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Multiple Government Agencies Are Keeping Records Of Your Credit Card Transactions

Credit CardsWere you under the impression that your credit card transactions are private?  If so, I am sorry to burst your bubble.  As you will see below, there are actually multiple government agencies that are gathering and storing records of your credit card transactions.  And in turn, those government agencies share that information with other government agencies that want it.  So if you are making a purchase that you don’t want anyone to know about, don’t use a credit card.  This is one of the reasons why the government hates cash so much.  It is just so hard to track.  In this day and age, the federal government seems to be absolutely obsessed with gathering as much information about all of us as it possibly can.  But there is one big problem.  What they are doing directly violates the U.S. Constitution.  For those that are not familiar with it, the following is what the Fourth Amendment actually says: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”  Unfortunately, the Fourth Amendment is essentially dead at this point.  The federal government is investigating all of us and gathering information on all of us all day, every day without end.

Many Americans have never even heard of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but Judicial Watch has discovered that they are spending millions of dollars to collect and analyze our financial transactions…

Judicial Watch announced today that it has obtained records from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) revealing that the agency has spent millions of dollars for the warrantless collection and analysis of Americans’ financial transactions. The documents also reveal that CFPB contractors may be required to share the information with “additional government entities.”

Judicial Watch was able to obtain some absolutely shocking documents thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request that it filed in April.  The following is a summary of some of the things those documents show…

  • Overlapping contracts with multiple credit reporting agencies and accounting firms to gather, store, and share credit card data as shown in the task list of a contract with Argus Information & Advisory Services LLC worth $2.9 million
  • A provision stipulating that “The contractor recognizes that, in performing this requirement, the Contractor may obtain access to non-public, confidential information, Personally Identifiable Information (PII), or proprietary information.”
  • A stipulation that “The Contractor may be required to share credit card data collected from the Banks with additional government entities as directed by the Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR).”

How do you feel about the fact that the government has contracts with “multiple credit reporting agencies and accounting firms to gather, store, and share credit card data”?

How do you feel about the fact that your credit card data and other “non-public, confidential information” may be shared with “additional government entities”?

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton put it very well when he said that this “warrantless collection of the private financial information of millions of Americans is mind-blowing.  Is there anything that this administration thinks it can’t do?”

But of course the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is not the only one keeping records of your credit card transactions.

We have also recently learned that the NSA is doing it too.  The following is from a recent Time Magazine article

Networks are most likely giving the government “metadata.” That is, the credit card issuers could provide the NSA details such as an account or card number, where and when a purchase was made, and for how much. Even though the exact items purchased aren’t revealed, Brian Krebs, who blogs at KrebsOnSecurity.com, says “merchant category codes” in such data give clues about what was bought.

If the NSA is collecting data at the processor level, “at that point the transaction gets cleared and posts to an account, so, yes, you can track it down to a person,” Aufsesser says.

The NSA conceivably could — and probably would — be able get the names of individual account holders from banks issuing credit cards. ”I don’t see how you would anonymize it,” says Al Pascual, senior analyst for security, risk and fraud for Javelin Strategy & Research.

We are rapidly becoming a “Big Brother society” where the government tracks virtually every move that we make.

And don’t think that you can escape this by not using credit cards or by staying off of the Internet.  The truth is that we are being tracked in hundreds of different ways.

For example, have you heard of automated license plate readers?

They are being installed on police vehicles all over the nation, and the amount of information that they are gathering on all of us is frightening.

A computer security consultant named Michael Katz-Lacabe asked the city of San Leandro, California for a record of every time that these license plate readers had scanned his vehicle, and what he discovered absolutely stunned him

The paperback-size device, installed on the outside of police cars, can log thousands of license plates in an eight-hour patrol shift. Katz-Lacabe said it had photographed his two cars on 112 occasions, including one image from 2009 that shows him and his daughters stepping out of his Toyota Prius in their driveway.

