones and his property; and anyone who doesn’t feel the same should move elsewhere.

It’s tempting to write this man off as dangerously deluded, treacherously naïve, and clueless to the point of civic incompetence. However, he is not alone in his goose-stepping, comfort-loving, TV-watching, insulated-from-reality devotion to the alternate universe constructed for us by the Corporate State with its government propaganda, pseudo-patriotism and contrived political divisions.

While only 1 in 5 Americans claim to trust the government to do what is right, the majority of the people are not quite ready to ditch the American experiment in liberty. Or at least they’re not quite ready to ditch the government with which they have been saddled.

As The Washington Post concludes, “Americans hate government, but they like what it does.” Indeed, kvetching aside, Americans want the government to keep providing institutionalized comforts such as Social Security, public schools, and unemployment benefits; fighting alleged terrorists and illegal immigrants; defending the nation from domestic and foreign threats; and maintaining the national infrastructure. And it doesn’t matter that the government has shown itself to be corrupt, abusive, hostile to citizens who disagree, wasteful and unconcerned about the plight of the average American.

For the moment, Americans are continuing to play by the government’s rules. Indeed, Americans may not approve of the jobs being done by their elected leaders, and they may have little to no access to those same representatives; but they remain committed to the political process, so much so that they are working themselves into a frenzy over the upcoming presidential election, with contributions to the various candidates nearing $500 million.

Yet as Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House shows, no matter how much hope and change were promised, what we’ve ended up with is not only more of the same, but something worse: an invasive, authoritarian surveillance state armed and ready to eliminate any opposition.

The state of our nation under Obama has become more bureaucratic, more debt-ridden, more violent, more militarized, more fascist, more lawless, more invasive, more corrupt, more untrustworthy, more mired in war, and more unresponsive to the wishes and needs of the electorate. Most of all, the government, already diabolical and manipulative to the nth degree, has mastered the art of “do what I say and not what I do” hypocrisy.

For example, the government’s arsenal is growing. While the Obama administration is working to limit the public’s access to guns by pushing for greater gun control, it’s doing little to scale back on the federal government’s growing arsenal of firepower and militarized equipment.

In fact, it’s not just the Department of Defense that’s in the business of waging war. Government agencies focused largely on domestic matters continue to spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to purchase SWAT and military-style equipment such as body armor, riot helmets and shields, cannon launchers and police firearms and ammunition. The Department of Veterans Affairs spent nearly $2 million on riot helmets, defender shields, body armor, a “milo return fire cannon system,” armored mobile shields, Kevlar blankets, tactical gear and equipment for crowd control. The Food and Drug Administration purchased “ballistic vests and carriers.” The Environmental Protection Agency shelled out $200,000 for body armor. And the Smithsonian Institution procured $28,000 worth of body armor for its “zoo police and security officers.”

The national debt is growing. In fact, it’s almost doubled during Obama’s time in office to nearly $20 trillion. Much of this debt is owed to foreign countries such as China, which have come to exert an undue degree of influence on various aspects of the American economy.

Meanwhile, almost half of Americans are struggling to save for emergencies and retirement, 43% can’t afford to go more than one month without a paycheck, and 24% have less than $250 in their bank accounts preceding payday.

On any given night, over half a million people in the U.S. are homeless, and half of them are elderly. In fact, studies indicate that the homeless are aging faster than the general population in the U.S.

While the U.S. spends more on education than almost any other country, American schools rank 28th in the world, below much poorer countries such as the Czech Republic and Vietnam.

The American police state’s payroll is expanding. Despite the fact that violent crime is at a 40-year-low, there are more than 1.1 million persons employed on a full-time basis by state and local law enforcement in this country. That doesn’t include the more than 120,000 full-time officers on the federal payroll.

While crime is falling, the number of laws creating new crimes is growing at an alarming rate. Congress creates, on average, more than 50 new criminal laws each year. This adds up to more than 4,500 federal criminal laws and an even greater number of state laws.

The prison population is growing at an alarming rate. Owing largely to overcriminalization, the nation’s prison population has quadrupled since 1980 to 2.4 million, which breaks down to more than one out of every 100 American adults behind bars. According to The Washington Post, it costs $21,000 a year to keep someone in a minimum-security federal prison, and $33,000 a year for a maximum-security federal prison. Those costs are expected to increase 30 percent by 2020. Translation: while the American taxpayer will be forced to shell out more money for its growing prison population, the private prison industry will be making a hefty profit.

The nation’s infrastructure—railroads, water pipelines, ports, dams, bridges, airports and roads—is rapidly deteriorating. An estimated $1.7 trillion will be needed by 2020 to improve surface transportation; but with vital funds being siphoned off by the military industrial complex, there’s little relief in sight.

