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Four years ago, I awoke on a Sunday morning where I was visiting family with a ray of light coming through the window. The window view showed side-by-side symbols -- one of liberty, as represented by a small community of multi-colored and multi-shaped living structures with residents going about their business oblivious to the second symbol, represented by large, gray, ugly, windowless government buildings spying on and recording everyone's communication. The contrast of liberty and totalitarian intent was startling and breathtaking. I was in Bluffdale, Utah, viewing the NSA's top spy facility in the world named the Intelligence Community Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative Data Center.

To the far left of the window view, was a new housing development intruding into the largely undeveloped land, like an extending finger, with brown hills above it and a large hay farm in front and below, stretching far forward and to the right of my view. Here residents made choices that enhanced the quality and comfort of their lives largely free from total government spying and restriction -- or so they thought.

The number of churches to the population seemed unusually high, five church steeples reaching skyward as if begging for the influence of God in their community, in what looked to be no more than 300 structures, mostly apartments, as seen from my window -- all within a mile of where I was.

I attended one of the churches and was greeted with the opening song, "America the Beautiful," the classic patriotic tune with words written by Katherine Lee Bates and music by Samuel A. Ward. It housed the favorite words, "America! America!" followed by four phrases in four verses, "God shed his grace on thee," and, "God mend thine every flaw," and, "May God thy gold refine," and again, "God shed his grace on thee." Obviously, these Christians loved their liberty. A similar tune representing a relationship between God, country and liberty could have been found throughout most of the country this Sunday before the Fourth of July.

In stark contrast, off in the distance about two miles but still clearly visible from the left side of the same window, was the most profound symbol of big government ever -- the new NSA spy center, the largest in the world, capable of holding a yottabyte of information collected from every person on earth, with space enough for generations to come. These enormous, ugly, gray, windowless buildings perched on a hill with intimidating guard-houses restricting entrance, represented potential total control of the actions and thoughts of every human.

Much was published on NSA government spying on its own people, including columns, so nothing new is found in this one. A project began under George W. Bush and accelerated under Barack Obama, Bluffdale "is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade and a half. Its purpose is 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 ... 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" ("The NSA Is Building the Country's Biggest Spy Center. Watch What You Say.") The project was code-named "Stellar Wind."

Fortunately, the public has known about its government spying on them for more than five years. Even the less informed make government surveillance jokes but, still, the collection continues, although limited somewhat by the 2015 USA Freedom Act with respect to telephone conversations requiring telephone companies to collect the metadata instead and store it at their expense. Then silence. Even the Democratic Party, once the great defender of civil liberties, is largely silent, posed now as a defender of the Deep State. It is as though everyone is in denial, as though these revelations could not really be that bad.

No one is being arrested or punished for his or her thoughts -- yet! The noose is not tight. And what is a yottabyte of information anyway? The size is incomprehensible, adding to brain overload. A yottabyte is 1,000 zettabytes (the number 1 followed by 24 zeros -- 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000). That "318 scientists, computer engineers and other staff work in secret on the cryptanalytic applications of high-speed computing and other classified projects" (Cryptome, March 16, 2012, "NSA Decryption Multipurpose Research Facility"), making what is now happening possible, merely adds to the incomprehensiveness of the subject.

Monday morning, the same light flooded the room. The same symbols of liberty and oppression lay in stark contrast below. The same five church steeples reach for the sky as though to appeal to God for His influence. The same residents drive by, perhaps the greatest symbol of totalitarianism of all time, on their way to work, as though it does not exist. Some may even work at this place to help give the government details on their neighbors. Everything about these ugly, windowless, gray structures violates the Constitution. Chances are those of the community next door that sing of freedom will re-elect the same Democrats and Republicans that authorized and funded their surveillance.

I closed the window. If I too ignore what it shows, it will go away. Right?

Harold Pease, Ph.D., is a syndicated columnist and an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He taught history and political science from this perspective for more than 30 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, visit

Editorial on 07/11/2018

Print Headline: Symbols of liberty and tyranny stand side by side in America

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