That photograph, Katz-Lacabe said, made him “frightened and concerned about the magnitude of police surveillance and data collection.” The single patrol car in San Leandro equipped with a plate reader had logged his car once a week on average, photographing his license plate and documenting the time and location.

At a rapid pace, and mostly hidden from the public, police agencies throughout California have been collecting millions of records on drivers and feeding them to intelligence fusion centers operated by local, state and federal law enforcement.

Most Americans do not even know that these devices exist, but they have been “collecting millions of records” and feeding them into law enforcement databases all over the nation.

In San Diego alone, more than 36 million license plate scans have been fed into a regional database just since 2010

In San Diego, 13 federal and local law enforcement agencies have compiled more than 36 million license-plate scans in a regional database since 2010 with the help of federal homeland security grants. The San Diego Association of Governments maintains the database. Like the Northern California database, the San Diego system retains the data for between one and two years.

“License-plate data is clearly identifiable to specific individuals,” said Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “This is like having your barcode tracked.”

Is this the kind of society that we want to become?

Do we really want the police to be taking millions of photographs of us?

Do we really want all of our financial transactions to be fed directly into federal databases?

Do we really want the government to track every phone call we make and every email we send?

As I wrote about recently, it has been documented that literally thousands of companies have been handing over customer data to the NSA.

Is this the kind of legacy that we want to leave for our children and our grandchildren?

Fortunately, it appears that at least some Americans are waking up to all of this.

According to a brand new Rasmussen survey, 56 percent of likely voters in the United States now believe that the federal government is a threat to individual rights…

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 56% of Likely U.S. Voters now consider the federal government a threat to individual rights rather than a protector of those rights. That’s up 10 points from 46% in December.

While 54% of liberal voters consider the feds to be a protector of individual rights, 78% of conservatives and 49% of moderates see the government as a threat.

Overall, only 30% believe the feds today are a protector of individual rights. Fourteen percent (14%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

If the American people do not stand up and demand change, the people that are constantly violating our privacy are going to continue to do so.

Sadly, the vast majority of the politicians in both major political parties seem to think that there is nothing wrong with the status quo.  So I wouldn’t expect any major changes in the short-term.  But hopefully government surveillance will start to become such a major issue with the American people that the politicians will be forced to start addressing it.

The All-Seeing Eye Is Watching You

22 Nauseating Quotes From Hypocritical Establishment Politicians About The NSA Spying Scandal

Establishment PoliticiansEstablishment politicians from both major political parties are rushing to defend the NSA and condemn whistleblower Edward Snowden.  They are attempting to portray Edward Snowden as a “traitor” and the spooks over at the NSA that are snooping on all of us as “heroes”.  In fact, many of the exact same politicians that once railed against government spying during the Bush years are now staunchly defending it now that Obama is in the White House.  But it isn’t just Democrats that are acting shamefully.  Large numbers of Republican politicians that love to give speeches about “freedom” and “liberty” are attempting to eviscerate the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  The government is not supposed to invade our privacy and investigate us unless there is probable cause to do so.  Apparently many of our politicians misunderstood when they read the novel 1984 by George Orwell.  It wasn’t supposed to be an instruction manual.  We should be thanking Edward Snowden for exposing the deep corruption that is eating away at our own government like cancer.  Now the American people need to pick up the ball and start demanding answers, because without a doubt we are going to see establishment politicians from both major political parties try to shut this scandal down.  Establishment Democrats and establishment Republicans both love the Big Brother surveillance grid that the U.S. government has constructed, and they are both making it abundantly clear that they will defend the NSA to the very end.  The following are 22 nauseating quotes from hypocritical establishment politicians that show exactly how they feel about the NSA spying scandal…

#1 Barack Obama: “I think it’s important to understand that you can’t have 100 percent security and then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.”