The expense of those endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will cost taxpayers $4 trillion to $6 trillion. That does not include the cost of military occupations and exercises elsewhere around the globe. Unfortunately, that’s money that is not being invested in America; nor is it being used to improve the lives of Americans.

Government incompetence, corruption and lack of accountability continue to result in the loss of vast amounts of money and weapons. A Reuters investigation revealed $8.5 trillion in “taxpayer money doled out by Congress to the Pentagon since 1996 that has never been accounted for.” Then there was the $500 million in Pentagon weapons, aircraft and equipment (small arms, ammunition, night-vision goggles, patrol boats, vehicles and other supplies) that the U.S. military somehow lost track of.

Rounding out the bad news, many Americans know little to nothing about their rights and the government. Only 31% can name all three branches of the U.S. government, while one in three says that the Bill of Rights guarantees the right to own your own home, while one in four thinks that it guarantees “equal pay for equal work.” One in 10 Americans (12%) says the Bill of Rights includes the right to own a pet.

If this brief catalogue of our national woes proves anything at all, it is that the American experiment in liberty has failed; and as political economist Lawrence Hunter warns, it is only a matter of time before people realize it. Writing for Forbes, Hunter notes:

The greatest fear of America’s Founding Fathers has been realized: The U.S. Constitution has been unable to thwart the corrosive dynamics of majority-rule democracy, which in turn has mangled the Constitution beyond recognition. The real conclusion of the American Experiment is that democracy ultimately undermines liberty and leads to tyranny and oppression by elected leaders and judges, their cronies and unelected bureaucrats.  All of this is done in the name of “the people” and the “general welfare,” of course.  But in fact, democracy oppresses the very demos in whose name it operates, benefiting string-pullers within the Establishment and rewarding the political constituencies they manage by paying off special interests with everyone else’s money forcibly extracted through taxation. The Founding Fathers (especially Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, Madison, and James Monroe), as well as outside observers of the American Experiment such as Alexis de Tocqueville all feared democracy and dreaded this outcome.  But, they let hope and faith in their ingenious constitutional engineering overcome their fear of the democratic state, only to discover they had replaced one tyranny with another.

So are there any real, workable solutions to the emerging American police state?

A second American Revolution will not work. In the first revolution, the colonists were able to dispatch the military occupation and take over the running of the country. However, the Orwellian state is here; and it is so pervasive that government agents are watching, curtailing and putting down any resistance before it can get started.

A violent overthrow of the government will not work. Government agents are armed to the teeth and will easily blow away any insurgency when and if necessary.

Politics will not help things along. As history has made clear, the new boss is invariably the same as or worse than the old boss—all controlled by a monied, oligarchic elite.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, there is only one feasible solution left to us short of fleeing the country for parts unknown: grassroots activism that strives to reform the government locally and trickles up.

Unfortunately, such a solution requires activism, engagement, vigilance, sacrifice, individualism, community-building, nullification and a communal willingness to reject the federal government’s handouts and, when needed, respond with what Martin Luther King Jr. referred to as “militant nonviolent resistance.”

That means forgoing Monday night football in order to actively voice your concerns at city council meetings, turning off the television and spending an hour reading your local newspaper (if you still have one that reports local news) from front to back, showing your displeasure by picketing in front of government offices, risking your reputation by speaking up and disagreeing with the majority when necessary, refusing to meekly accept whatever the government dictates, reminding government officials—including law enforcement—that they work for you, and working together with your neighbors to present a united front against an overreaching government.

Unfortunately, we now live in a ubiquitous Orwellian society with all the trappings of Huxley’s A Brave New World. We have become a society of watchers, rather than activists, who are distracted by even the clumsiest government attempts at sleight-of-hand.

There are too many Americans who are reasonably content with the status quo, and too few Americans willing to tolerate the discomfort of a smaller, more manageable government and a way of life that is less convenient, less entertaining, and less comfortable.

It well may be that Huxley was right, and that the final revolution is behind us. Certainly, most Americans seem to have learned to love their prison walls and take comfort in a dictatorship without tears.

Don’t Collect Phone Records; Secure Our Border!

Somehow, political leaders in Washington, many of them in the Republican Party, think that our country will be safe if we sift through Americans’ phone records.

This unconstitutional practice was started under the leadership of Republican President George W. Bush. Rand Paul said in a filibuster against the Patriot Act, “The bulk collection of all American’s phone records, all of the time, is a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment.” The Fourth Amendment secures the individual right to privacy, and prohibits the government from unreasonable searches and seizures without a warrant. Sadly, there are still those today who want to openly violate this fundamental freedom.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said, “I think we need to restore the metadata program, which was part of the Patriot Act.”

