“Let’s get right to it, shall we?” Lance suggested.

“Yes, of course,” Tim replied.  The young man was somehow uncomfortable in the present setting.  He pushed back his hair that had fallen forward in his nervousness.  “Let’s start with Stellar Wind.  That’s the code name for the NSA’s Utah Data Center.  Its purpose is to intercept, decipher, analyze and store vast swaths of the world’s communications.”

Tim stopped for a drink of water, offered a strained smile that gave concern to the host, then continued. “All forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches will be scanned and stored, forever.”

“Wait a minute!” Lance insisted.  “You’re telling me…and our viewers that this thing…this program can get inside our computers, our cell phones, our iPads?”

“And credit card accounts, and verbal communications,” Tim stated with the flip of a hand to emphasize the simplicity of the thing.  “The video cameras, so ubiquitous throughout the cities, capture not only your image, but enable computer-generated software to read your lips.”

“Are you sure you haven’t been watching too much sci-fi?”  Lance asked.

“I wish it were only so,” Tim lamented, then reached for some water.  “While people busy themselves with texting, tweeting, surfing, and e-mailing, they’re exposing their lives to Big Brother, revealing every secret they thought was safe and protected.  And it will be up to very large, very cold and calculating organizations to determine if US citizens are a threat, not to others, but to the system itself.”

“Organizations?” Lance broke in.

“The government security agencies: the NSA, DEA, CIA, ICE, INS, Homeland Security, FBI.  Those entities have reached a size where they are self-perpetuating.  Their primary directive, if you will, is to maintain the jobs of their people and the systems own demand for more power, more capabilities, become more intrusive, more indispensable.”

“Indispensable to whom?”

“To those in power, naturally.”

“But what’s the purpose of all the spying, the new laws, the arrests?” Lance asked.

“Control,” Tim said.

“Control who?”

“The dissidents.”

“Dissidents?  I’m not following you.”

“The government isn’t worried about al Qaeda, or Islamofascists, or ISIS.  The war of terror is trumped up to give the federal government and the states a reason to introduce more laws and enforce them more strictly. They spy on the groups, learn what they are planning.  They’ve infiltrated the groups with FBI, ATF agents, or with paid informants.  If the groups are non-violent, the foment violence.  They destroy the group’s credibility and ability to gain traction.

“You see, the government’s – or the men and institutions behind the scenes – greatest fear is the people themselves.  The banksters and the corporations have taken just about all they can from the public.  When citizens have nothing to lose, they revolt.  The American people are very close to that right now.  And the closer they get to being destitute, disillusioned, demoralized, the more laws, the more manpower, the government’s going to need to control them.

“Look at what happens in Latin America, Lance,” Tim went on.  “When there’s an injustice, a cause célèbre, people gather, in the thousands, tens of thousands, in front of government buildings to protest.  They basically shut down the country until their voices are heard and the government acquiesces.  They have nothing to lose, nothing left for the government to take from them.  America is really close to that event horizon.”

Tim seemed parched despite an effort to stay hydrated.  The young man looked over the top of the glass while drinking, never breaking eye contact.  He used great care to set his water back down, then went on.  “There was a time when Americans still cared about matters such as personal privacy.  Luckily, they now have gadgets to keep them distracted as they hand over their last pieces of individuality to the tsar of conformity.”

“You sound so cynical, Tim,” Lance said.

“I wish I had better news, held out more hope, but….”

“But…?”  Lance repeated.

Tim hesitated, staring at his glass.

The news anchor nudged him.  “Please go on, Tim,” the host suggested soothingly.

“Yes…under the circumstances, we’d need to organize on a massive scale to counter the forces aligned against us.”

“But there are laws to protect us from people or organizations that over-step their authority,” Lance insisted.

“Governmental…and quasi-governmental agencies don’t just follow the laws.  Due to the fear they generate, the power they wield, they actually write the laws.  That’s what they are doing…have been doing since 9/11,” Tim said, thinking he had explained himself fully.

“Yes,” Lance agreed.  “Laws to protect–.”

