Some things are just distinctly American. For one, there is apple pie. An image of an apple pie can only be conjured up when fireworks and an old woman’s window sill is in the mental picture. There’s also motorcycles. In other countries, motorcycles are an economically efficient means of travel. In America, they are synonymous with hitting the open road and waking up the neighbors with the roar of the engine. Ahhh, America. What’s also uniquely American is the idea that the government is constantly covering something up. See, in other countries, they are fully aware that their government is covering something up. In China, Russia, or North Korea, their citizens do not need to really sit around and discuss whether their government is being secretive. The whole point of the government in these countries is to be secretive.
The big problem that Americans have is that unlike those other countries we are a democracy. This means that elected leaders work on behalf of the people; not the other way around. So this means that those leaders have to be candid in not only what, but the how, why, when, and where they are handling the people’s affairs. The minute Americans begin to feel like the government is keeping something from the people, they speak up. Loudly.
This, of course, does not stop the government from keeping secrets. Naturally, like most powerful countries, there is a sense that the people would freak out at the smallest hint of government impropriety. Plus, there’s the fact that many elected leaders have to worry about their bloodthirsty colleagues who are all too eager to rip them to shreds if a secret of theirs got out. There are some secrets that the government wants to keep secret that could be so damaging that they will do anything to protect it. Well, some secrets are too juicy not to tell. What makes those juices even sweeter is that these secrets below are the ones the government is trying to bottle up. Enjoy 15 things the government is trying to cover up from the people.
15. You Can Read Marilyn Monroe’s, Steve Jobs’, Or Your Own FBI File
That whole “land of the free, home of the brave” thing is taken pretty seriously in the States. Most people in the U.S. could not even begin to fathom whether the government is keeping a file on them. It is difficult to imagine that somewhere, locked in some secret vault, probably guarded by a semi-retired bookkeeper, the government has a file on them. The idea seems preposterous and totally reeks of a tyrannical society, hell-bent on subjugating its people. Sadly, this is what the American government wants people to think. In reality, The Vault, an FBI reading room of nearly 7,000 documents, contains FBI investigations into the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Steve Jobs, Joe Paterno, and even yourself. The FBI says that these documents are no longer in possession of the FBI, but they are simply made available as archives. People can even request what information the FBI has on them as well. Maybe you should start deleting your internet browsing history like right now.
14. Your Fingerprints Are On File, Even If You Didn’t Commit A Crime
Anybody that has watched an episode of CSI already knows the drill when it comes to fingerprints. In the show, the bad guy does something like strangle a prostitute. The perp, in his haste to get out of Dodge, leaves his fingerprints on the car door of a neighborhood vehicle. The CSI team then lifts the fingerprint, runs it through their magic database of people, and almost always, the guy has already committed some crime for which he was fingerprinted. Fingerprinting criminals is not only such a routine and smart way to identify that the police have the right person, but it can also lead to the apprehending of that same dude if he commits another crime. This is what the government wants people to believe. The problem here is that people give up their fingerprints for a bunch of other reasons too. School teachers and even lawyers must provide their fingerprints for background checks to make sure they are not gigantic fraudsters or perverts. Unfortunately, the government keeps a massive file of all of the fingerprints it collects, even for those who have never done anything wrong, in a “data campus” in West Virginia. This dirty little secret should likely cause any normal person some suspicion.
13. The FBI Is Kind Of Cool With Past Substance Use
There is little doubt that FBI special agents are some of the most highly trained individuals in the world. The FBI has managed to take down people that Americans previously thought were above the law. They have a long history of upholding the rules and have been glamorized in countless movies, television shows, and books. The picture of an FBI agent is usually one where it’s a male with a strong jaw, a gun on his waist, and a sweet jacket that says “FBI” on the back as he is kicking down the door to a drug kingpin’s home. The government is all too glad to let people believe that these men and women are truly beyond corruption, above suspicion, and are solid with integrity. But don’t go poking around into an FBI agent’s past drug use. Although there are rules against dabbling in the herb when someone is applying for the FBI, it applies only to the last ten years. So, if an FBI agent had the nickname of “Crackhead Charlie” back in 2001, that same guy can raid the stash house of his former dealer with no problems.
12. The Government Records Phone Calls, Emails, And Text Messages
At some point or another, everyone gets in trouble at work. A lot of the times it is for lying. Even more often, the lies are just concerning really stupid things. It’s stuff like how long someone was gone on break, whether they sent the report to the client they were supposed to send two days ago, or the reasons why they were late for work. Most of it is benign and really does not stop the flow of most businesses. For most people, they do not have to sit in front of a bunch of members of Congress and try to keep a straight face while they lie right to them. This is exactly what Mike Rogers, the chair of the House Permanent Intelligence Subcommittee (hilariously known as “H-PISs”), did when he said that the government has surveillance on phone calls and emails. Congress believed him until Edward Snowden and his buddy Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian exposed the fact that a program called X-keyscore intercepted 1.7 billion emails, phone calls, text messages, and as many poop emojis as it could summon. The government obviously did not want this to get out. Makes your lie about how drunk you got at the holiday party seem a little less bad now doesn’t it?