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said, “I don’t think there’s anything more important for Republicans in Congress to do than restore the NSA mass surveillance program.”

Florida Senator Marco Rubio said, “Americans have been largely kept safe for almost 14 years. A major contributor to this success has been the development and use of counterterrorism tools such as those authorized under FISA and the Patriot Act.”

It is ironic that politicians think our country will be kept safe by collecting phone records, while illegal immigrants are crossing our border every day and the government plans to let in 10,000 potential terrorists in a foolish refugee program. Imagine if instead of invading our privacy, our government simply secured our border, and ended insane refugee programs that could bring terrorists to U.S. soil.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” The right to privacy is a fundamental right that must be fought for and protected. We must fight to keep our phones out of the hands of corrupt, power-hungry officials by binding them to the chains of the Fourth Amendment.


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Playing The Government’s Game: When It Comes To Violence, We All Lose

“When it gets down to having to use violence, then you are playing the system’s game. The establishment will irritate you – pull your beard, flick your face – to make you fight. Because once they’ve got you violent, then they know how to handle you. The only thing they don’t know how to handle is non-violence and humor.”—John Lennon

Yes, the government is corrupt.

Yes, the system is broken. By broken, I mean it’s “dysfunctional, gridlocked, and, in general, incapable of doing what needs to be done.”

Yes, the government is out of control and overreaching on almost every front.

Yes, the government’s excesses—pork barrel spending, endless wars, etc.—are pushing the nation to a breaking point.

Yes, many Americans are afraid. Who wouldn’t be afraid of an increasingly violent and oppressive federal government?

Yes, the citizenry has little protection against standing armies (domestic and military), invasive surveillance, marauding SWAT teams, an overwhelming government arsenal of assault vehicles and firepower, and a barrage of laws that criminalize everything from vegetable gardens to lemonade stands.

Yes, in the eyes of the American surveillance state, “we the people” are little more than suspects and criminals to be monitored, policed, prosecuted and imprisoned. As former law professor John Baker, who has studied the growing problem of overcriminalization, noted, “There is no one in the United States over the age of 18 who cannot be indicted for some federal crime.”

Yes, the United States of America is not the democracy that it purports to be, but rather an oligarchy ruled by a wealthy corporate elite.

Yes, politics is a sham. Average Americans have largely lost all of the conventional markers of influencing government–whether through elections, petition, or protest–have no way to impact their government, no way to be heard, and no assurance that their concerns are truly being represented.

Yes, the Obama administration’s efforts to identify, target and punish “domestic extremists” through the use of surveillance, corporate spies, global police and the Strong Cities network sends a troubling message to all Americans that any opposition to the government—no matter how benign—will be viewed with suspicion and will likely be treated with hostility.

Yes, we have reached a tipping point. The freedoms we once enjoyed are increasingly being eroded: speech, assembly, association, privacy, etc.

Yes, something needs to be done about the government’s long train of abuses, power grabs, erosion of private property, and overt acts of tyranny.

Yes, many Americans, increasingly dissatisfied with the government and its heavy-handed tactics, are tired of being used and abused and are ready to say “enough is enough.”

No, violence is not the answer.

A handful of armed protesters are not going to fix what’s broken in the government by forcing a showdown with government agents. In fact, this kind of scenario plays right into the government’s hands by provoking a violent confrontation that allows government officials to sanctimoniously justify their use of surveillance, military weaponry and tactics, and laws criminalizing guns and hate speech in order to target anyone who even vaguely resembles an “anti-government extremist.”

Take the latest spectacle in Oregon, for example.

Armed activists led by brothers Ryan and Ammon Bundy have occupied a federal wildlife refuge. The Bundys (infamous for their 2014 standoff with the Bureau of Land Management over grazing rights on federal land in Nevada) are protesting the government’s prosecution of two ranchers, Dwight and Steven Hammond, who have been sentenced to five years in prison for allegedly setting back fires on government-owned land in Oregon. (Mind you, the government owns more than half the land in Oregon.)

Few conflicts are ever black and white, and this situation involving the Bundys, the Hammonds and the BLM is no exception. Yet the issue is not whether the Hammonds are arsonists as the government claims, or whether the Bundys are anti-government extremists as the government claims, or even whether ranchers should have their access to government-owned lands regulated as the BLM claims.

No, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the larger question at play here is who owns—or controls—the government: is it “we the people,” or private corporations?

Are American citizens shareholders of the government’s vast repositories, or are we merely serfs and tenant farmers in bondage to corporate overlords? Do we have a say in how the government is run, or are we merely on the receiving end of the government’s dictates? What recourse do we have if we don’t approve of the government’s actions?

