On this week’s episode of Off The Grid Radio, guest host Brian Brawdy talks to New American reporter Joe Wolverton II, who says the NSA’s spying is “just the tip of the iceberg” of the federal government’s surveillance efforts.
Of course, one year ago many educated Americans knew very little about the National Security Agency (NSA) – that is, if they had even heard of it. But thanks to a man named Edward Snowden, the entire nation now knows about the NSA, and what they know about it isn’t good.
Wolverton’s article, “The New Age of Surveillance,” details how the federal government, at all levels, is snooping and collecting data on every American, without us even knowing about it.
The government’s position on surveillance, Wolverton says, is simple: “Since we don’t know who is a terrorist, everyone is a suspect.”
Off The Grid Radio
Released: October 24, 2013
Brian: Welcome to Off the Grid News, the radio version of OfftheGridNews.com. I’m Brian Brawdy sitting in today for Mister Bill Heid, who is on assignment. You know, every so often you read an article in the newspaper, in the magazine, now most days for me on the internet, its title grabs you, its contents grab you. You look down and all kinds of people are sharing it. All kinds of people are liking it on Facebook. They’re tweeting it on Twitter. And you think to yourself, I enjoyed that article so much. I learned so much from it. But how cool would it be to get a chance to interview the author, to ask them some questions and kind of maybe dig a little deeper than what the article went. And that is most certainly the opportunity we have today. I’m talking about an article that I had read in the New American and it’s called The New Age of Surveillance.
And in Off the Grid News today, we’re very fortunate to have its author with us. Mr. Joe Wolverton II received his B.A in political science from Brigham Young University in 1995 and his Juris Doctor in 2001 from the University of Memphis. Since 2004, Joe has been a featured contributor to all kinds of publications, including the New American magazine. His work has also appeared in national and international publications including but not limited to LewRockwell.com, the Ron Paul Forums, the Tenth Amendment Center, Infowars, the Guardian U.K, the Business Insider and his resume goes on and on. Joe is also a professor of American Government, was a practicing constitutional law attorney until 2009. I got to tell you, Joe, we don’t get a chance very often to interview practicing constitutional attorneys. It really is great to have you on our show. Welcome!
Joe: Thank you, Brian. So good to be here with you.
Brian: You know I meant what I said, Joe, in the introduction The New Age of Surveillance. I really enjoyed your article. It’s got all kinds of likes on Facebook. Everyone is talking about it on Twitter. That’s what I’d like to spend our half hour with today. Talking to about that article and why is it a new age of surveillance? What are some of the things that our listeners need to know about?
Joe: Well, I think the main (inaudible 02:49) of the article if there is just one point. One of the main point is that it’s not just the NSA that so much of this engine is focused on the surveillance, electronic surveillance being conducted by the NSA today. When in reality, there’s surveillance being conducted by any number of federal agencies including the IRS. The IRS has access to information about you that you probably don’t want public necessarily or at least that a lot of us wouldn’t want made public. Drug enforcement agencies conducting its own surveillance, we know that. And you know, when you think about the organization and of course, Homeland Security conducts surveillance, we’ve uncovered some of that as well. And when you looked at the full panoply of federal agencies that are conducting surveillance on behalf of the federal government, you realized that there’s very little that you can do that falls outside the never blinking eye of Washington.
And I think the scariest thing is to remember that when you got an organization like the IRS that in its very existence is unconstitutional. And then, that the taxing power is being used is a political tool, as a political weapon. And you realized that that very organization is in charge with carrying out Obama Care. Then, you got a situation where in this surveillance state that we now live in, people that disagree with the administration, that disagree with the policies of the establishment will very certainly have medical lifesaving, medical decisions made based on their political views. You got them. We know for sure that they based tax decisions on the political views of those who are the petitioners. Well now, we have people petitioning not for tax exempt status but for potentially lifesaving health care services. And you got the organization that’s in charge of deciding that and overt political arm of the establishment making decisions based on whether or not you are in agreement with their policies.