“No, laws to prosecute anyone who speaks or acts against the government.”

“Why would they do that?  Monitoring them isn’t enough?”

“It’s to discredit and destroy those groups before they can become a force for change.”

Tim held his thumb and forefinger close together.  “We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state.”  He then sat back as if he’d rather say no more.

He started to pick up his glass again, but his hand began shaking and he spilled water on the table that quickly found its way to the floor.

Lance leaned forward slightly.  “You look uncomfortable, Tim; is anything wrong?” he asked more personal than professional.

“When you expose or criticize the government you open yourself up to attack. Those attacks may be smear campaigns to besmirch your reputation or more intrusive like stealing your mail, or….”

“Or what, Tim?”

“Any more would be speculation,” he replied, in a way that conveyed it was not speculation.

“Please go back to your account.”  Lance reached out to give the young man a reassuring touch on the shoulder.

“This story broke when former NSA operative Martin Downey, a senior analyst, quit his job after he realized that the agency was openly trampling the Constitution.  In case you haven’t been following the news, that’s the same Martin Downey who was killed when his plane went down over the Atlantic last week, just four hours after he was interviewed by Rolling Stone Magazine.”

“This keeps getting worse,” Lance concluded.  “Are things so bleak we can’t work our way out of this?”

“What we’ve discussed here is just the tip of the iceberg,” Tim assured.

“Was there anyone else associated with Stellar Wind that died or disappeared as a result of their willingness to expose the program?” Lance asked, trying to get the answers he and his viewers wanted, but still be sympathetic to his guest.

“Yes, several,” Tim replied.  He made it sound like a warning.

“And their deaths were suspicious?”

“That depends on your level of incredulity.”

“Do I detect a hit of sarcasm in your voice, Tim?”

“It’s that obvious?” Tim said, not trying to hide that in the least.

”Okay.  We’ll leave it there and go on.  How is Stellar Wind going to affect our lives?  After all, we’re law-abiding citizens with nothing to worry about.  It’s terrorists they’re after, right?”

“The definition of what constitutes an American citizen is narrowing.  Anyone who doesn’t agree with the administration – any dissident, marcher, protestor, anyone demanding their rights under the Constitution – are threats to be sequestered.”

“Sequestered?” Lance asked.  “I’m not sure I understand the context.”

“Controlled.  A polite way to say imprisoned.  Or….”

“Yes?  Or what?”

“You’ll have to use your imagination.”

“When I do that, it’s like looking down a black hole,” Lance said.

“Yeah, pretty bleak,” Tim responded.  “There were seven people who did, or were going to, blow the whistle at the NSA.  Five of them are dead.  I’d say there’s a lot to be worried about.”

“Can you tell us who the others are?”

“No!” Tim said so emphatically that it forced the anchor to jerk back in his seat.

“And you’re saying our elected officials are behind all this?” Lance suggested.  “It’s hard to fathom.”

“Our elected officials are mascots of Wall Street oligarchs and puppets of corporate plutocrats.”

“That’s quite an indictment,” Lance responded.

“Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast knowledge beyond the comprehension of the common citizen, and that it’s ensuring the Constitution when, in fact, it is subverting its laws.’”

“But isn’t fighting the war on terrorism vital to the nation’s security?  Those programs are to track and capture terrorists,” Lance insisted, taping his pencil hard against the top of his desk.

“The war on terrorism is trumped up to scare people into giving up their freedoms.”

“But there are terrorists out there….aren’t there?”

“It just depends on your definition of a terrorist.  Do you think people in the ‘Occupy Movement’ are terrorists?”

Lance thought for a moment.   “Of course not!” he decided, after considering the position of the station as well as his own opinion.

“Well, the Department of Homeland Security thinks they are.  And independent journalists who follow police and photograph acts of violence against demonstrators, and people who complain about the contaminates in their water, and those who go out on strike against unconscionable work conditions, and every whistleblower, even those uncovering war crimes, they’re terrorists.”

“From what you’re saying, anyone could be a terrorist,” Lance concluded.

“That’s exactly what I’m saying.”


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