(NaturalNews) During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, veteran U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said that, due to expansive domestic surveillance and spying by the National Security Agency, Americans are in danger of losing control of their country.
"I think that we are going to maintain our ability to protect the United States," Leahy told host Chris Matthews. "That's extremely important."
But, he continued:
The concern everybody has is allowing our government to have such a reach into your private life, my private life, and everybody else's, that we are, we have the government controlling us instead of us controlling the government. And that's what both Republicans and Democrats are joined together on the Hill to try to change.
For all the world, it sounds as if Leahy believes the U.S. is in danger of becoming a police state.
But others believe that has already happened.
One such person is Bill Binney, a high-ranking official with the National Security Agency who was instrumental in the development of the organization's digital surveillance programs. Last year, he said, "We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state." But now he believes we have crossed the threshold.
In comments to Washington's Blog, Binney, a 32-year NSA vet, made these observations:
"The main use of the collection from these [NSA spying] programs [is] for law enforcement."
[A pair of] "slides give the policy of the DOJ/FBI/DEA etc. on how to use the NSA data. In fact, they instruct that none of the NSA data is referred to in courts - because it has been acquired without a warrant.
"So, they have to do a 'Parallel Construction' and not tell the courts or prosecution or defense the original data used to arrest people. This I call: a 'planned programed perjury policy' directed by U.S. law enforcement.
"And, as the last line on one slide says, this also applies to 'Foreign Counterparts.'
"This is a total corruption of the justice system not only in our country but around the world. The source of the info is at the bottom of each slide. This is a totalitarian process - means we are now in a police state."
Regarding the collection of data by federal agencies mentioned by Binney, Washington's Blog added that:
By way of background, the government is spying on virtually everything we do.
All of the information gained by the NSA through spying is then shared with federal, state and local agencies, and they are using that information to prosecute petty crimes such as drugs and taxes. The agencies are instructed to intentionally "launder" the information gained through spying, i.e. to pretend that they got the information in a more legitimate way ... and to hide that from defense attorneys and judges.
'You still have to have some checks and balances'
The revelations of Binney, and the concerns expressed by Leahy, come on the heels of a speech by President Obama last week in which he expressed concern that the NSA's spying programs had been undermined through disclosures made by former contractor Edward Snowden, but in which he also laid out the case for reforming the manner in which the spy agency operated, especially when it came to collecting metadata on Americans.
But the president's reforms stopped far short of what many analysts say are necessary to rein in the abuses. Specifically, as noted by David Cole in Foreign Policy magazine:
On the domestic front, he has not ended the practice of collecting records on every American's every phone call -- without any suspicion of wrongdoing. He has rejected the recommendation of his own expert panel that the FBI be required to get court approval before it demands customer information from banks and communications-service providers under another expansive Patriot Act provision. He has not called for any narrowing of the statute that authorizes the NSA to intercept all communications of any person the agency suspects -- with 51 percent probability -- is a foreigner living abroad. And what about the NSA's most lawless practices: its insertion of vulnerabilities into private companies' encryption codes and its hacking of communications links between the Google and Yahoo data hubs based abroad? Not even mentioned.
For his part, Leahy says the people, through their elected representatives, should demand more: "You still have to have some checks and balances before you have a government that can run amok."