So that’s a frightening country that we live in and I think that’s the new age. The new age is not only are they conducting warrant with searches and surveillance but it’s not just the NSA. It’s so many people and for so many in a various reasons beyond just, “Oh, we want to see what this lunatic patriot has to say and write it down and hold it in case we ever find something that to get him with. You know, send him to the gulag because he’s written something horrible about Barrack Obama in an email.” We go so far beyond that. And that’s the new age we live in. We live in an age where every electronic movement, every real movement is monitored by the government and those decisions are going to be used against you. And I think Americans need to wake up to that. And once we do, perhaps we have a chance of dismantling this gulag before the last brick is placed.
Brian: Well, you know, I saw this the last couple of days (inaudible 06:14) so the NSA is now collecting buddy list on social media. So that if you have a buddy list and you do something then you’re buddies are also subject to some type of increased scrutiny. So it’s not just you perhaps you that have to worry about. It’s your family. It’s your friends. It’s anyone connected to you via cyber space. Is that correct?
Joe: That’s right. They’ll do it through chat. You know, like you got this Facebook messenger that people use a lot. The minute you open up a port to chat with someone on your list, on your buddy list there, your chat list, they will access your computer through that same hole that you opened to chat. And then, like you say, they’ve got your buddy list. They’ve got all your email contacts. And yes, so you’re implicating not only yourself but you’re implicating those of whom you communicate as well. Imagine, you’ve got the NSA when questioned about it, it says, “Well, so many of these people they’re not obvious terrorist. In other words, it’s just John Smith who lives in anywhere USA which doesn’t sound particularly threatening or terroristic but that’s just a front for Mohammad Akbar who is actually chatting with members of Al Qaeda, plotting with sleeper cells around the country. So we have to monitor everyone because these terrorist are becoming so clever, we can’t know who is and who is not a terrorist. So since we don’t know who is a suspect, now everyone is a suspect.”
Brian: So then when it comes to our (inaudible 07:59) right to be protected from unreasonable search and seizures, well then your article talks about tyranny erected in cyber space. That’s pretty much a thing of the past, isn’t it?
Joe: Oh, absolutely. With regard to your electronic profile, that is to say the activities you conduct on the internet and on your cellphone, every one of them is monitored. That’s the baseline that we start from. Every time you send an email that email will be collected. Every time you send a text message that text message will be recorded. Now, is that to say that they’re reading all of them? No. But the issue is, and this is something I talked about with when I talked to conservative group, some of these people will be like, “Well, I don’t think that the NSA is sitting around reading every email.” Well, that’s not the issue. The issue is this very thing should never be collected. You have to have probable cause. You have to have a reasonable suspicion to believe that the person that you are wanting to survey has committed or will soon commit a crime. And then, you have to obtain a warrant from a judge.
All of those protections on civil liberty are now gone because you’ve got the FISA court, the FIS siege who just rubber stance these applications. And you got the fact that NSA has authority from the FISA court and from the patriot act to do a priory surveillance of electronic communications. That is to say, anything you do online, they don’t need if they themselves, without going through a judge or anyone else, if they themselves think there might be something there, they can conduct surveillance on that activity. So the days when someone needed a warrant before they can take our information are long gone unfortunately.
Brian: And what’s interesting in your article too, you talked at length about the social media surveillance and the question that comes to my mind, Joe is that what size computer? What size building? What kind of draw on a power grid? I mean, I’ve got a laptop. I’ve got another computers. I don’t know. Gigabytes or a couple of terabytes of information. What are we talking about when it comes to being able to store all these information? It seems like it would have to be a massive system that cause a little bit of change to build and put up and running.
Joe: Well, that’s absolutely true. We pay the wardens out of our own pocket and that’s the sad thing. These NSA buildings that collect these information storage are paid for, of course, out of taxpayer dollars. So we are paying the wardens out of our own wallet. We’re paying these people to watch us and we seem to do so with a smile. I mean, so many people are content to shake their fist at the heavens but nothing seems to be done because we’re protecting (inaudible 11:12). Some people in the concentration camps didn’t care they were in concentration camps. They weren’t the ones (inaudible 11:19). They got food. They got a cot. And that’s pretty much the way we seem to act. But as far as the amount of data they collected to know, they have the new data center in Utah and you talked about the amount of power needed, of course, that thing melted down. It melted to local grid. The NSA Data Center, the new one in Utah, is about 20 minutes from my house.