#2 Barack Obama in 2007: “This Administration also puts forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand… That means no more illegal wire-tapping of American citizens. No more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime. No more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war. No more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient. That is not who we are. And it is not what is necessary to defeat the terrorists… We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers, and that justice is not arbitrary.”

#3 Speaker Of The House John Boehner on what he thinks about NSA leaker Edward Snowden: “He’s a traitor.”

#4 U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham: “I hope we follow Mr. Snowden to the ends of the Earth to bring him to justice.”

#5 U.S. Senator Al Franken: “I can assure you, this is not about spying on the American people.”

#6 Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: “For senators to complain that they didn’t know this was happening, we had many, many meetings that have been both classified and unclassified that members have been invited to”

#7 U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell: “Given the scope of these programs, it’s understandable that many would be concerned about issues related to privacy. But what’s difficult to understand is the motivation of somebody who intentionally would seek to warn the nation’s enemies of lawful programs created to protect the American people. And I hope that he is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

#8 U.S. Representative Peter King on why he believes that reporters should be prosecuted for revealing NSA secrets: “There is an obligation both moral, but also legal, I believe, against a reporter disclosing something which would so severely compromise national security.”

#9 Director of National Intelligence James Clapper making a joke during an awards ceremony last Friday night: “Some of you expressed surprise that I showed up—so many emails to read!”

#10 Director Of National Intelligence James Clapper about why he lied about NSA spying in front of Congress: “I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner”

#11 National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden: “The president has full faith in director Clapper and his leadership of the intelligence community”

#12 White House press secretary Jay Carney: “…Clapper has been straight and direct in the answers that he’s given, and has actively engaged in an effort to provide more information about the programs that have been revealed through the leak of classified information”

#13 Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee: “There is no more direct or honest person than Jim Clapper.”

#14 Gus Hunt, the chief technology officer at the CIA: “We fundamentally try to collect everything and hang onto it forever.”

#15 Barack Obama: “Nobody is listening to your telephone calls.”

#16 Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency: “We do not see a tradeoff between security and liberty.”

#17 An exchange between NSA director Keith Alexander and U.S. Representative Hank Johnson in March 2012…

JOHNSON: Does the NSA routinely intercept American citizens’ emails?

ALEXANDER: No.

JOHNSON: Does the NSA intercept Americans’ cell phone conversations?

ALEXANDER: No.

JOHNSON: Google searches?

ALEXANDER: No.

JOHNSON: Text messages?

ALEXANDER: No.

JOHNSON: Amazon.com orders?

ALEXANDER: No.

JOHNSON: Bank records?

ALEXANDER: No.

#18 Deputy White House press secretary Dana Perino: “The intelligence activities undertaken by the United States government are lawful, necessary and required to protect Americans from terrorist attacks”

#19 U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss: “This is nothing new.  It has proved meritorious because we have gathered significant information on bad guys and only on bad guys over the years.”

#20 Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton on NSA leaker Edward Snowden: “Let me ask, who died and made him king? Who gave him the authority to endanger 300 million Americans? That’s not the way it works, and if he thinks he can get away with that, he’s got another think coming.”

#21 Senior spokesman for the NSA Don Weber: “Given the nature of the work we do, it would be irresponsible to comment on actual or alleged operational issues; therefore, we have no information to provide”

#22 The White House website: “My administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration.”

Right now, the NSA is building a data collection center out in Utah that is so massive that it is hard to describe with words.  It is going to cost 40 million dollars a year just to provide the energy needed to run it.  According to a 2012 Wired article entitled “The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)“, this data center will contain “the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches” in addition to “parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases” and anything else that the NSA decides to collect…

Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.

The goal is to know as much about everyone on the planet as possible.

And the NSA does not keep this information to itself.  As an article in USA Today recently reported, the NSA shares the data that it collects with other government agencies “as a matter of practice”…

As a matter of practice, the NSA regularly shares its information — known as “product” in intelligence circles — with other intelligence groups.