11. The NSA Will Not Turn Over Surveillance Data
So, it is no secret that the United States government will spy on people within its own borders. According to the government, everyone has the potential to be a spy or a terrorist apparently and their communications have to be monitored. September 11, 2001 was a dark day in history for the United States, similar to the Pearl Harbor disaster, that changed what the government should do to protect its citizens. To a degree, their surveillance makes sense to help protect American liberties. On the other hand, the government is kind of acting like a jealous girlfriend who was cheated on now she is checking all of her boyfriend’s text messages and phone calls. There’s a good chance she is going to find nothing, but that is not going to stop her. In an effort to get the government to at least be honest about their spying, members of Congress asked the House intelligence oversight committee to let them see the documents on phone record surveillance, but the committee gave Congress the big middle finger and just refused to respond. This is similar to the above-mentioned boyfriend getting all fidgety when his girlfriend asks for his phone. You just know something is up.
10. The Government Can Demand Financial Records
There’s the old saying: “Follow the money”. This makes sense on so many fronts. Although slavery was a total abomination, a big part of the reason the South and the North went to war back in the 19th Century was because the use of free labor equaled money to so many landholders down in the South. If they had to actually pay people to plant their crops, then that means that they would have less money to spend on mint juleps and improvements to their riverboats. Money is usually the source of most conflicts and the reason why most people do anything. Money is power. Money is influence. Money, to some, is everything. This is something the government already knows and tries to use their considerable authority to their advantage. You see, they use these things called National Security Letters that basically allow them to force financial institutions to turn over financial data. This financial data can help the government find out who is funding terrorists in the U.S. and overseas. This makes sense because even the worst terrorist needs a debit card to buy a DVD every once in a while, right? Regardless, your own financial information may be scooped up and you will not even know it because the government keeps the approval of these demands totally secret.
9. The NSA Will Not Turn Over Surveillance Data
So, it is no secret that the United States government will spy on people within its own borders. According to the government, everyone has the potential to be a spy or a terrorist apparently and their communications have to be monitored. September 11, 2001 was a dark day in history for the United States, similar to the Pearl Harbor disaster, that changed what the government should do to protect its citizens. To a point, their surveillance makes sense to help protect American liberties. On the other hand, the government is kind of acting like a jealous girlfriend who was cheated on and now she is checking all of her boyfriend’s text messages and phone calls. There’s a good chance she isn’t going to find anything, but that is not going to stop her. In an effort to get the government to at least be honest about their spying, members of Congress asked the House Intelligence Oversight Committee to let them see the documents on phone record surveillance, but the committee gave Congress the big middle finger and just refused to respond. This is similar to the above-mentioned boyfriend getting all fidgety when his girlfriend asks for his phone. You just know something is up.
8. The Government Is Fighting To Keep Its Unconstitutional Decisions A Secret
Pop quiz: What is the FISA court? Unless you watched the movie Snowden, are a part-time conspiracy theorist, or read the news a little too much, you probably have no idea what that is. Basically, it is a federally created court that approves or disapproves certain decisions by the NSA and the CIA, such as who to spy on, who to target on kill missions, or to get the approval on a variety of different acts. The issue here is that back in 2011, the FISA court, made up of federally appointed judges, wrote an 86-page opinion declaring that some of what the NSA was doing was completely unconstitutional. The NSA, because it absolutely has nothing to hide, has fought to keep that document secret. Even when a group called the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a public records request to get it released, the group was stonewalled by the NSA. This is despite the fact that the FISA court said that the document may be made public. The government still wants everyone to just move along like nothing happened despite their own court saying they are breaking the rules.
7. The FBI Profiles People Based On Scars And Tattoos
Everyone has heard of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List. If you have been living under a rock, this is the list of people who the FBI considers to currently be some of the most dangerous people to the American way of life. People like Osama bin Laden were on the list for a while for obvious reasons. Part of the reason for this list is because the FBI just needs to get the word out to people that their next door neighbor, their coworker, or a tenant in their building may be connected to a drug cartel or a terrorist organization. Much of the basic information is given on the FBI’s list including the fugitive’s height, weight, and build, but the government pushes down at the bottom of their description things most people have: scars and tattoos. Oh, and they also will throw in the shape of someone’s head as a part of the description. If a person is lucky, they will not happen to have the same dragon tattoo as one of the FBI’s favorite people, they may get thrown in jail until they can prove otherwise.