You drive down the (inaudible 11:44). There’s twice as the amount of security. There are people inside the building and they collect amounts of data that you can’t believe. Every electronic communication of every American for eight years is stored in that building. And when you read the act that authorize, not because something has been said that’s suspicious, but in case it’s stored for eight years, in case that is stored ever becomes suspicious. So you’ve got not only this massive amount of data being held in computer and server farm out in the Western desert of Utah but you’ve got the fact that it’s powerful that it melted down the local grid and the thing won’t be up as they say, won’t be up and working properly again for another few months at least because they got to repair the local electric grid.
But then, you got the fact that they are not only violating your right to be free from unwarranted search and seizures but they’re violating the notion of an Exposed Fact Bill Law by saying,, “What you say today might not be illegal but we’re going to go ahead and store it for a decade in case a few years from now it becomes illegal. We can go back and pull this file and demonstrate that you broke this law that did not exist when you did this whatever this supposedly illegal activity was.” To me, that’s one of the most frightening aspect of the NSA branch of the surveillance state is that they now can store this information and make it pull it up and present that as evidence of your criminal activity even though when you said those things it was no crime.
Brian: Isn’t that absolutely amazing?
Joe: Well, think of the implications because today for example, it is no crime to say, “I own ten guns.” Just tell your friend. Like you and I talking on the phone and I say, “Yeah, I bought a new nine millimeter pistol today and bought about a hundred rounds for it.” That’s not a crime today but it sure in fact might be crime in five years. And now, they have me recorded saying that and when it becomes a crime, then the NSA or any agency task with policing this law that is saying that, “No ownership of hand gun law.” Why, they can go back in this archives as the NSA is collecting at this data farm in Utah and they can say, “Look here. A few years ago, Joe Wolverton said he bought a gun and a hundred rounds of ammo so let’s go get him. Let’s go bring him in.”
And it was no crime when I said it but that’s the purpose of recording all these information. So it’s going to come to a point in history very soon of our country where you can’t do anything that isn’t some sort of violation of some regulation or law. And every evidence of your violation is going to be stored in some massive server farm in the country run by a handful of NSA employees.
Brian: So what are we going to do, Joe? Because when we get into conversation like this, people go, “What do you think?” And I go, “Well, I blame Brian. I blame Joe Wolverton. I blame Tom. I blame the people around there.” They go, “Well, you blame us. Well, we’re the ones that all elect our political officials.” It would seem to me that all these things are going on, and certainly if look at what’s going on in the news today, going on by the people that we put in power. So don’t each of us share some of that responsibility?
Joe: I agree with you 100%. I think and I was mentioning this to someone last night, we are absolutely to blame. And not only for electing people because to be quite honest, we elect people who are dishonest but we don’t know that when we elect them. We elect them in good faith but they get to Washington and they develop, what I call, ‘platonic fever’. They get amnesia. They start liking the influence and the corruption that’s available there but there is a solution. I mean, so yes. To answer your question, yes. We are to blame in the fact that many of those of whom we have elected have turned on us and turned on the constitution. And now, worship false god, so to speak. They get to Washington and they see the bags of cash that are available for getting exchange for nothing more than pushing a button on their desk. You know at the button that votes yes to extend FISA court authority or votes yes to extend the patriot act, etcetera, etcetera.
But the thing that I think we can do is remember. You know Tip O’Neill was famous for saying, “All politics is local.” Well, in a sense all surveillance is local as well. And I think one of the things we can do and something that I’m actively working with the Tenth Amendment Center to encourage localities to do is pass ordinances refusing to give electricity and water to these NSA outlets. In other words, you got a data farm in Utah, well, they are not created electricity out of thin air. They’ve got to draw electricity from the local grid. Well, cut them off. Cut off the water. Let’s see how long the 12 or 13 employees of the NSA Data Center in Utah like not having a bathroom. Let’s see how long that last. Remember that this is all local and cut off the source of power and water to these locations and see how long they last. Now, is the federal government going to come in and force you to turn it back on? Maybe.
