Inside the United States

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This is satire. Although the news is real, very little actual reporting was done for this story and the quotes are imagined. It is the first installment of an ongoing series that examines the language journalists use to cover foreign countries. What if we wrote that way about the United States?

BOSTON, Mass. – Human rights activists say revelations that the US regime has expanded its domestic surveillance program to private phone carriers is more evidence of the North American country’s pivot toward authoritarianism.

The Guardian, a British newspaper, reported this week that a wing of the country’s feared intelligence and security apparatus ordered major telecommunications companies to hand over data on phone calls made by private citizens.

“The US leadership in Washington continues to erode basic human rights,” said one activist, who asked to remain anonymous, fearing that speaking out publicly could endanger his organization. “If the US government is unwilling to change course, it’s time the international community considered economic sanctions.”

Over the last decade, the United States has passed a series of emergency laws that give security forces sweeping powers to combat “terrorism.” But foreign observers say the authorities abuse those laws, using them instead to monitor ordinary Americans.

While the so-called Patriot Act passed in 2001 is perhaps the most dramatic legislation to date curbing freedoms here, numerous lesser-known laws have expanded monitoring of news outlets, email, social media platforms and even opposition groups – like the Occupy and Tea Party movements – that are critical of the regime.

US leader Barack Obama, a former liberal community organizer and the country’s first black president who attracted a wave of support from young voters, rose to power in 2008 promising reform. He was greeted in the United States – a country of about 300 million people – with optimism. But he has since disappointed those supporters, ruling with a sometimes iron fist and continuing, if not expanding, the policies of the country’s former ruler, George W. Bush.

On a recent visit to the United States by GlobalPost, signs of the increased security apparatus could be found everywhere.

At all national airports, passengers are now forced to undergo full-body scans before boarding any flights. Small cameras are perched on many street corners, recording the movements and actions of the public. And incessant warnings on public transportation systems encourage citizens to report any “suspicious activity” to authorities.

Several American villagers interviewed for this story said the ubiquitous government marketing campaign called, “If you see something, say something,” does little to make them feel safer and, in fact, only contributes to a growing mistrust among the general population.

“I’ve deleted my Facebook account, stopped using email, or visiting websites that might be considered anti-regime,” a resident of the northern city of Boston, a tough-as-nails town synonymous with rebellion, told GlobalPost. It was in Boston that an American militia first rose up against the British empire. “But my phone? How can I stop using my phone? This has gone too far.”

American dissidents interviewed by GlobalPost inside the United States say surveillance by domestic intelligence agencies is just one part of a seemingly larger effort by the Obama administration to centralize power.

The American leader, for example, has in recent years personally approved the jailing – and in some cases execution – of American citizens suspected of involvement in what the regime calls “terrorist activity.”

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