Almost every struggle between the citizenry and the government is, at its core, about whether we are masters or slaves in this constantly evolving relationship with the government.

  • Do parents have a right to allow their children to play outside alone, or must they abide by the government’s dictates about how to raise their families?
  • Do activists have a right to freely associate with one another, assemble in public, and voice their opinions publicly or privately, or must they be constrained by what the government and its corporate partners deem to be appropriate?
  • Do residents of a community have to obey whatever a police officer says, lawful or not, or do Americans have a right to resist an unlawful order without getting shot or arrested?

It doesn’t matter what the issue is—whether it’s a rancher standing his ground over grazing rights, a minister jailed for holding a Bible study in his own home, or a community outraged over police shootings of unarmed citizens—these are the building blocks of a political powder keg.

Much like the heated protests that arose after the police shootings in Ferguson and Baltimore, there’s a subtext to the Oregon incident that must not be ignored, and it is simply this: America is a pressure cooker with no steam valve, and things are about to blow.

This is what happens when a parasitical government muzzles the citizenry, fences them in, herds them, brands them, whips them into submission, forces them to ante up the sweat of their brows while giving them little in return, and then provides them with little to no outlet for voicing their discontent.

As psychologist Erich Fromm recognized in his insightful book, On Civil Disobedience: “If a man can only obey and not disobey, he is a slave; if he can only disobey and not obey, he is a rebel (not a revolutionary). He acts out of anger, disappointment, resentment, yet not in the name of a conviction or a principle.”

Let me say it again: an armed occupation of a government property only plays right into the government’s hands and increases its power over the citizenry. Yet it speaks to a growing tension over how to bring about meaningful change when dealing with a government that refuses to listen to its citizens.

This is what happens when people get desperate, when citizens lose hope, and when lawful, nonviolent alternatives appear pointless.

Whether the parties involved are blameless or not, whether they’re using the wrong tactics or not, whether their agendas are selfless or not, this is the face of a nation undergoing a nervous breakdown on all fronts.

Now all that remains is a spark, and it need not be a very big one, to set the whole powder keg aflame.

The government has been anticipating and preparing for such an explosion for years. For example, in 2008, a U.S. Army War College report warned that the military must be prepared for a “violent, strategic dislocation inside the United States,” which could be provoked by “unforeseen economic collapse,” “purposeful domestic resistance,” “pervasive public health emergencies” or “loss of functioning political and legal order”—all related to dissent and protests over America’s economic and political disarray. Consequently, predicted the report, the “widespread civil violence would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security.”

In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released two reports, one on “Rightwing Extremism,” which broadly defines rightwing extremists as individuals and groups “that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely,” and one on “Leftwing Extremism,” which labeled environmental and animal rights activist groups as extremists.

Incredibly, both reports use the words terrorist and extremist interchangeably.

That same year, the DHS launched Operation Vigilant Eagle, which calls for surveillance of military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, characterizing them as extremists and potential domestic terrorist threats because they may be “disgruntled, disillusioned or suffering from the psychological effects of war.” These reports indicate that for the government, anyone seen as opposing the government—whether they’re Left, Right or somewhere in between—can be labeled an extremist. Under such a definition, John Lennon, Martin Luther King Jr., Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson and Samuel Adams—all of whom protested and passionately spoke out against government practices with which they disagreed—would be prime targets.

Fast forward a few years, and you have the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which President Obama has continually re-upped, that allows the military to take you out of your home, and lock you up with no access to friends, family or the courts if you’re seen as an extremist. Now connect the dots, from the 2009 Extremism reports to the NDAA and the UN’s Strong Cities Network with its globalized police forces, the National Security Agency’s far-reaching surveillance networks, and fusion centers that collect and share surveillance data between local, state and federal police agencies.

Add in tens of thousands of armed surveillance drones that will soon blanket American skies, and facial recognition technology that will identify and track you wherever you go and whatever you do. And then to complete the circle, toss in the real-time crime centers being deployed in cities across the country, which will be attempting to “predict” crimes and identify criminals before they happen based on widespread surveillance, complex mathematical algorithms and prognostication programs.

Hopefully you’re getting the picture, which is how easy it is for the government to identify, label and target individuals as “extremist.”

All that we have been subjected to in recent years—living under the shadow of NSA spying; motorists strip searched and anally probed on the side of the road; innocent Americans spied upon while going about their daily business in schools and stores; homeowners having their doors kicked in by militarized SWAT teams serving routine warrants—illustrates how the government deals with people it views as potential “extremists”: with heavy-handed tactics designed to intimidate the populace into submission and discourage anyone from stepping out of line or challenging the status quo.