But at least at that point, you force them out into the open. You force them to say, “Look, we are going to consider states and localities nothing more than administrative units of the all-powerful central government.” Once you forced them into that position then I think you’ll find people rallying to our side because they’ll see that it’s no longer just someone’s cookie notion of how powerful the federal government is but regular people will start to see that the federal government will have its way by hook or by crook. So I think the one thing we can do is encourage our local leaders to refuse to participate. As a matter of fact, there’s some communities that have already criminalized participation in any government, any federal government surveillance operation. So if you’re a state agent and they’re saying, “Hey, we’re going to hire you to be security.” and then you’re found to be working security at a NSA or DHS or DEA facility where they’re monitoring citizens, then you can be held criminally responsible for participating in that operation. I think that’s a great way to fight it.
Brian: I was (inaudible 19:09) and I said (inaudible 19:12) is to find a police department in your area that use (inaudible 19:19). Go to the mayor and say, “Your honor, if that drone is still employed by your police department next election time, we’re voting you out of office.
Brian: What quickly the drones start to fall from the skies? When you go to the local politician in charge of the local police department and say, “Nope. Next time there’s a drone in the sky we’re going to put up a candidate. It’s going to vote you out of the office and he’ll going to order the chief of police to remove the drones.” So I’m with you, Joe. I like that idea of making it all local. What do you think?
Joe: Oh, yeah. I think that’s the key to a (inaudible 19:59). They are very collectivist in Washington. They like lumping this all together. And I think one of the greatest ways to fight collectivism is to remind them that we are individuals. We will not be lump into one mass of citizen suspects. We will remember that, “Hey, I live in Memphis.” for example, where I am today. Well, if there’s going to be NSA building in the outskirts of Memphis collecting all this data on people who live in the South, let’s say the town or the localities, the county where the thing is located. Let’s just pass a resolution where they don’t get electricity and water and cut it off. It has nothing to do. We’re allowed. Many of these places are now private organizations that provide power around the country. It’s not a government organization any more. It’s a private company that buys power and creates the power and sells it off to people. “We have the right to refuse service to anyone, so we are going to refuse to serve you.” There you go. You’ve cut them off.
Now, it won’t work everywhere but we’ve got to start somewhere. And just remind them that we are not some mass of people, mass of sheep that can be herded where they want. We’ve got to remember that we have the ability. We do have the power in aid in ourselves to take off the shackles that they are binding us with and these are substantial. I mean, we talk about things from history, like in the article I talk about the Stasi, the secret police of Germany. They only wish in their most drug-adult fantasies that they have the power to survey people the way our Federal Government does. Again, by talking just make it one point for your listeners that is do not be deceived into thinking that the whole range of surveillance is coming from the NSA. The NSA is the tip of the ice berg. You’ve got federal agencies along the whole alphabet of federal agencies that are watching you, that are storing your information. Read the Obama Care legislation, the pair of legislation that enacted Obama Care. The amount of surveillance authorized in that thing makes it sound like we are at war with someone. And you know, never forget that the people that will be enforcing Obama Care is the IRS. And never forget that each one of those agents now is issued a sidearm. Why does the taxing authority require its agents to carry a government issued sidearm? These questions that need answers and need them quickly.
Brian: Joe, another couple of minutes here, another thing you make me quite to think about when you said you don’t feel local but it’s all local. When we say the federal government, those are friends, neighbors, people we probably know. It’s not like the bureaucratic bohemia for the legislative (inaudible 23:07), it’s not like its people by being some another planet. These are the very people that they all live locally. They all live close by. So I guess having said that my question is: aren’t we growing more and more close in our country with our shackles? Aren’t there more and more people that are going to go, “Joe, who cares? I’ve got nothing bad to say. I’m not going to do this or that.”? It would seem to me that we get the surveillance we’ve grown most comfortable with.
Joe: Well, right. And the thing that I’m concerned most about when people say, “I don’t do anything wrong.” Fair enough. But do you do anything embarrassing? Do you do anything on the internet that you’d be ashamed to let the entire world know about? Would your friends…?
Brian: (inaudible 23:57)
Joe: This is what I remind people about. It isn’t about what you’ve done wrong. Maybe, what you’ve done that’s embarrassing we’ve all done that. Have you said anything that you’re embarrassed about? Have you done anything that now you’re embarrassed about? Do you currently do anything that you would hate for your loved ones to know about? Not illegal. We’re not talking about you getting on the phone and plotting bombs and plotting to overthrow the Government. We are not talking about anything like that. Just something embarrassing that maybe you wish people didn’t know about and you try hard to keep it secret. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t make you a criminal but it does make you vulnerable and at the end of the day, that’s what they want. Whether or not, we commit overt acts of criminal behavior, they don’t care. They just want to make sure that in case we ever do anything that can be used to manipulate us that they know about it first and that they have it on hand.
