This weekend, millions of Americans showed up and did their part for the cause of freedom in the United States.
They marched through the streets of Americans cities and small towns, braving the cold, walking for hours, defying the threats of Trump’s red cap mob to speak up in defense of constitutional rights for all people.
You would think that, after such a display of resistance, Democrats sitting comfortably in the United States Senate, would take the relatively simple step of voting against the profoundly unsuitable, extremist cabinet nominees chosen by Donald Trump. After all, Trump was elected without a mandate, without winning the popular vote, and was inaugurated with only a 40 percent favorability rating.
Mike Pompeo, Trump’s choice to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, should have been an easy nominee against which to take a stand. Pompeo has advocated the creation of massive government surveillance networks to spy against all Americans, “Congress should pass a law re-establishing collection of all metadata, and combining it with publicly available financial and lifestyle information into a comprehensive, searchable database.”
What many people don’t understand is that when metadata can be used to identify specific individuals. With a bit of data crunching, metadata is not at all anonymous. Furthermore, when metadata is combined with information available elsewhere – such on Facebook and Twitter, it creates an astonishingly detailed record of Americans’ private lives, going far beyond the public representations we create on social media.
Four years ago, Peregrin Wood explained, “It’s like a huge pointillist painting… of Americans’ private lives. Collect just one dot, information that one person called another person at a certain time and date, and it doesn’t look like much. Combine that, however, with months upon months of that person’s calls, and details about that person’s life begin to emerge. Add in Facebook posts and private chats – even those that have been cut off from general public view. Add in purchases made online. A recognizable portrait of a person’s private life emerges. Now add in Google metadata – we now see what this person, identified from their unique IP address, searches for, who they are emailing, the titles of their emails and attachments, the items they have placed their daily calendar, and the documents that they have placed in their Google Drives. Keep in mind that metadata also shows us what web sites people go to, as they are tracked by GoogleAdwords and Facebook cookies. So, we can see, just from metadata, what people are reading, and which online networks they are involved with. Let’s not forget Google Maps, and “checking in” on Facebook. Metadata shows where we go, as long as we’re carrying a wireless device – and sometimes even when we aren’t. The pointillist image of a person’s life is, at this point, exposed in fine resolution.”
What Mike Pompeo has proposed is the creation of a network of spying against all Americans, including those who aren’t suspected of any criminal behavior. It’s an electronic surveillance program that makes Big Brother look like a pipsqueak.
For anyone to believe that Donald Trump can be trusted with such a massive spy system is beyond reason. When one considers that there is good reason to believe that Donald Trump has been working, either knowingly or unknowingly, as an agent of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, the idea of Mike Pompeo’s domestic, anti-American spy network becomes terrifying. The fact that Trump just signaled that he is keeping James Comey as Director of the FBI, right after Comey has been exposed for using the investigatory powers of the FBI as a political tool to destroy his opponents, adds on a new level of authoritarian horror.
What’s more, under George W. Bush, metadata collected by the NSA was used as the “deciding factor” in selecting targets to be sent to secret CIA detention centers, where they were tortured by CIA agents. Keep in mind that Donald Trump has repeatedly stated that the problem with George W. Bush is that he was too restrained in his use of the CIA.
Mike Pompeo has declared that he wants this same kind of surveillance system, only made more powerful than before, to be used against American citizens on US soil. What’s more, Mike Pompeo was a fervent supporter of torture during the Bush years. Mix an omnipresent government surveillance system with secret torture prisons, and you multiply the terror.
Both torture and warrantless dragnet surveillance targeting the American people are clear violations of the Bill of Rights, but that doesn’t seem to bother Mike Pompeo, who regards the Constitution more as a hindrance rather than as a guarantee of freedom. That stance led Human Rights Watch to urge the United States Senate to reject the nomination of Pompeo to the position of CIA director. Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno, HRW’s U.S. program co-director, stated this month, “Pompeo’s failure to unequivocally disavow torture and mass surveillance, coupled with his record of advocacy for surveillance of Americans and past endorsement of the shuttered CIA torture program, make clear that he should not be running the CIA.”
When someone like Mike Pompeo proposes these kinds of horrible ideas, what can you do to stop him? One course of action is clear, if you’re a United States Senator: You don’t vote in favor of giving such a man the power to put these ideas into action by making him the Director of the CIA.
Yet, that’s just what 14 Senate Democrats just did. While their constituents were marching in the streets in protest against Donald Trump, these powerful Democrats rolled over onto their backs in submission to Trump, and voted to confirm Mike Pompeo as Director of the CIA.
Their names are: