Here’s a thought experiment: Let’s say you own a company and your rivals have acted outrageously. They haven’t just been competing with you, they’ve been sabotaging your operations, menacing your employees, and damaging your property and equipment.

So you hire a security expert. You give him a large budget and wide authority to investigate and protect your company against these outside threats. The expert gets to work. You feel safer for a while. Then questions arise. Big ones.

There are rumors that your security guy is investigating your own people, even though they’re not the threat—and even though you told him from the getgo he didn’t have that authority. Then there’s another attack from the usual outside forces. It’s a small one. You’re horrified to learn that your security guy knew in advance about the perpetrators— and ignored all warnings.

You try to sit down with your security guy to find out what the heck he’s up to. But he won’t tell you! He gives vague assurances that he’s “stopped multiple attacks,” but he refuses to give any evidence. He won’t tell you where his budgets are going or what his methods are. Sometimes he outright lies to you. Mostly he just dodges. But he assures you that “procedures are being followed” and that he would never, ever do anything wrong, but if he did, he’d have a secret, unaccountable panel investigate him and correct his “mistakes.”

You are, naturally, dumbfounded. This man is supposed to be your employee! Who does he think he is?

When you look into the situation further, you learn that your security guy, the man you hired to protect your interests, is secretly appropriating your money, and abusing his powers (and your cash) to investigate his personal enemies.

He’s paying token attention to your vicious rivals while aggressively targeting everyone from harmless Tea Party members to peaceable gun owners to people who talk too much about the Constitution. He has built secret facilities— with your money—to store information on literally millions of innocents. He’s even listening in on your phone calls, reading your emails, and photographing the envelope on every letter you send.

And there’s nothing you can do to stop him. All you can do is go on paying him because he’s become so powerful that no one can control him.

The “company” here is the United States. The “rival firm” is the loose and ever-changing agglomeration of despicable Middle Eastern terrorists.

The “security guy” is a stand-in for a national security apparatus made up of the CIA, NSA, National Reconnaissance Office, National Geospatial Intelligence Program, General Defense Intelligence Program, parts of the Justice Department, and nobody really knows who else.

The latest attack is the Boston Marathon bombing (committed by the Usual Suspects). And the secret overseer of the secret security apparatus is the starchamber FISA court.

All those elements in our thought experiment stand for something that’s in reality much bigger.

But the “employer” is no mere standin, no mere symbol. The employer really is you. And me. And the guy next door.

We are supposed to be the employer— of the entire U.S. government, including its security and law enforcement arms. We pay their salaries. We choose representatives to supervise the rest of the federal government on our behalf. We have a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” don’t we?

So why are we now trapped in a situation where our hirelings spy on us virtually without restriction and stonewall or lie to senators and congresspeople who try to find out what they’re up to?

There are a lot of answers to such questions—none of them satisfactory. Two stand out. One is that this is always what happens when you build secret security apparatuses whose growth is driven by constant drumbeats of fear. The other is that the government “of the people” is a myth to get us to be docile and compliant.

We believe “our” government is benign. Therefore we fail to notice that our only power over it consists of a) voting for a pack of vainglorious, lying sociopaths and b) paying the bills for whatever they want to foist on us.

Now matters have gone beyond that. Generations of sociopaths (aka “representatives”) have created a security monster that’s not even answerable to them, let alone to you or me. According to the Washington Post, using documents provided by Edward Snowden, the U.S. security apparatus has a black (secret) budget of $52.6 billion. And that’s excluding the Pentagon, whose own black budget may be as high as $56 billion.

When James Clapper, the national security czar, testified before Congress, he swore under oath that security agencies were not collecting phone data on millions of Americans. Almost instantly thereafter, he was forced by facts and documents to admit that his statement was “erroneous” and that he had chosen the “least untruthful” answer he could reveal to his supposed bosses.

When individual congresspeople and senators try privately to get information from security agencies, they are routinely stonewalled.

Oh, but the Executive Branch has come to the rescue! In the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations, the White House announced it would form an “independent group” of “outside experts” to oversee national security operations. Then it immediately staffed the “independent” board with long-time members and supporters of the surveillance state.

Copious data is available to show that “security” in the U.S. is utterly beyond all law and out of anyone’s control, and that we, more than our foreign enemies, are its focus. Just who’s the boss here?

I’ll give you a hint: It ain’t us.

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