So that day when you say, “You know what? I’m really tired of this. I am going to run for mayor of my town.” and really start pushing for some legislation that nullifies, for example all these rings and rings of federal regulation. “I am going to run for mayor and then I am going to start pushing back against the over-rich.” That’s the minute that they somehow, your browsing history gets handed to your opponent. Who knows how? Who knows? It gets emailed through an anonymous email. “Here’s John Smith’s browsing history. Maybe you’d like to make this public and let people know what kind of person.” That is just one example. So it’s not what you’ve done wrong, it’s what you’ve done that you might be embarrassed about that you want to keep private. And the fact is that our founding fathers protected just that activity. They knew that it wasn’t about crimes, it was about freedom. They knew that it wasn’t, “Let’s keep criminal safe.”
People always say that you are trying to protect the criminals. No, you’re making the wrong argument because you are assuming someone is a criminal. In this country, you are innocent until you are proven guilty and proving you guilty is difficult because we believe that the first and most important inheritance that we received is our individual civil liberty. Our government now does not believe that. Our government, the people that we sent to represent us are being exposed to such corruption on such an immense and expansive scale that they are being paid to forget their fidelity to core principles of freedom. And we’re suffering for it and it’s time that we push back against that. And you’ve got to remember that, you’re probably be a very good person. We’re all good people for the most part. But now, it’s a fact where you’ve got to be an even a better person because you kind of watch out and remember that everything you say and do online or in real life is being recorded somewhere for use against you.
That’s the country we live in now. And I talk in the article about trap wire. You’ve got the fact that local government received bags of cash and federal grants to put these cameras up at every stop light. Well, these cameras, all these information is sent back to a server and all that information is sent back to the servers of the federal agency that authorized the grant. Be it Homeland Security, the IRS, the National Science Foundation, the FBI, any time the Justice Department; whatever federal agency gave you that big old bag of cash from Washington to buy those cameras, all that information from all those cameras around town find their way onto federal government servers. Whether it’s online or on the street, you are being watched by your federal government.
Brian: Joe, unfortunately it’s our time. We would only keep you for half an hour. And you know, it’s always a case when you get into an interview that half hour has arrived but I want you to know that I think it’s a great article. It doesn’t surprise me that it’s getting the (inaudible 28:40) publicity that it is. And for our listeners, you can go and hear all or read all of Joe Wolverton’s article The New Age of Surveillance. You can check it out at the NewAmerican.com. Joe, a quick closing thought or suggestion for our listeners.
Joe: The biggest suggestion I have is remember that it’s all local. Please, we can turn our backs on Washington and focus on making our towns, our counties and our state best into liberty. Let’s start it local. If you want this country to be free once again, make your city free, make your county free. And when we do that, when we spread this all over the country, soon the amount of the towns that are free will increase, the amount of counties will increase. And pretty soon, it will spread throughout the entire country and we’ll have the force that we need, the moral force that we need to reform Washington. But let’s start locally first.
Brian: Joe, thank you so much. I can’t think of a better way of doing it. Everyone talks all the time about they want locally grown produce. Well, let’s get on board and talk about locally grown decisions to remain infidelity with (inaudible 29:58) because bottom line right, it’s when the individual says, “Yeah, they are not amiable to me. I can give them up.” That’s when we start to lose. If you’re going to buy local, if you’re going to go to a local barbers market think also about Joe’s words of keeping it local, keeping it real. Joe Wolverton, thank you so very much. Ladies and gentlemen, the NewAmerican.com, the article is called The New Age of Surveillance. Give it a read and be chilled.
Alright, ladies and gentleman, thank you so much for tuning in as always to Off the Grid News, the radio version of OffTheGridNews.com. We got a great website. If you have a chance to stop by, check it out. Don’t forget find us on Facebook, on Twitter. We really do listen to your comments and try to incorporate them in quite a bit we do here. On behalf of Mr. Bill Heid, the parent company of Solutions from Science, all the gang here in the studio, thank you so very much for giving us an hour of your time.