6. Government Bunkers Exist All Around The U.S.
There are a few things that government officials are afraid that the public is going to do. The first thing they are afraid of is that the public is going to find out that they aren’t as smart as they would like everyone to believe they are. The second thing is that people are not going to vote them into office. The third thing is that they will have to be honest with their constituents. The fourth is obviously zombies. The fifth is that foreign governments will try to take over the United States. For whatever reason, powerful nations and powerful people constantly feel threatened by people less powerful than they are. This is why FEMA has spent $1.3 billion to make sure there are secret bunkers hidden all around the U.S. just in case the White House blows up like it does in every summer action movie. One of the biggest bunkers is underneath The Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia, where, during the Cold War, the government figured it was wise to spend money to send its officials to West Virginia in case of a nuclear holocaust. In judging between West Virginia and a nuclear holocaust, the holocaust doesn’t seem so bad.
5. The U.S. Government Supported Nicaraguan Rebels With…
Remember that whole part above about how money is kind of the root of most of society’s problems? Perhaps your pothead college roommate was onto something when he first introduced you to that term. One of the reasons that may be true is based on some real shady stuff the government did back in the 1980s when Ronald Reagan was President. See, back in the 80s, Nicaragua was not exactly a really nice place. Like many Latin American countries, there were some really awful people at the head of the government and there were rebels that were looking to take them down. Just like France did for the United States during the 18th Century, the U.S. decided that it should help out the rebels who were trying to take down their government. The issue is that Reagan had to find a way to fund an army that was not on American soil. So he did what any good leader would do: he took drug money from dealers and protected them from prosecution in exchange. The guy who outed this plan, Gary Webb, was found with two gunshot wounds to the head after he published an article about the whole affair. Super creepy.
4. The NSA Tried To Prosecute A Whistleblower
Piggybacking off the story above, it seems like there is little to be gained from people standing up to the government. Usually, it leads to just terrible things for the poor schlub involved that they probably wished that they had never opened their computer and started asking questions. It’s the reason why most people stay out of government service. At a private company, usually the worst that can happen for blowing a whistle is that you can be fired. In the government, they will try hard to throw you in jail. This is what happened to Thomas Drake, a former official at the NSA, when he released classified information about an NSA program that spied on innocent people. In true bully fashion, the NSA tried to have him thrown in jail for 35 years, but eventually, their case ended up falling apart. The worst part is that Drake tried to get a less invasive program instituted, but the NSA apparently believed that being able to surreptitiously look at pictures of people’s cats on their phones was far more important.
3. The Government Is In Bed With Private Companies
Of course, this probably comes as little surprise. The government and private corporations go together like peanut butter and gold-plated jelly. What’s tough is that the government needs big business to help provide its people jobs, which spurs the economy, and prevents aimless, jobless men from wandering the streets waiting to rob someone for food money. Big business needs the government because the government has the power to make the rules that affect how well a business can do. The real issue is the scope of how close these two bed-buddies are. Back in 2003, a woman named Bunny Greenhouse, a member of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, said that the government was in a little too deep with Halliburton, an oil company based right in the United States. More specifically, Greenhouse said that when the U.S. was looking for a company to manage oil fields in Iraq, it provided a no-bid contract right to Halliburton, which was worth somewhere north of eleventy-katrillion dollars. Of course, the government did not like being put on Front Street and fired her. Eventually, Greenhouse won a lawsuit against the government and got a pretty sweet return: nearly $1 million.
2. NSA Spying Goes Deeper Than Average Citizens
If you are reading this, you may be thinking, “Okay, well, the government is probably spying on American citizens, but it’s probably people that are suspicious anyway. I’m a judge/member of the military/a member of Congress/a journalist. Surely, the government would not be stupid enough to try and spy on my information. I’m an upstanding member of society dammit and I deserve my privacy!” Unfortunately, in 2013, a man named Russell Tice, a former NSA officer, said that the NSA is spying on judges, members of the military, members of Congress, and journalists illegally. So, even though you may be an upstanding citizen, the government is probably going to be extra cautious of you for reasons that they have yet to actually identify. This is especially dangerous for journalists because it is their information that keeps the government honest. If their information is compromised, tyranny will result. For the government, that’s great. For everyone else, it’s awful.
1. The Government Illegally Conducted Human Experiments
This maybe isn’t exactly what you’re thinking it is. It is not like government scientists got together in a lab and decided that they were going to make some super soldier out of the discarded body parts of dead surgery patients. In reality, the medical experiment in question is not quite as gory, but every bit as sinister. One of the functions of the government, of course, is to provide for the physical health of its citizens. Part of how they get breakthroughs on new medicines is by running tests on people.
Nowadays, people are well-informed and well-compensated for their time on studies from diabetes to high blood pressure. But between 1932 and 1972, the U.S. Public Health Service decided that in order to test the effects of certain medicine on syphilis, it was going to take random, poor black men infected with syphilis (and if they weren’t infected, they would infect them), treat half of them, and not treat the other half. These were called the Tuskegee Experiments. That’s right. The government decided that they were just going to not treat half of the people to test its effects instead of just giving them the medicine and watching for side effects. Many men died without any treatment even though a cure was created eventually. There’s no word on whether any of those men have come back from the dead in some other government experiment and slapped everyone silly.
Sources: salon.com, rd.com, cracked.com, listverse.com
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