We can’t say nobody ever warned us.
In 1975, Sen. Frank Church issued a poignant warning about the surveillance state on NBC Meet the Press, saying it created the potential for “total tyranny.”
If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.
Church went on to say any attempts to stop it would prove futile, even careful, well-organized resistance, because any effort “is in within reach for the government to know.”
Now consider Church issued this warning in 1975.
More than 40 years ago.
Church was talking about the potential for “total tyranny” before widespread public access to the Internet, before cellphones and before the proliferation of email. If anything, the technological capacity of the NSA and state, local and federal law enforcement agencies exceeds anything Church imagined.
In 1975, Church insisted Congress needed to take action to make sure the NSA and other agencies with surveillance powers operate legally and with accountability.
I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it this agency, and all agencies that possess this technology, operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That’s the abyss from which there is no return.
Congress never acted. In fact, with the advent of the “War on Drugs and the “War on Terror,” Congress has extended even more powers to the NSA and other spy-agencies. This allowed them to operate even deeper in secrecy and without accountability.
Since then, surveillance technology has proliferated into state and local law enforcement agencies. Local cops have access to an incredible array of spy-gear that allows them to watch you, track your location, and even listen in on your cell phone calls.
If America was rushing toward an abyss in 1975, it’s teetering on the brink today.
Do you really trust Congress to pull it back? Do you really trust local government agencies to handle high-tech spy gear in a way that respects your privacy?
Watch this clip from that 1975 Meet the Press show. I think you will find it chilling.