So when the NSA collects information about you, there is a very good chance that the FBI, the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security and the IRS will have access to it as well.

But the U.S. government is not the only one collecting data on American citizens.

Guess who else has been collecting massive amounts of data on the American people?

Barack Obama.

According to those that have seen it, the “Obama database” is unlike anything that any politician has ever put together before.  According to  CNSNews.com, U.S. Representative Maxine Waters says that this database “will have information about everything on every individual”…

“The president has put in place an organization that contains a kind of database that no one has ever seen before in life,” she added. “That’s going to be very, very powerful.”

Martin asked if Waters if she was referring to “Organizing for America.”

“That’s right, that’s right,” Waters said. “And that database will have information about everything on every individual in ways that it’s never been done before.”

Waters said the database would also serve future Democratic candidates seeking the presidency.

Perhaps this helps to explain why so many big donors got slapped with IRS audits immediately after they wrote big checks to the Romney campaign.

We are being told to “trust” Barack Obama and the massive government surveillance grid that is being constructed all around us, but there has been example after example of government power being grossly abused in recent years.

A lot of Americans say that they do not care if the government is watching them because they do not have anything to hide, but is there anyone out there that would really not mind the government watching them and listening to them 24 hours a day?

For example, it has been documented that NSA workers eavesdropped on conversations between U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq and their loved ones back home.  Some of these conversations involved very intimate talk between husbands and wives.  The following is from a 2008 ABC News story

Faulk says he and others in his section of the NSA facility at Fort Gordon routinely shared salacious or tantalizing phone calls that had been intercepted, alerting office mates to certain time codes of “cuts” that were available on each operator’s computer.

 

“Hey, check this out,” Faulk says he would be told, “there’s good phone sex or there’s some pillow talk, pull up this call, it’s really funny, go check it out. It would be some colonel making pillow talk and we would say, ‘Wow, this was crazy’,” Faulk told ABC News.

 

Faulk said he joined in to listen, and talk about it during breaks in Back Hall’s “smoke pit,” but ended up feeling badly about his actions.

Is this really what we want the future of America to look like?

Do we really want the government to watch us and listen to us during our most intimate moments?

Feel free to express what you think about this NSA spying scandal by posting a comment below…

The Politicians We Have Chosen Reflect Who We Are As A Nation

The American people have spoken.  It is estimated that approximately 6 billion dollars was spent on political campaigns in 2012, and we ended up exactly in the same place that we were before.  Barack Obama is still in the White House, the Democrats still have solid control of the U.S. Senate and the Republicans still have solid control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Clearly, the American people want more of the same, and that is really bad news.  The path that we have been on will only lead to unprecedented disaster, and now it is abundantly clear that there are not going to be any solutions to our problems on the national level.  Not that things would be that much different if we reversed things and gave Republicans control of the White House and the Senate and we gave Democrats control of the U.S. House of Representatives.  Over the past several decades, nothing has really seemed to get any better no matter what faces we have sent to Washington.  But this time there is really a feeling of “finality” to things.  The American people have made their choices, and those choices are going to have consequences.  There is no turning back now.  The politicians that we have chosen reflect who we are as a nation.  It is not just our leaders that have turned their backs on the U.S. Constitution and on the principles that this country was founded upon – the truth is that the majority of the American people have rejected them.  We have willingly chosen our destiny, and there are no more excuses.

What Barack Obama has pulled off is absolutely mind blowing.  First of all, I must acknowledge that the Obama campaign had the best “ground game” in the history of American politics.  Their ability to deliver their voters to the polls was absolutely amazing.  Yes, the election was close, but I thought it would be much closer.  The Obama “ground game” made a significant difference.

Having said that, it says a lot about who we are as a nation that the American people would willingly send Barack Obama back to the White House for a second term.  You could almost excuse the American people for having the wool pulled over their eyes the first time, but at this point American voters have had four years to evaluate Barack Obama and learn what he is all about.

