FREE: JOIN 100,000+ READERS   
≡ Menu

Are they spying on you?

December 15, 2010
Wellington, New Zealand

Do you remember the good old days the when it used to be illegal for governments to spy on their citizens? I don’t either… but I’m told that it used to be illegal. Oh how times have changed.

The British government went out of control years ago; one report from the BBC in 2009 showed that an average of 1,500 petitions are submitted -every day- to conduct surveillance on UK citizens.

In the latest (publicized) perversion of government power, federal agents are now ordering real-time tracking of credit card transactions, travel information– pretty much anything right down to what brand of peanut butter you buy, and all without judicial or citizen oversight

Known as ‘hotwatch orders,’ government agents are able to write their own administrative subpoenas to surveil US citizens; they request the records of phone companies, Internet service providers, video rentals, and even frequent flier / customer loyalty programs at airlines and grocery stores.

Without court oversight, the subpoenas do not even need to be part of an ongoing investigation or suspicion of criminal wrongdoing; US federal agents can simply decide that a particular individual should be tracked, and then compel private companies to provide a real time feed of his/her activities.

Frequently, the administrative subpoenas are accompanied by gag orders that prevent the company from notifying its customer that they had been served with a subpoena. More than likely, the customer will never know that his/her records are being instantaneously relayed to a federal agent.

The thing is, these hotwatch orders are not expressly authorized under US law; federal agents are capitalizing on loose language in existing laws that allow them to write administrative subpoenas in certain instances… and they’re taking that limited authority to extremes.

In 2009, House bill HR 1800 (National Security Letters Reform Act of 2009) was submitted which would tighten the language, provide clear guidelines for federal agencies’ authority, and provide an oversight mechanism.

The bill quickly lost momentum and has been in subcommittee purgatory for 18-months. Just like the TSA’s egregious violations of passenger privacy, politicians have no incentive to keep their federal agents in check.

All in all, this is yet another brick in the wall that shows how quickly the US is descending into a police state. Perhaps it’s only a matter of time before the redux of the “Un-American Activities Committee.”

Perhaps the final nail in the coffin is that, in addition to their far-reaching, unchecked power for surveiling their citizens, US federal agents also have nearly unlimited powers to confiscate any asset in the country that they suspect may be involved in criminal wrongdoing.

To be clear, ‘criminal wrongdoing’ covers a lot of ground… most people think such seizures are limited to customs violations, drug trafficking, and the like.

Not true. Government agencies as irrelevant as the Federal Trade Commission can ruin your life if they even -suspect- you of violating any number of obscure laws relating to email spam, Internet downloads, misuse of pay-per-view cable TV, etc.

It’s the real life equivalent of that old, trite joke about the guy who goes to jail for ripping off the “DO NOT REMOVE” tags from underneath his mattress.

 Are they spying on you?

Law enforcement officials often use that tired expression “ignorance of the law is not an excuse…” The truth is that US Code comprises hundreds of thousands of pages worth of obscure, conflicting, Byzantine regulations. Each of us is guilty of something right now… and perhaps that’s the point.

The system that they’ve created is one in which suspicion equals guilt, all without due process. Once they deem you suspicious, they can freeze your accounts and seize your assets, thus taking away whatever resources you might have to defend yourself and prove your own innocence.

It’s my assessment that bankrupt western governments are going to make this sort of financial cannibalism a cornerstone of their recovery strategy; everyone is fair game for surveillance, and the threshold for asset seizure is minimal.

Now, it’s easy to read about these invasive tactics and get jittery, thinking that big brother is breathing down your neck and about to pounce. Some people are prone to paranoia and obsess over every scrap of information that might become privy to government eyes, nomatter how inconsequential.

Relax. Part of planting multiple flags is not having to worry anymore.

These days, anything that transpires online or within the global financial system is susceptible of being monitored or hacked. We might not be able to stop this from happening, but by planting multiple flags, we can mitigate the consequences.

Notwithstanding our governments’ worst intentions, there are plenty of ways to protect ourselves– there’s no need to panic and go live in a hole, but simply to prepare.

Moving some money outside of your home country to a strong, independent jurisdiction should be priority one. When you have funds located outside of the control of your home government, suddenly the bureaucrats can’t freeze your accounts with a few keystrokes.

Also, establishing an offshore trust in the right jurisdiction is a great way to put some legal distance between you and your assets, providing an extra layer of protection. By holding assets in foreign accounts through a foreign trust, you’re building a brick wall around your wealth.

These are the sorts of topics that we routinely discuss in our premium service, Sovereign Man: Confidential; in this month’s edition which is being released today, for example, I wrote an in-depth article about the effective use of Labuan companies for asset protection and legitimate tax mitigation.

If you own a business, I similarly recommend planting multiple flags. If possible, incorporate offshore and move your business’s major assets overseas if possible; this would prevent you from being compelled to disclose customer information by your home government.