What we’re grappling with is a double standard in what the government metes out to the citizenry, and how the citizenry is supposed to treat the government.

SWAT teams can crash through our doors without impunity; but if we dare to defend ourselves against unknown government assailants, we’ll be shot or jailed.

Government agents can confiscate our homes, impound our cars and seize our bank accounts on the slightest suspicion of wrongdoing; but we’ll face jail time and fines for refusing to pay taxes in support of government programs with which we might disagree.

Government spies can listen in on our phone calls, read our emails and text messages, track our movements, photograph our license plates, and even enter our biometric information into DNA databases; but those who dare to film potential police misconduct will likely get roughed up by the police, arrested, and charged with violating various and sundry crimes.

This phenomenon is what philosopher Abraham Kaplan referred to as the law of the instrument, which essentially says that to a hammer, everything looks like a nail. In the scenario that has been playing out in recent years, we the citizenry have become the nails to be hammered by the government’s battalion of laws and law enforcers: its police officers, technicians, bureaucrats, spies, snitches, inspectors, accountants, etc.

This is exactly what those who drafted the U.S. Constitution feared: that laws and law enforcers would be used as tools by a despotic government to wage war against the citizenry.

That is exactly what we are witnessing today: a war against the American citizenry.

Is it any wonder then that Americans are starting to resist?

WATCH: Something HUGE Is About To Happen To NSA’s Controversial Surveillance Program

Wiretapping, as it was called and was portrayed in movies and television, was done when the police wanted to surveil the conversations of suspects or persons of interest. The process usually involved getting a court order from a judge, giving permission to the authorities and police to place aside a person’s right to privacy in the interests of public safety.

Wiretapping went the way of the wired telephone when wireless data-based cell phones were introduced. From that point forward, the collection of data and the content within phone calls became concerns of citizens desiring to protect their rights to privacy.

Edward Snowden caused a firestorm of controversy when he fled the country and revealed the secrets to which he was privy. Snowden relayed that the government was not just spying on suspects; it was collecting all the data from virtually all cell phones being used in the United States.

The massive data collection program was done in secret, without the traditional case by case court orders from judges. In fact, a secret court, known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), was used to legalize the NSA’s actions. Snowden, some say, is a traitor; yet others call him a freedom fighter. Regardless of one’s opinion of Snowden, the consequences of his actions were brought to the attention of politicians, the citizenry, the press, and the world. The group behind the massive spying on Americans was and is the NSA, the National Security Agency of the federal government.

The NSA ended a portion of its massive surveillance program at midnight on Sunday as a result of the USA Freedom Act of 2015. The Freedom Act was signed into law and made it illegal for the NSA to continue the collection of metadata of cell phone conversations from Americans; yet controversy still remains within NSA data collection practices.

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, praised the ending of the NSA spying program and issued a statement on what he called the “NSA Phone Records Dragnet.” In his statement, Wyden also advises that there are other programs within the NSA that still need to be revised in order to protect the privacy rights of Americans, and that there is still much more work to be done to ensure our right to privacy. For example, the NSA’s PRISM program, which collects vast amounts of internet data, is still ongoing.

The following is Wyden’s statement:

This is a victory for everyone who believes in protecting both American security and Americans’ constitutional rights. Today the NSA is shutting down a mass surveillance program that needlessly violated the privacy of millions of Americans every day, without making our country any safer.

This program’s very existence was concealed from the American public for over a decade.  Across two administrations, senior officials from US intelligence agencies and the Justice Department repeatedly made false and misleading statements that concealed the truth about what they were doing.  These officials relied on a secret body of law to justify the mass surveillance of the American people. 

Fortunately, in America sooner or later the truth always comes out.  When Americans found out about this secret, unconstitutional surveillance two years ago, they were rightfully outraged.  And they made their voices heard.  The result was historic reform legislation that required the government to shut this program down. 

I am grateful to every American who stood up and made his or her voice count on this issue, and to all of my colleagues who listened to them. Former senators Russ Feingold and Mark Udall, in particular, both fought tirelessly to end mass surveillance long before it was public.  

In fifteen years of service on the Senate Intelligence Committee, I have seen many reminders that this is a dangerous world, and the recent attacks in Paris and Mali are just the latest brutal examples.  After every such attack, politicians who would play to Americans’ fears call for liberty to be sacrificed in the name of security.  I reject those calls.  And as long as Americans continue to demand that their government protect both their security and their liberty, I am confident that our country can deal with these threats without sacrificing our most cherished rights and values.

h/t: IJReview