Barack Obama, like many of our politicians, is a con man.  He just doesn’t have a few skeletons in his closet – he has a whole army of them.  Over the course of two presidential campaigns he has refused to release his school records, there are very serious irregularities concerning his Social Security number, and he has managed to keep vast stretches of his past a total secret to the American people.  Anyone applying for a decent job or trying to get into a decent school would have been required to disclose more background information than Barack Obama has revealed to the American people.  What Obama has pulled off is completely and totally absurd.  I truly believe that Barack Obama will someday be regarded as one of the greatest con men of all time.

But even setting all of that aside, the outrageous things that Barack Obama has publicly said and done should be more than enough for every American that loves the U.S. Constitution to reject him.  The truth is that no American should have ever cast a single vote for him for any political office under any circumstances.

And yet now he is headed for a second term in the White House, and now he will feel absolutely no accountability to the voters since he will not be running in 2016.  He can do whatever he wants over the next four years, and nobody can do anything about it.

Not that Mitt Romney would have been much different.  Out of all of the Republican candidates, the Republicans selected the candidate that was most similar to Barack Obama.  During primary season, in many of my articles I pleaded with the Republicans not to choose Mitt Romney.  I warned that large numbers of very conservative voters would refuse to support him in the general election.  I was horrified by how Romney treated Ron Paul and his supporters during the primaries.  It turns out that Romney desperately could have used their help in swing states that Romney barely lost like Ohio, Virginia and Florida.

In the end, Mitt Romney ran one of the most inept campaigns in modern American political history.  Except for his one brief shining moment during the first debate, Romney just seemed to keep falling flat on his face over and over.  He seemed to have absolutely no idea how to attack Obama’s track record, and he kept shifting positions every five minutes.  To be honest, his campaign was an embarrassment to the Republican Party.

I know that a lot of Republicans are mourning today, but things would not have been much different under a Romney administration.  Romney was perhaps the most liberal candidate the Republicans have ever nominated for president, and Obama and Romney were perhaps the two most similar candidates that we have ever seen run against each other on the national stage.

The fact that the Republicans picked Mitt Romney says a whole lot about the Republican Party just like the fact that the Democrats picked Barack Obama says a whole lot about who they are.

But let us not overlook the other choices that the American people made yesterday either.

The U.S. Senate has been an abysmal failure for years, and yet the American people just keep voting for more of the same.

If you can believe it, the U.S. Senate has not passed a budget in over 1,200 days.

In fact, the last time the U.S. Senate passed a budget, there was no such thing as an iPad.

But not only did the American people allow Democrats to keep control of the U.S. Senate, the Democrats actually gained a couple of extra seats, and several of the newly elected Senators are extremely liberal.

And keep in mind that all of the new Senators that were elected yesterday will not be up for re-election until 2018.

That is very frightening to think about.

The funny thing is that the American people also gave the Republicans very firm control of the U.S. House of Representatives once again.  It is almost as if they were saying that they want things to remain exactly the same as they are right now.

So we can definitely expect more gridlock in Washington.  And perhaps that is a small piece of good news to come out of all this.

If we can get our politicians fighting with each other so much that they can’t get anything done, perhaps they will have less of a chance of messing this country up even worse than it already is.

This election season was the last, best chance that the American people had to bring about changes on the national level.  Unfortunately, the Republicans, the Democrats and the American people all failed miserably in this regard.

As far as the economy is concerned (after all, this is a column about economics), we will continue to steamroll toward collapse at record speed.  It is now glaringly obvious that there will be no political solutions to our problems on the national level.

So you better brace for impact, because a crash is coming.

And I think we just got a preview of coming attractions.  The Dow was down by more than 300 points on Wednesday.

I wish that I could be more optimistic, but the truth is that there is no hope on the horizon on the national level.  The American people have spoken, and they have made their choices.

Now we all get to pay the price.

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