Lastly, like Howard Beale, if you’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, I’m a strong advocate of heading for greener pastures. Why live in a police state unless it’s absolutely necessary?

If privacy is your chief concern, head for smaller countries that lack both the arrogance and finances to conduct surveillance their own citizens– places like Chile, Croatia, Uruguay, Sri Lanka, Lithuania, and Costa Rica.

About the author: Simon Black is an international investor, entrepreneur, permanent traveler, free man, and founder of Sovereign Man. His free daily e-letter and crash course is about using the experiences from his life and travels to help you achieve more freedom.

Want more stuff like this?

Our goal is simple: To help you achieve personal liberty and financial prosperity no matter what happens. Click below to join our community of 100,000+ sovereign individuals.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • TWK

    Once again, your opinions are incorrect in some ways, but also correct in others. I wish you would check the facts before stating something. You state “… Just like the TSA’s egregious violations of passenger privacy,..” This is simply NOT reality but the illusion you and other media outlets are wanting the American public, to believe. The FACTS are 80% of the American public support TSA and their mission (of preventing hazardous objects and/or devices from boarding American aircraft). Only a vocal and widely covered 20% minority share your unrealistic opinion. TSA is doing their best to protect the American public traveling by air, from a similar experience as 9/11, from ever happening again, on American airlines.
    How many terrorist plots have been thwarted without the public knowing?
    How many similar incidents to 9/11 have happened since 9/11?
    Remember the liquid explosive plot?
    Remember the last Christmas, underwear bomber plot?
    Remember the most recent toner cartridge plot, from Yemen?
    Remember the Vietnam war,the Israel war, the Gulf-wars, and Afghanistan war where children were and still are, used as suicide bombers?
    These are threats TSA is striving to protect us from.

    • Timsingleton

      BS. TSA hires a bunch of jarhead wish-they-weres who yell at elderly Japanese tourists in English as if they were doing a Saturday night live skit about help for the hearing impaired. I have seen this with my own eyes.
      Hot chicks go through the scanners, plain and simple do not.
      America’s insane devotion to political correctness and pathological fear of being called racist prevents them from profiling either openly or through the use of Israeli tactics which would actually result in catching bad guys.
      Muslims are offended? I am, too. Let them be offended at the brethren crazies, not at their victims.

      • TWK

        Israel and the U.S are NOT comparable… Mexico and Canada have not vowed the destruction of the U.S. Israels’ neighboors have. Isreal has under 40 airports, the U.S. has well over 400. Facts. Your other rantings are just that opinions, NOT facts.

      • jack_sprat2

        Israel also has fewer than 8 million people to pay for those monitors. We have more than 308 million people. I think we could manage. With someone other than the current crowd of Republicratic morons in charge, that is.

    • USKiwi

      Its amazing how safe NZ given the fact that we have absolutely zero security on domestic flights. You would expect that planes would be exploding everyday here given the police state love of the previous comment.

      • TWK

        Because NZ is not consideres a “high-value” target by terrorist groups…Duh

      • jack_sprat2

        I’m with you on the whole “police state” thing, hoss, but Kiwiland is more than a bit off the beaten path. It’s not as if your Maori have been all that restless of late, is it now?

  • amerikanka

    Yeah, in Croatia people on my island look after me, to help me, and watch my property while I’m not there. But it’s true, I feel completely comfortable that their government has bigger fish to fry than look into my banking or anything else, aside from stamping my passport. I travel with my dog and they never ask to see his papers.

    • quest

      Was delighted to realize that my passport is the property of issuing government and can be revoked or requested back at any time.
      Have some common points with amerikanka, is there a way to get in touch directly?

      • amerikanka

        I don’t know if you can get my email from my disqus profile, and you’ll forgive me for not posting it in a comment. I’ll try to find you through disqus, *fingers crossed*

  • Kevin McElroy


    You’re either a fool or a shill. You’re too eloquent to be a fool, so explain to everyone, you sniveling, despicable government shill, how exactly someone will hijack a plane when the doors are locked and the pilots have a gun.

    Go ahead, we’re all waiting.

    • TWK

      Some facts, not opinions:
      Most pilots are still NOT armed.
      Locked cockpit doors can be broken down.
      Hijacking is NOT the main concern of TSA, Lockerbie type in flight explosions are.
      Remember the liquid explosive plot?
      Remember the last Christmas, underwear bomber plot?
      Remember the most recent toner cartridge plot, from Yemen?
      Remember the Vietnam war, the Israel war, the Gulf-wars, and Afghanistan war where children were and still are, used as suicide bombers?
      These are the types of threats TSA is trying to protect the American traveling public from.
      How many terrorist plots have been successful since TSA took over security at all U.S. airports ? – 0.
      How many terrorist plots have been thwarted ? The public will never know, the answer is many.
      These are the facts and they speak for themselves.

