As I noted in my last post, things here may have trended a bit toward the political recently. I even decided not to post the original draft of this last week. Yet more keeps popping up in the news that bewilders me — and resurrects that sinking feeling America is becoming more like a bad dystopian novel.
First, Bush ran around last Wednesday saying “he wants Congress to expand and make permanent a law that temporarily gives the government more power to eavesdrop without warrants on suspected foreign terrorists.” The last three words might reduce your discomfort. But — as you should know — there is always a but. The law Bush is referring to doesn’t speak in terms of “suspected foreign terrorists.” As I noted before, it deals with surveillance “directed at a person reasonably believed to be located outside of the United States.” If two U.S. citizens in the U.S. are talking about someone outside the U.S., does it fall within the statute?
Then, Wired reported the feds are keeping records on what travelers are reading. Oh, that’s right, they’re only going to keep track if the books are suspicious. Perhaps it’s time for me take Jerry Rubin’s DO IT! or Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals off the bookshelf and start placing them over whatever book I’m carrying onto a plane.
That was followed this week with the excellent post at Madville Times on a story I missed at KELO. The local guys looking at my books are called “Behavior-Detection Officers.” They’re not really looking at what we read, of course, only “watching for involuntary, physical signs of fear, stress or deception.” Given the state of air travel today, who isn’t showing signs of stress? Corey got it right that the name is a euphemism for Thought Police.
[As an aside, BoingBoing notes you can request a copy of your travel dossier from Homeland Security. That reminds me of back in the COINTELPRO/Church Committee days when people used to say, only half in jest, that if the FBI didn’t have a file on you, asking for a copy of it ensured they would start one.]
Then, to cap things off, Wired tells me I don’t even need to leave my house to make it into a DHS file. It’s reporting that the so-called “Dark Web” project “is figuring out how to track people over the Internet, based on how they write.” Quoting the Arizona Star, it notes that “Dark Web has the ability to track a single person over time as his views become radicalized.” That’s all well and good if you’re looking at extremist sites and the like but it seems to beg one big question. Isn’t whether a person is “radicalized” in the eyes of the beholder? I can think of plenty on the fundamentalist Christian right that I consider radicalized and they no doubt would say the same about me.
Let’s see. What I read, how I act and what I write are all subject to scrutiny and documentation by the government. Doesn’t this all sound more than a bit like those Eastern European governments we used to condemn? But this isn’t a novel or a dream — it’s Bush’s America.
UPDATE: Today’s (Sept. 27) Argus tells us what else Homeland Security money is doing locally: “The Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office will start operating a camera system that photographs license plates on moving cars. …. If a suspicious plate is spotted, the deputy will follow it to verify the state and number.” Thus, it appears the photos are taken before there is anything “suspicious” about the vehicle.
We are rapidly entering the age of no privacy, where everyone is open to surveillance at all times; where there are no secrets from government. The aggressive breaches of privacy by the Government increase by geometric proportions.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas
dissenting in Osborn v. U.S. (1966)