Occurring in parallel with the developments of deeper corporate control over political institutions and processes will be the further restriction of general civil liberties and rights. Forms of Democracy in America cannot be successfully narrowed by corporate interests without the accompanying further restriction of civil liberties and rights. The restriction process accelerated with the imposition of the PATRIOT Act in 2001. That Act was publicized at the time as temporary, but has been continued for more than a decade and, in some cases, even expanded.
Further measures that limit citizen rights of privacy have also expanded over the past decade. It is a quite widespread and common occurrence for the National Security Agency (NSA), the U.S. military intelligence units (Army, Navy, etc.), and other government agencies to regularly access millions of Americans’ webpages and emails. Government spying on its citizens has been broadened and deepened steadily over the decade.
Wiretaps and cellphone interceptions no longer require normal court orders. Plans for intercepting new forms of social media access periodically arise, reported in the public press. The initially derided Total Information Awareness (TIA) program of Admiral Poindexter that was authorized by the original Patriot Act in 2001-02, has now become an institutionalized fact. Federal budgets for Homeland Security, averaging $40 billion a year over the last decade, have recently been proposed to grow to an average of $80 billion a year for 2012-17, despite the official ending of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the assassinations of virtually all the top Al-Qaeda leadership globally. Much of that $40 billion increase is earmarked for internal U.S. domestic surveillance. Overall defense spending is thus not planned for reduction in 2013; it is just being redeployed to fund other electronic surveillance and cyber warfare measures (now the fifth military command officially, in addition to space, land, sea and air) and redistributed among different departments and parts of the U.S. budget.
The rights of U.S. citizens to assemble and to free speech are also being further restricted, as events involving protests this past spring in Chicago demonstrated. And in what is perhaps the most ominous recent sign of forthcoming plans to further restrict civil liberties, the Defense Authorization Act passed December 2011, signed by President Obama, authorizes the government “to order the military to pick up and imprison people, including U.S. citizens, without charging them or putting them on trial,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In signing the bill, Obama said he did so with serious reservations and pledged not to use it on U.S. citizens without trial. Just as he pledged not to break up immigrant families by deportations, and put bankers who helped cause the economic crisis by fraudulent means on trial, and stop price gouging health insurance companies, and all the rest of the list of broken and shelved campaign promises.
The limitation of rights and liberties is not an isolated development. It is the other side of the coin of limiting democratic activity and expression. And that limitation of Democracy is a reflection of the growing new forms of corporatization of American government and society now being forged to ensure that, whatever new economic restructuring comes out of the current economic crises, measures can be successfully implemented that secure and protect the accumulated wealth of the 1 percent, their corporations, and their institutions in the decade ahead.
Jack Rasmus is author of Obama’s Economy: Recovery for the Few, April 2012, published by Pluto Books and distributed by Palgrave-Macmillan in the U.S. His blog is jackrasmus.com and his website is: www.kyklosproductions.com. Listen to Jack’s new radio show, ‘ALTERNATIVE VISIONS’, on the progressive radio network, every Wednesday, 2pm, in New York.