      • Mr. Blue

        “Hijacking is NOT the main concern of TSA, Lockerbie type in flight explosions are.”
        – No not really, submission of the public is the main concern of the TSA.

        Remember the liquid explosive plot?
        Remember the last Christmas, underwear bomber plot?
        Remember the most recent toner cartridge plot, from Yemen?
        – Yes, I do. However I don’t recall anybody reporting anything of substance about either of these “plots” to lend these stories any credibility other than “something happened, you should be scared, someone could have died” Puh-leez.

        Remember the Vietnam war, the Israel war, the Gulf-wars, and Afghanistan war where children were and still are, used as suicide bombers?
        – Used, or brainwashed to believe?

        These are the types of threats TSA is trying to protect the American traveling public from.
        How many terrorist plots have been successful since TSA took over security at all U.S. airports ? – 0.
        – how many terrorist plots and ‘trial runs’ were tried that we DIDN’T detect?

        How many terrorist plots have been thwarted? The public will never know, the answer is many.
        – “The public will never know”, “the answer is many”. So are you ‘in the know’ somehow? Because if the public won’t ever know, then how do you know that many terrorist plots have been thwarted? duh.

      • TWK

        Because I have ben briefed daily for over 8 years as an employee of TSA and you (the public) haven’t been. Also, I mention above some of the many publically known plots that have been thwarted. One last point. I agree “used or brainwashed to believe” but they are equallly a threat to peace loving peoples.

      • jack_sprat2

        Which would those be? They probably DON’T torture prisoners routinely. They probably DON’T murder wedding parties. They probably DON’T thrill kill people. They probably DON’T occupy foreign lands to no good effect, for years without end.

        THEY (those peace loving peoples of which you speak) have long since past ceased to be US. Look in the mirror, you sheep!

        (And, no, I’m anything but a liberal or progressive or any such pink or red thing. Neither am I a fool who willingly puts shackles on himself, his heirs and assigns. You, sir, on the other hand, most certainly are just such a “man.”)

      • jack_sprat2

        NONE of our government’s responses to Islamic terrorism have made a bit of sense, were there purpose to deal with the stated problem. When the Taliban’s Afghanistan hit us on 9/11, we should have gone in and killed every Pashtun chieftan by destroying the IN THEIR HOUSES, with their families. Plus, we should have destroyed every government building in the country, the same way. No small bombs; area bombs dropped from B-52′s. Plus, we should’ve destroyed every mosque in the Taliban’s areas and then set in kill teams to wipe out every identifiable Talibani and supporting cleric in those areas.

        Then, we should have LEFT. After leaving recorded messages (like those in our greeting cards), in the local languages, informing them that their country remains theirs, but that, should there be a next time that they harbor terrorists, we’ll grind every building stone into dust before we leave. In the ENTIRE country.

        The other Afghanis would’ve likely killed whatever Pashtuns didn’t run for Pakistan. The Pakis would then face this question: if we allow OUR clerics and secret police to keep playing with these ethnic criminals, then what will we do when THEY play in Uncle Sugar’s pea patch?

        The current responses have been DESIGNED both to enrich the likes of Cheney’s Blackwater and serve as an excuse to put paid to what “American exceptionalism” remains after morons like the Salomon Bros. stooges Bush and Obama have put the finishing touches on Clinton’s “free trade.” (aka, Ross Perot’s “giant sucking sound.”)

  • David F

    Good article. Much need considering the undemocratic behavior of our politicians.

  • Ross Wolf

    U.S. Citizens now under federal law have to list on their tax returns offshore accounts. The Obama Administration recently came down on 50,000 off shore accounts, including Switzerland, held by U.S. Citizens. Many Americans paid large amounts to U.S. Government not to be charged with tax evasion. It is worse now if you don’t report an offshore account. Many countries have agreements with U.S. Government where the U.S. can freeze your accounts in foreign countries and or seize your money.

    • TWK

      Many countries don’t, do your research.

    • Mr. Blue

      funny, they don’t seem to be doing research into the offshore accounts of congress members.

      • jack_sprat2

        Only when they rock the boat, as an Idaho congressman did some 20 or so years ago. (He got 4 years in a federal pen.) As the author wrote, the whole point of all of those laws and regulations is to put EVERYONE under the hammer, so that they might be made to get back into line should they stray from the fold.

        Ah! the sweet, carefree life of sheep. Bleat too much about the shearing, there’s always room for more mutton.

  • Srl

    I had no clue, that’s why the surge to Costa Rica, has become so popular.

  • Antianti32

    First, there is no such thing as outside of the control of your home gov’t, especially if your home government is in the West or even in the developing world these days. If they want to get ahold of your offshore funds, they will.

    Second, it seems almost laughable to read some of the apologetic tripe you write about Singapore, while waxing outrage about the surveillance state in the West. The Singaporian government is much more regulatory and repressive than even the US at this point, but then they let you make money, which I suppose is your only true standard of freedom.

Read more:
Give me liberty or give me boarding pass